The Rumuekpe communal crisis was fought to reintegrate and reunify the community. This article focuses on the cause of the crisis and strategies employed by the belligerents in the conflict. The Rumuekpe crisis was fought from 2005-2009. The war was between the old government (Friday Edu) and the new government (S.K. Agala).
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE COMMUNITY
Rumuekpe community in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State has eight (8) villages and has been a source of income to the nation. But the presence of SPDC, AGIP and ELF in that community could not yield any positive fruit because there was no written Memorandum of Understanding between the community and the companies. Rather, the strategies they have been using to extort things from the community is based on divide and operate.
The immediate cause of this crisis is the leadership tussle between what is today called the old government and new government. The leader of the old government (Mr. Friday Edu), decided to be a typical African leader by perpetuating his stay in office even after 15years. But even as he does not want to vacate the seat, there was nothing tangible to show for it. It was with a heart full of grieve & repression that Mr. S.K. Agala and Otamini Agala, came up with their own agitation and carried out strategic dethronements of the village chiefs and elders who were supporting Mr. Friday Edu. This had a diverstating effect on the old government and this led to the first offensive operations from the last village (Omoviri) by the old government, which claimed two lives (Chioma Egbe and Emperor). The most prominent of all the deaths in that mini crisis was the death of one Victor Wokoma. The late Victor was brutally murdered and his body was butchered and thrown into a deep pit by Edu's faction.
Angered by the way their own man, an important and influential member of the community was killed, the Agala group demanded, that Victor be produced alive by the Edu’s faction.
When Victor could not be produced, there was a reprisal attack on the members of the old government by the Agala led squad. Within this period, S.K. Agala was an official political appointee, as a special aide to the chairman of Emohua Local Government Council, Emeka Woke (during his 2004 - 2007 first tenure)
On the new government side, preparation for war was put into high gear as soon as the old government withdrew. Many youth poured in for recruitment and training was embarked upon by both boys and girls. And at this time, the old government had no sufficient arms since it took the new government three months to embark on the massacre.
The Agala faction reprisal attack on the members of the old government who had succeeded in chasing out the foot soldiers of the new government, from the community, littered the villages with scores of dead bodies. This resulted in members of the community, both supporters of the old and new governments, fleeing as refugees to nearby communities of Ndele, Rumuji, Elele-Ailmini etc.
After a while, there was transient peace as community members started returning back to their villages from their refugee camps to resume normal life again. But, there were cases of secret killings in the farms, rivers, etc. of perceived supporters of the new government, by the Pele soldiers, setting the pace for further violence.
On a second reprisal attack on the Pele squad by the Agalas; over 60 indigenes of the community were killed. This attack was recorded as the most organized and sophisticated of all the attacks since the history of the crisis, as Pele and his SPDC equipped soldiers were forcefully chased out of their own base.
At this stage, the Agala foot soldiers, took over the community. As expected, the SPDC changed her support and financial sponsorship to the Agala led new government, basically to enable them operate freely in the area. For the first time, members of the new government started enjoying what Pele and his people have enjoyed for a long time. And in all of these attacks, not only lives were lost, properties worth billions of naira were also lost.
After the death of over 60 persons, the remaining ones who still had their heads on their necks and lives in them, finally fled their community, preferring to live as refugees.
The refugees that settled at Elele-Alimini were mostly of the new government extraction. The soldiers of the new government were seen especially in Elele-Alimini, Ndele, Rumuji and Ahoada, selling old roofing sheets, ceiling boards, blocks, doors and other building and furniture materials suspected to be properties, belonging to supporters of the old government who, within the period they conquered and occupied the community, burnt down all the houses belonging to the perceived major actors in the Agala faction.
Through the confessions of a one time victim of hostage taking in Rivers State, who happens to be a woman that understands Ikwerre language, Rumuekpe was discovered to have become a haven for kidnappers. This new business of hostage taking, is believed to earn for the Agala group, more money for the importation of more arms and ammunition.
Equipped especially with modern telecommunication gadgets, arms and ammunition, courtesy of SPDC, proceeds from hostage taking, and the Odili-led PDP government in Rivers State, the Agalas even traced and killed some important members of Rumuekpe community resident in Port Harcourt city. These people were killed either in their places of work, as in the case of one Mr. Egbe, a classroom teacher who was murdered in Holy Rosary Secondary School, his place of work. Some were killed on their way to their offices, as in the case of the murder of a lawyer, Gilbert Obior. Some were even killed in market places and in their rented apartments, in Port Harcourt city.
