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AGULERI CALLS ON UMULERI TO EMBRACE PEACE AND AVOID PROVOCATIONS

 Our attention has been drawn to two recent statements by two prominent members of Umuleri community in which they tried to disparage Aguleri. The first was by Elder Aniegboke Ndive, who is one of the Umuleri representatives in the current Aguleri/Umuleri Peace Committee, working on the modus for peaceful coexistence between the two communities, on the initiative of the Commissioner of Police, Anambra State. The other was by Chief Pius Okonkwo, the President-General of the Umuleri Town Union and one of the facilitators of the current Aguleri/Umuleri Peace Committee. He was also a member of the 2004-2010 Aguleri/Umuleri Peace Committee, which produced an agreement between the two communities in 2006, from the riverside to I.N.E.C. office at Otuocha, before the Umuleri community aborted the peace process, as a result of internal problems in the community. Of course, we are not surprised at Aniegboke's alleged  attempt to denigrate Aguleri, as it has always been his pastime to insult Aguleri. However, we had thought that with the passage of time and his present assignment to help fashion out peace between Aguleri and Umuleri, that he would have been more educated on Igbo history by now, as well as shown more circumspection in his public statements concerning Aguleri. But, alas, he has not changed! His recent statement/interview on the celebration of Eri Day by the Eri clan, on 1st December  2018, at Aguleri, is a reflection of his previous publication in the Daily Sun of Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in which he said, among other things, that "it is these mercenaries from Aguleri and co that are forcing (these) names of different known and unknown communities on Eri, which the Aguleris don't belong to". In order to set the records straight and educate people like Aniegboke on Igbo history, especially in relation to Aguleri and Umuleri, the people of Aguleri published a rejoinder to Aniegboke's article, as an addendum, to an advertorial in the Daily Sun of Tuesday, July 15, 2014, captioned: 'Aguleri Is The Ancestral Home Of The Igbos, Not Nri'. In light of continued exhibition of gross ignorance of Igbo history by Aniegboke and his ilk, that rejoinder is still relevant today, for the proper education of Aniegboke and people like him. As observed in the rejoinder, it is evident that Aniegboke's dabble into Igbo history, especially as it concerns Aguleri and Umuleri, is "driven by a strong desire to re-write the history of Umuleri, recently changed to Umueri". And, of course, in doing this, he distorted a lot of historical facts and manufactured stories to fit his design. For example, in his previous publication, Aniegboke labored hard to assign to Umuleri a new founder, in the person of either Dabaw or Eri, as he appeared not to have made up his mind on which one to stick to. In one instance, he claimed that Umuleri "are direct descendants of Dabaw" and in another place, he referred to Umuleri as "the original Eri descendants". His statements on historical issues are as confusing as they are full of inaccuracies and contradictions. The truth of the matter is that Igbo history is short or silent on the historical paternity of Umuleri. Rather, there is historical knowledge that Adamgbo, the daughter of Eri, was the founder of Umuleri, hence Umuleri and Aguleri are regarded as related communities, since Adamgbo was the sister of Agulu, the founder of Aguleri. Another school of thought has it that Umuleri was founded by an itinerant woman, named Iguedo, hence Umuleri is a prominent member of the Iguedo clan, known as 'Umu-Iguedo, till date. Not Umu-eri, as their recently adopted name suggests. As a matter of fact, the original name of Umuleri bore evidence of the above circumstances of its founding. The name then was 'Umu-Ulu-Eri' (i.e. children of profit to Eri), since they are the children/descendants of Adamgbo, the daughter of Eri, who was not known in history to be married. It was later shortened to 'Umuleri', and now 're-baptized' to 'Umu-Eri'. We believe that it is an attempt to justify their new name and carve out a prominent role or position in Igbo history for Umuleri that is propelling people like Aniegboke to embark on the fabrication of history and the denigration of Aguleri. But this need not be, as Umuleri, being children/descendants of Adamgbo, the daughter Eri, are already connected to Eri. And we regard them with all the loving sentiments of our father, Agulu, the first son of Eri, for the children/descendants of his sister. This, indeed, has always been the moderating factor of the attitude and behavior of Aguleri to Umuleri, even when provoked. But, of course, as the saying goes, 'there is a limit to human endurance'. We, therefore, call on Aniegboke and co to change their mindset and embrace peace with Aguleri. And work for it. With respect to the statement credited to the President-General of the Umuleri Town Union, Chief Pius Okonkwo, at the Ofala celebration of the Traditional Ruler of Umuleri, Igwe Ben Emeka, on 29th December 2018, we are, indeed, surprised that, given his involvement in peace efforts between Aguleri and Umuleri, as well as his exposure, he could publicly refer to Aguleri as an intruder into Otuocha land. He also made reference to the Otuocha land case between the two communities in a manner that suggests that Umuleri was the winner. This impression is far from the true position. But it goes to show the mindset of some people in leadership positions in Umuleri, as well as how uninformed they are about the court's decision on the Otuocha land matter. Perhaps, this was what the court anticipated when it specifically warned the Umuleri community against such attitude. In the judgement of the Onitsha High Court on the land case, which judgment was restored by the Supreme Court as its decision on the case, the judge stated thus: "May l, however, sound a note of warning to the defendants (i.e. Umuleri community). In dismissing the plaintiffs' case (i.e. Aguleri claim for exclusive ownership of the land), I have not decided that Otuocha land belongs to the defendants (Umuleri community). It is my view that neither side can establish exclusive ownership of the whole of Otuocha land. If on leaving this court premises, no doubt, jubilant, they (the Umuleri community) should go home to assert that Otuocha land belongs to them, defendants (i.e. the Umuleri community) and their leaders should take full responsibility for any breaches of peace that may occur). What a timely warning! But what we are witnessing today in careless talks and brazen actions by some leaders of Umuleri indicate otherwise. Else, how can the Umuleri President-General and Aniegboke respectively refer to Aguleri people as "intruders" and "mercenaries"? We are also somewhat worried that Chief Pius Okonkwo, who was a member of the Aguleri/Umuleri Peace Committee of 2004-2010, which produced the 2006 agreement between the two communities, should talk about the Royal Niger Company in his statement in a way that leaves the impression that the ownership of the place is in issue, whereas it was one of the places clearly settled by that agreement. One of the Resolutions/Decisions of the Peace Committee states as follows: "the Umueri community hereby relinquishes its interest in the site of the Royal Niger Company, which area is otherwise known as 'Company', to Aguleri community, in the interest of peace." Wherein then lies the basis for the apparent contention on the ownership of the Royal Niger Company created by the President-General in his statement? It is now becoming clear that the Umuleri community is pursuing a deliberate policy of discountenancing and dishonoring previous land agreements with Aguleri. The question for him is, how is it possible that his community Umuleri gave out their ancestral land to the royal Niger company and allowed Aguleri community to sign the lease agreement on their behalf? Does it not sound incredulous to even his fabricating mind? Provocative activities from Umuleri continues unabated to date, while Aguleri continues to embrace peaceful coexistence. Aguleri sign-posts and structures in areas already settled by agreements to belong to Aguleri have been severally vandalized by Umuleri youths, apparently, with the support of the leadership of their community.Similarly, prominent Umuleri persons buy land in these settled Aguleri areas (especially in areas bordering Umuleri settled areas) and promptly and provocatively appropriate these areas by changing their sign-posts to prominently proclaim these areas as Umuleri areas. Certainly, this is not the way to build and sustain peace.  We, therefore, appeal to the Umuleri community to embrace peace with Aguleri by talking and acting in peaceful manners. And, of course, respect all peace agreements with Aguleri. The question truly is why and who in Umuleri is not happy with the recent positive developments taking place in our two communities? Why this move to choose inflammatory statements and provocative actions over peaceful co-existence? Of particular note is the record high level of Umuleri provocation against Aguleri since the inception of Obiano’s administration. Aguleri have turned a blind eye to all their acts, as is in our character.  But they have deliberately and consistently stepped up their provocative acts by the day even to the extent of coming right inside Aguleri villages to knock down buildings not situated in the contested lands. Our elders have continued to prevail on our youths not to retaliate. Just before the Christmas, Umuleri youths destroyed several signposts built by Aguleri World Forum for the Aguleri Beautification Project, even when they were installed right inside Aguleri lands. And just a few days ago, Umuleri youths, armed with machetes, guns, and all sorts of weapons, have blocked Dabawu road leading to Igboezunu, and burnt bushes, in apparent readiness to defend a fence they wrongly erected in disputed land that belongs to Adegbe-Umueze in Igboezunu. This is just a few of their provocative acts, that include gestapo type invasions of some Aguleri homes in the middle of the night, where they have removed some of our elders, or beaten them up in their homes, and set fires on our farmlands. Each time the culprits were arrested, their community Leadership will immediately call for their release. Yet, our leaders keep on restraining our youths. Umuleri’s thirst for blood and disorderliness have also caused them to repeatedly harass Worshippers at St. Peter’s Anglican Church Aguleri. Even the worshippers at Odoziobodo Aguleri have not been spared of their wrath. The have sworn to terrorize Aguleri families living on that side of the road until they park out. They think by so doing, they will own that side of the road. It is obvious Umuleri are using the peaceful tenure of our Son, Governor Obiano as a bait against us. It also appears that while Igwe Ben Emeka talks peace, he acts with aggression and his PG and others act with aggression, all orchestrated as their strategy. Perhaps they do this because they have the false notion that we will continue to turn the other cheek as long as our Son is the Governor of Anambra State so as not to embarrass him. However, while we are a Peace loving people, Aguleri cannot stomach that provocation forever. We are therefore crying out now, making every peace loving person aware of what is going on so that if and when peace breaks down the whole world would know that Umuleri have been the aggressor, and not that Aguleri likes to fight. We are being constantly provoked. And we need all peace loving people to take notice. We do not need any more wars in our communities. A word is enough for the wise. Long live Aguleri! Long live Eri Dynasty!! Long live Ndi Igbo!!! Pastor Jossy  Akwuobi (PhD) Chairman Aguleri World Forum (AWF) Prof Mike Obiefune Chairman Board of Trustees Aguleri World Forum( AWF )

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