The Brewing tension in Okpella: Obaseki’s proactive steps to prevent crisis
From Kaduna to Rivers and Benue states as well as other parts of the country, the stories of woe over the senseless killing of Nigerians abound.
While the issues are not exactly the same, there is however a common narrative about the alleged failure of the governors of the affected states in arresting the issues at their early stage before they snowballed into full-blown crises.
Crisis management experts contend that the best strategy to preventing crisis, irrespective of the scale, is the proactive approach. It is cost effective and less likely to lead to the loss of lives and property.
The brewing tension in the quiet town of Okpella, in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State, a solid minerals bearing community could become the hot bed for killings and counter killings if urgent steps are not taken.
Newspaper men have had their share of the ‘fight’ with the advertorials and counter advertorials on the ownership of the Obu mine site located in Okpella, that have dominated the pages of newspapers in the past weeks, sponsored by both Dangote and BUA, both cement manufacturing companies.
The lingering legal tussle between Dangote and BUA International Limited, is being followed keenly by stakeholders in the solid minerals sector and other stakeholders.
Beyond the court hall where the Obu case is being adjudicated upon, the growing tension in Okpella could claim several lives, more so with the posture of one of the parties to the case, BUA International Limited.
Worried by the failure of BUA to abide by a simple Stop Work Order and the likely consequences, the Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, with officials and personnel of various security agencies effected the arrest of staff of BUA Cement after shutting down the mine site, to prevent any crisis.
Followers of the BUA-Dangote case commend governor Obaseki’s action, more so considering security intelligence that BUA is raising a militia as part of a grand plan to adopt extra-judicial means to continue mining activity on the Obu mine site.
However, a few hired commentators on the issue have blamed Governor Obaseki’s action. Understandably, the commentators are paid and do not appreciate the bigger picture and the obligation of a state governor to his people in a matter that could throw the community into a theatre of war.
In Benue State, Governor Samuel Ortom is in the eye of the storm as Benue people protest the alleged killing of their people by suspected Fulani Herdsmen.
No excuse or defence is acceptable to the people who have lost their relatives to the mayhem. Ortom is now being called all sorts of names over the issue. Some have even asked for his resignation. They say he is not proactive and cannot protect his people. Perhaps Ortom may have taken some proactive steps which were rebuffed by his detractors.
All his efforts to prevent anarchy, whatever those efforts may have been, which might have been resisted and ridiculed are now completely drowned in the cries of distress that followed the killing of several Benue people.
In Edo State, Governor Obaseki is now taking proactive steps to protect his people and prevent the state from becoming another killing field and people are coming up with various conspiracy theories and wild guesses and are ignoring the real issue, which is the sanctity and safety of human life.
To cast aspersions on Obaseki for his proactive efforts to protect the lives of his people in Okpella is senseless to say the least.
Governor Obaseki is resolute about fulfilling his obligation to protect Edo people and will not be swayed by the cacophony of voices, knowing that he is the one that will be blamed should there be mayhem in Okpella tomorrow.
So the governor is not listening to side talks, as he has said times without number that no amount of money is worth the life of any Edo man or woman.
Many Benue and Rivers State people blame their governors who are the chief security officers of their respective states and no matter how long the blame game lasts, the dead are gone. No amount of blame trade will bring them back.
Obaseki has resolved to ensure that this is not the fate of Edo people in Okpella or elsewhere in Edo State.
Very likely, if the issues that led to the various crises mentioned above were tackled by the governor and all the people without prejudice, at the early stage, the senseless killings might have been avoided.
Osagie is the Special Adviser to Edo State Governor on Media and Communication Strategy