The most fearful killings were the killing of the arrow head of the old government, the popular Friday Edu, alias Pele, somewhere in the heart of Port Harcourt city. To convince their supporters that they have succeeded in killing Pele, his head and neck were carried on the boot of a Honda car belonging to Otamini Agala, who led most of their killing expeditions brandishing it before supporters at their major refugee camp in Elele-Alimini. Before this time, Pele had threatened a counter attack, the ways and means of which were still being perfected before he met his waterloo.
The major reason why the counter attack was delayed even as their important personalities were murdered or lost every week on the streets of Port Harcourt, was the search for a new sponsor having been finally dislocated as they no longer enjoyed their usual donations from SPDC which has shifted loyalty. Having exhausted all the money they saved from the SPDC and for the fact that they could not identify the business of hostage taking as an additional survival strategy, the group quickly ran out of money, no sooner they were chased out of Rumuekpe.
The death of Pele, spud up every other negotiation with intending sponsors as Pele's soldiers were later reinvigorated as a result of proceeds from their magnanimous donors.
Little did the Agala group know that the remaining foot soldiers of Pele could be resilient enough after the unexpected demise of their commander, to contemplate another reprisal attack on them. By the end of the said attack, the attempt by the old government to reclaim their lost Rumuekpe base from the Agala soldiers was futile.
After several days of careful spying on the Agala soldiers by the Pele boys as the Agalas' were always visiting their girls, friends and family members freely at their Elele-Alimini refugee camp, Otamini and some of his boys were located drinking in a beer parlour somewhere in Elele-Alimini. Before they could commence with their shootings, the heavily charmed Otamini had disappeared, leaving his boys and his Honda car that was used in conveying the most anterior parts of the body of his rival Pele, to the mercies of soldiers of the old government who thought they had succeeded in rounding him up, when they sighted Otamini and few of his boys.
After the attack, four Agala soldiers and five innocent civilians were killed. The Honda car belonging to Otamini Agala was not spared, as it was sprayed with bullets and set ablaze.
Some of the latest sponsors of the two groups became noticeable after the Elele-Alimini reprisal attack on some of the Agala soldiers, as Soboma George was said to have openly threatened to attack Elele-Alimini community, blaming the successful attack on Agala soldiers on spies from Elele-Alimini. On one side, another commander of a militant group, Farah, from the grapevine, is said to have absorbed the late Pele's squad and has equally threatened to wipe out Elele-Alimini, should they continue to harbour supporters of the new government as refugees.
No wonder the recent clashes between Farah and Soboma boys as they quarrel and shoot even outside the creeks into the heart of Port Harcourt city.
After that period, the Elele-Alimini based Rumuekpe refugees, began to flee the area, as they feel very unsafe and are surprised at how their opponents penetrated the perceived much protected sub-Rumuekpe new government territory.
THE NEW GOVERNMENT ARMY OFFENSIVE.
After the death of Friday Edu (Pele of old government), the new government had issues among themselves and divided into two fashions (S.K. Agala and his soldiers).
The new government opened her offensive operations by killing Otamini Agala for breach of contract. It would be recalled that the Agalas in carrying out the bidding, robed everybody into what is seen today as a costly mess that will be regretted for the rest of their lives. The soldiers revealed that S.K. Agala added a Moreno Jeep to his fleet of cars and owned more than four tastefully furnished houses, replete with modern conveniences including an estate in Port Harcourt city. His brother, Otamini, also added a jeep to his own fleet of cars even though he lost his Honda car during the Elele-Alimini attack by foot soldiers of the old government.
Most worrisome to the poor refugees, is the way and manner, an errand boy to the group, one Promise, recently displayed signs of new wealth. Promise now owns a Mercedes V-boot and has even bought a jeep for himself, they said. The soldiers after holding a meeting with their masters, decided to eliminate them since they refuse to adhere to the agreement (chop I chop).
After the death of Otamini, S.K. Agala threatened a counter attack which led to his death in his Port Harcourt based house.
As expected, the SPDC changed her support and financial sponsorship to the soldiers, headed by 50 cent of the new government, basically to enable them operate freely in the area. And that is how and where it has been till date.
May I remind this great community that everything that has happened is for the reunification and reintegration of the community.
I have chosen to pay this tribute to my brothers, sisters and thousands of other unknown victims of the oil war, both past, present and the ones yet to be produced because I know that nobody remembers unsung heroes, worse in a society where the only class of people being celebrated are the rich, not minding how they acquired their wealth.