BEFORE AKWA IBOM BURNS TO ASHES
BEFORE AKWA IBOM BURNS TO ASHES
By [Ofonime Honesty] | Uyo
There is fire on the mountain. There is fire on the plains and valley. There is fire everywhere. Fire of confusion, blood and tears is scorching our land. Methinks if the land could talk, it would have since protested against this deliberate campaign to deny her peace. Dear reader, look around, have we ever had it so bad? It seems Vulcan, the Roman god of destructive fire, has relocated to Akwa Ibom State.
Like many others, my heart is bitter. Happiness has deserted yours truly. Why should I be happy when my beloved Akwa Ibom has become a cauldron for iniquity men whose past stinks to heavens? Raging fire of insecurity has engulfed places like Ukanafun, Etim Ekpo and Ika, but here we are pretending that all is well. Inferno of cult related killings have permeated the nooks and crannies of the state. Residents of the state capital, Uyo, can readily tell anyone who cares to listen how they sleep in bushes at night for fear of being hacked to death by teenagers who claim to be fighting ‘cult wars.’ Also, as the political year of 2019 approaches, politicians are busy spewing fire of deception and hate speech.
As we spent ample time wandering in confusion, an electric power station located in Afaha Ube, a community in the outskirts of Uyo metropolis, was gutted by fire. We’ve not been told what triggered the inferno, but, truth is, it caught us napping, as usual. Total blackout has been the norm since the power station got burnt. While it was functional, those whose responsibility it is to safeguard such facilities, were busy bragging about a fictitious supply of a minimum of 22 hours electricity on daily basis. They abandoned their primary responsibilities and embraced propaganda.
If the news of the unfortunate inferno at the power station isn’t gory enough, then the reaction towards remedying it can surely make a devil cringe. Fire fighters could not arrive the scene on time due to a combination of factors. We’ve literally screamed our lungs out, trying to draw government’s attention to the embarrassing condition of the Akwa Ibom State Fire Service. Dilapidated trucks, no operational diesel, non availability of water, non-payment of salaries to operatives, and other factors have totally crippled that agency. The Managing Director of the agency, Mr. Ubong Umoh, spewed all the worries during an interview on a state based Radio station. If the Fire Station in Uyo is in such dire condition, what becomes of fire stations domiciled in the various Local Government Areas of the state?
Days after the preventable disaster, here we are, behaving so clueless. It is not as if cluelessness is strange to us, we’ve been acting clueless even as the fire of insecurity rage. We are clueless even when the perpetrators of these acts of insecurity give us clue. Terrorists…yes, terrorists are holding Ukanafun, Etim Ekpo and Ika to ransom. Uyo has also become a paradise for the sons of darkness. Thugs, who are only ‘useful’ for dirty job like political thuggery, have gone haywire. They are hungry and angry. They crave attention and love but receive none. They hate to be ignored. Their effrontery can make Satan shrug in disbelief. Days ago in Etim Ekpo, did they not up ante?
A news report credited to Harrison Essien, a journalist with the Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporartion (AKBC), has it that “a 30-year-old commercial driver, Nsikak Udokang, who was burnt to ashes, Wednesday, by suspected cultists on Etim Ekpo-Iwukem-Abak Highway in Akwa Ibom State…”
The report continues: “He was born in Calabar in 1988 without seeing his father. He died a painful death and was buried Thursday in Uyo, without any family member or relative at the graveyard to perform the dust to dust and bid him farewell.
“His death is coming at a time Nsikak, a driver with Akwa Ibom Transport Company, AKTC, was planning to bury his mother, whose body has been in a mortuary for years, due to lack of funds for burial…Nsikak’s only surviving brother, who was a fisherman, is said to have died in a river in Ikang, Cross River State, some years, with his body not found till today.
“Wednesday, the 28th of February, 2018, was like every other day for him. He left his house in Uyo without any sign of illness, not knowing that he will not return home alive. From Aba, he took passengers enroute to Uyo, but midway, few kilometers to the destination, suspected cultists blocked his vehicle and in a bid to escape, the gunmen opened fire and killed him.
An eyewitness offered an insight into the incident: ‘the hoodlums blocked the road and robbed people. The AKTC bus ran into them, but tried to escape. About six cultists shot at it. The bullets ignited fire, which burnt down the bus. When I heard gunshots, I escaped into Edem Akai Primary School with my motorcycle and watched the incident from there. After robbing the passengers, the cultists snatched a Toyota Camry car and escaped with it. They took the untarred road through Udianga Enem to their hideout at Okoyo village. Others followed the stolen car on their motorcycles. They took away some pretty young ladies passengers inside the bush. The hoodlums robbed nearby shops. Policemen, who usually block Ikot Nya section of the highway, escaped in their van.”
Harrison, the reporter, continued: “After the dust was settled, the upper part of Nsikak’s body, roasted, was discovered with the lower part including the legs, burnt beyond recognition. In his room in Uyo, search for documents to trace his root was not successful. Worst of it all, he beared a name to a pastor, who took care of him. This made it impossible to trace Nsikak’s family from Ukpom Ikot Inuen in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State….”
Dear reader, can things get sadder? Quenching this inferno of insecurity isn’t rocket science. The problem lies with the insincerity of those who should safeguard us. The police officers are as vulnerable as the hapless citizens they purportedly protect, reason why they reportedly fled the attack scene in Etim Ekpo. Police Commissioners have been posted to Akwa Ibom and subsequently transferred, but the quagmire remains unsolved. Our Governor as the Chief Security Officer of the state cannot tackle this; he is more interested in winning a second term in office. Etim Ekpo, Ika and Ukanafun have representatives in all levels of government. They are the power brokers. The three Local Government Areas are under Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District represented in Nigeria’s Senate by a former Governor, Mr. Godswill Akpabio. The three Local Government Areas have House of Representatives members, House of Assembly members, Local Government Chairmen etc. What have they done now that the roof is on fire? Are their hands clean?
Instead of earnestly exploring and implementing strategies to curb the madness, they indulge in vainglorious acts like speaking about who becomes what in 2019. His native Etim Ekpo LGA is burning but the Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party, Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem, is busy talking tough in Abuja, telling those who care to listen how PDP will capture power in 2019.
Can’t these politicians draft a scale of preference? Must they dance in strange lands when their hometown is burning? The reason a young commercial bus driver is burnt to death and nobody talks about it is because he is not a son to a serving Senator, Commissioner, House of Assembly member, Chairman etc. For as long as we allow these iniquity men to hoodwink us, we are doomed.
Any entity that rationalises insecurity is sick. Such a place teeters on the precipice. I need not flog the dead horse any further but allow me chip in that if Akwa Ibom is allowed to burn to ashes, we all would lack a place to call home.
(Ofonime Honesty is a journalist. He writes in from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. email@example.com)
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