By Austin Emaduku
I recall with clarity and fond memories the peaceful brotherly relationship that existed between your two communities. I recall my first visit as a student of Aladja Grammar School to the then sleepy community of Ogbe – Ijoh. A naval officer, Military Administrator of the old Bendel State had come to inspect/commission a fish farm project built by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, in the community.
It must have been one of the first modern fish farms in this area. A remarkable project at the time. As adventure seeking youths, myself and my colleagues, strayed into the town after the ceremony. Our first major pleasant shock, mine especially, as a an Udu son who grew up in the not so far away village of Egini, was that almost everyone in that village spoke clear Udu dialect without blemish!
This too was my experience in Aladja, as I discovered later that most adults in Aladja also spoke fluent Ijaw. The late Sir Juju and Udjabor, two prominent Urhobo musicians of Aladja extraction spoke Ijaw language without accent.
Years later, even after the first crises between the two communities, as a staff of Warri South-West Local Government Council on official visit to the palace of the traditional ruler of Ogbe-Ijoh, I had a similar experience. The Pere now late, and his daughter – we called her Princesses – who is a colleague, spoke clear undiluted Udu dialect common to the Aladja people. I was to learn later that his mother was from Aladja.
It is also a fact that the mother of the current Pere of Ogbe-Ijoh, Couple Oromoni hailed from Aladja. I recall that one of the Oromonis who am sure later became President General of Ogbe – Ijoh community attended Aladja Grammar school. He too spoke the Udu language. Can an Ogbe-Ijoh son attend Aladja Grammar School today or vice versa? The intra communal marriages – I refuse to call them intra tribal – between your two communities were so deep that you lived together as family.
There is no denying the fact of a long history of clashes between the Ijaws of the hinterland and Urhobo migrants, where many Urhobos lost their lives. Growing up in the village, there used to be frequent occasions of mass exodus of Urhobos from the Ijaw hinterland as a result of such crises which were mainly economical.
These were captured in many Urhobo songs of the time. Many prominent Urhobos were killed during these crises but it never effected the peaceful relationship between your two communities. Not even when a prominent son of Aladja, Ororile – as captured in one of the sorrowful epic songs of Sir Juju and Udjabor – was killed in one of such incidents did we hear of crises between the Aladja and the Ijaws of Ogbe-Ijoh. There were Ijaw and Itsekiri quarters and settlements within Aladja town. They were never sacked nor attacked, neither did the inhabitants of these settlements claim the land on which they lived deep inside Aladja community to be theirs. They knew they were at home on Aladja soil and there was peace amongst the people.
There was nothing in the seed of the belly of that time that foretold the bitterness and hatred induced internecine violence that was to come later and continues till this day. My question to the REAL people of Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh communities therefore, is, What or who brought this calamity upon you?
I use the word real advisedly because I find it hard to believe that a people that have cohabited so peacefully from time immemorial could suddenly turn upon one another with so much hatred without let. Why do you allow outsiders to bring ant-infested faggots upon your heads? What is it, in and about a land that you have lived, farmed upon and cohabited over the ages that should break the bond of brotherhood that you share?
Only you can solve this problem that confronts you. It is futile to expect outsiders to do it for you. Any such solution can, at best, be cosmetic and temporary. All you have to do is seat down, look yourselves eyeball to eyeball and tell yourselves the truth.
Let the truth prevail and you will find peace. The more you fight, the more development will elude your two communities. Aladja ought to be merged with Ogbe-Ijoh by now as one huge urban area as we have between, Warri, Effurun and the Udu town of Enerhen. Are you proud of your current rural status when you should be leading urban towns in Delta State?
It is a curse not to be able to sleep with both eyes closed and how long do you think you can keep up with these nights of sleeplessness? The sooner you realise that the bond between you is unbreakable, physically and otherwise, the sooner you will find peace.
May God grant you the wisdom and the ability to seek truth and find peace.
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