Home ViewpointOpinion Ali Adoyi: Okwori Onaji’s incarceration: If Owukpa leaders were gods

Ali Adoyi: Okwori Onaji’s incarceration: If Owukpa leaders were gods

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Ali Adoyi: Okwori Onaji's incarceration: If Owukpa leaders were gods

Leadership is synonymous to followership. The only difference is that leaders are meant to implement what their followers want.

Followership is defined by those actions that compliment leadership which is important in a hierarchical community.

Most times, people tend to ignore the concept of followership which is as important as leadership. This is so because of the society we find ourselves today.

Equally so, no amount of wisdom or knowledge should make a follower to become recalcitrant. Having uncooperative attitude towards one’s leader will push a leader some steps forward to establish that he or she is firmly in charge.

This may have formed the basis for the arrest of one of our own, Okwori Onaji, a local activist, who moved to address the press over the alleged activities of illegal miners in Owukpa, a community in Ogbadibo LGA of Benue State.

Right about now, Okwori is cooling his feet at the Benue State Police Command based on the order of the State Commissioner of Police that the case be transferred to his office.

Unfortunately, a case of father and son, which should ordinarily be handle with care has been escalated beyond even the leaders who should be moving for peace in our once peaceful community.

Since the mining activities started in the Local Government, many individuals, precisely the youths and the host community, Ibagba, have continued to kick against the activities. They had asked questions regarding the legality of the business. They have equally raised concerns regarding impact assessments for the safety of the host community. Most of the calls from my knowledge were disregarded. But are these concerns unreasonable?

The youths wanted to be carried along and had called for openness in the community’s agreement with the investors, but were sidelined. Do they deserve to know what is happening in their own community or not?

I understand without doubt that different protest letters had been flying around, drawing the leadership’s attention to the grievances expressed by the youths, but the leadership chose to ignore. Are they against accountability and probity?

At the long run, an activist, Okwori Onaji who organized a press conference for the singular purpose of driving home his demands and those of other youths was later picked up and different trump up charges may have been levelled against him and the Police Commissioner has ordered that he be taken to Makurdi even when it was said that he has travelled out of town for the Sallah celebration. So where will Okwori be this time tomorrow? Paharps, he will be waiting for the Commissioner. Oh, my Owukpa!

The Legality or otherwise of Onaji’s arrest:

From the information we gathered, Okwori was not arrested even at the scene of the press conference. Some Owukpa youths obviously induced, alongside some vigilante group did the dirty job for some interested Owukpa leaders. He was beaten, dragged and handed over to the police.

It was alleged initially that he was caught with an Ak47 riffle. In the image of him displayed on the social media, the only AK47 riffle seen was some magazines (newspapers) kept in front of him. When have magazines become AK47? As well meaning Ogbadibo sons and daughters began to clamour for his release and requested that those who raised the allegation against the suspect should present the AK47 , the story changed. The latest story is that Okwori was caught without a riffle at the scene but upon a search carried out in his house, a gun was found and not an AK47 riffle.

What is the relationship between a peaceful press conference and and an AK47 riffle? He who presses charges must prove. The leadership should begin to think out ways to explain to Nigerians when and how Okwori suddenly become a common criminal without a check on his antecedents.

How did he get the gun? Who sold it to him? At the end, all the facts must be established before we will begin to take our leaders seriously going forward. If he was not found with an AK47 riffle at the scene of the press conference, what then informed the search of his? Was there any violent act at the scene of the aborted conference? Who and who were injured? What weapons warranted further search of his house. Was there a search warrant to the effect? Can the police under such a hasty circumstance search someone’s house without a warrant? The case of armed robbery activities within Orokam axis suddenly became a source of worry and Okwori became the suspect almost at the time he attempted to raise a voice against the ongoing mining activities in Owukpa. This is not only sad, but embarrassing.

The explanation advanced by the counsel to the ODA leadership smacked of too many coverups. Maybe when the matter gets more complicated, the police may have to answer some of these questions.

I’m not just writing. I have used different entreaties to calm nerves and to talk to a few leaders that I could reach, but it appears Okwori has all along become their most dreaded nightmare and they wouldn’t be bothered. The ODA leadership appears to be manipulating the police to incarcerate a man who tried to speak out against injustice. Okwori will now be in custody pending when the Commissioner is around to attend to him.

Playing god on a land that belongs to all simply because you have the opportunity to preside over a people today amounts to total annihilation of the Alekwu-Owukpa which is the main custodian of our culture. The current development is sacrilegious just as it is the height of impunity and injustice. There is clearly a lacuna.

Instead of arresting and incarcerating our own just for the simple reason of asking questions, the energy would have been channeled towards influencing developmental project which ODA leadership have failed to influence over time. Why are they taking the issue of coal so personal as though it belongs to some cabals?

To the ODA leadership, it is important to establish that you do not own Owukpa community more than anyone of us. We all are stakeholders and you can’t play the god over us. We deserve your attention. Can we have that now? Times have changed. It’s probably because you have been allowed to run our community unquestioned for such a long time, and who says the old way is the right way?

As a leader, this time tomorrow, where will you be? You may have begone, but what paths have you left for the younger generation to follow. Will your footsteps be exemplary or be dumped inside Awube or Adu river?

Today, it’s Onaji, tomorrow, it could be your son. Today it’s Ibagba, tomorrow it could be a goldmine in Ugbugbu. Today, it is in Ehaje, tomorrow, it could be in Itabono. What are your legacies as leaders? Will one of those legacies be that which suppresses the youths? How would you want the younger generation to handle this type of situation when it is their time to take over the community leadership?

One important aspect of my opinion is the fact that leadership varies with the mentality of a leader. It could be primitive, crude or civil in nature. Whichever path you choose in running the affair of a community will determine the compliance level of your subjects.

Don’t do things that will count against your generation tomorrow. Remember, Big Brother [Alekwu] is watching.

As for Okwori Onaji, we will ensure justice is served and all those involved in this forceful incarceration are brought to book. Times have changed. Governor Samuel Ortom is a lover of the youths. He won’t allow this to continue in his state. President Mohammadu Buhari will definitely not allow this to persist, just as our Senator and Reps members will ask further questions.

It’s important to stress that I have never been interested in Owukpa coal as we know the same story will surface and everything will later end in a mess. I just want Okwori Onaji released. I won’t sleep, I won’t eat and I won’t drink until my brother, your brother is released.

Finally, respect your elders and leaders who are upright. Listen to them that listen to you.

God bless you.

Ali Adoyi writes from Abuja, Nigeria.
ali.adoyi@dailypost.ng

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