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Bloody Morning: The Ukpabi-Nimbo Massacre

Guest post by Chijioke Ngobili

On Monday, 25th April, 2016, just before it was 7am, the unarmed indigenes of Ukpabi-Nimbo, Uzo-Uwani LG of Enugu State, South-eastern Nigeria were attacked with machetes, guns and other dangerous weapons. It was a bloodbath. The news filtered in and pictures of mangled bodies were shared on social media. My Facebook newsfeed began giving me snippets of the carnage around 1pm on 25th April, 2016. I read and searched out more information on it and I was embittered by what I read—some false, some exaggerated and some compellingly true. But then I had begun considering a travel to Nsukka.

On 26th April, 2016, by 6.20pm, I was at the Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka situated along Enugu Road. I asked the security men that I be directed to the ward where the victims of the Fulani massacre were, and they did. On entering this very ward, anguish and sorrow greeted me with their smell and wisps. One must have to double his guts to endure the sight of blood, deep cuts and wounds. I did before I entered a particular partition of the two wards.

The doctors, nurses were very busy and proactive in managing an overwhelming situation. The victims and their caregivers looked at me with suspicion. They were very careful and looked traumatized. I spoke in Igbo immediately and introduced myself mentioning my place of work so as to douse the growing tension and discomfort. I realised that it would be wise if I limited my speaking to one or two persons as not to attract the attentions of the doctors, nurses and other people in there, else I may be unable to extract any information at all since I’m no journalist by profession.

Nimbo 1 (1)

Samuel Uzoh – one of the victims.

Samuel Uzoh (pictured above) was the first victim I tried speaking to. He had a fiery temper. He understandably barked at me when I tried asking him questions directly: “So, when you get the answer, what will you do with it?” When I tried to explain, he ignored me and continued eating the food his sister was feeding him. It was this sister of his—who declined giving her own name—that told me her brother’s name and gave me a sketchy report of the horrendous incident before withdrawing from saying more when she saw me getting out my phone to record some of the things she said. Despite his massive wounds, Samuel’s mouth remained sharp and mind alert. You need not know that he engaged the herdsmen who wielded machetes and guns, and paid for it. This was his brief story: He is a farmer. He was going to early morning farming around 6am when the marauders attacked him. He refused to submit to death. Instead, he fought and lived to sustain the wounds on his head and right arm.

When I looked to my left, on the other row of the hospital beds, I saw a much younger man laid on the bed with a young woman of his age looking over him. I approached them. The young lady was more friendly and welcoming. She struck as more exposed and educated judging from her response in good English and the unexpected courtesy she showed me after I had introduced myself. 

Celestine Ajogwu (pictured below) was the name of her brother. I had asked if she was Celestine’s wife. “No. We are siblings from same father but not same mother. He is Celestine Ajogwu while I am Chioma Ezugwu”, she said. His brother’s left palm was cut with a machete by the Fulani herdsmen as can be seen in the picture. His head and jaw were equally hit with a machete as he lost three teeth in the process. Celestine managed to say a few things to me despite the badly hurt mouth that affected his speaking. His sister, Chioma, helped him to narrate to me how it all happened in their town of Nimbo in the wee hours of April 25th, 2016: “I was in Onicha, Anambra State where I live when they called me to come home; that our community was raided”, she said. “I didn’t even know that my brother was among the victims until I saw people being carried out of the vehicle. I was shocked to speechlessness on seeing him in his very bad condition”.

Nimbo 1 (2)

Celestine Ajogwu – one of the victims.

Chioma then took me down memory lane as far back as 2006 when their traditional leader of Nimbo community naïvely thought that Fulani herdsmen could be pacified with money as to leave his people in peace, only for them to tell him how they desired to acquire more lands. “The man who is our Igwe (name withheld) was away from us for a long time. He returned from Abroad (maybe US/UK) and became the Igwe following some traditional succession”, Chioma revealed. “In 2006 or thereabout, after he had been deluged with complaints from our people on the destruction of farmlands by the Fulani herds of cattle, he invited the Fulani herdsmen and asked them how much he can give them as to vacate from our community entirely and in peace. The Fulani Cattle breeders asked for 10 million naira and our Igwe raised it and gave them, only for them to return to their excessive grazing with the claims that we have a wide expanse of lands”, Chioma told me. Since that year 2006 when the Igwe made that offer and before then, “…it has been endless conflicts between our people and the Fulani cattle breeders”, she emphasised.

Recently, the Fulani herdsmen wrote a letter to the Igwe, informing him with untold bravado, of their intention to revenge the clash they have been having with the men of the community on the issue of excessive grazing. On learning that, the Igwe alerted the State and Local authorities. Policemen were mobilised to the town and stationed to protect the people. But something suspicious and conspiratorial mixed up to birth the eventual misfortune.

Celestine Ajogwu told me himself: “I had slept the night before seeing the policemen around our community and so felt relaxed. Early in the morning, around 6am, I had woken to move out. I saw unusually numerous men dressed in black thinking they were the security men I saw the other night. But when I noticed they were blindfolded, I grew afraid and ran back to my house not knowing they had seen me. Some of them came to my house and struggled with me before dragging me out to butcher. In the process, I fell down to the ground pretending to be dead. That was when they left me alone thinking I had died”.  Chioma took over to straighten the wavy mix of how the indigenes managed to save many lives by escaping an army of numerous marauders. “These Fulani had planned not to raise dust in the killing which is why you can see that many of the victims were mainly butchered and were barely shot with a gun. They planned a smooth ethnic cleansing such that no one around would know what is happening until they are done with the cleansing. But it took one of our men who had woken much earlier to shout out when they struggled with him. The man was coming out with his bike when he saw something unusual about the people they thought were protecting them. With his shouting, people scampered for safety and the killers managed to kill the much they could. My brother, though badly hurt, managed to alert other people he could alert using his phone”.

Nimbo 1 (3)

Chioma Ezugwu—my main source of information and resource person—with people milling around in the hospital ward.

I also gathered that the Catholic parish priest in the town earlier escaped the carnage even when the killers approached his house and found no one. In all these, something is significant but rarely noticed: The women were barely part of the victims. I checked the five patients in that ward and noticed that they were all men. Chioma had brought this to my attention saying: “Even if women are gathered in hundreds, they would just pass by and leave them. They said it’s the men they are looking for; that it’s our men that have offended them most and refused them on our lands”. On asking the actual number of deaths so far, Chioma said she had been able to count nine dead bodies brought to the morgue with her own eyes despite the conflicting figures thrown about the media. She pointed at a bed adjacent to theirs: “This evening, the man here died and was taken to the morgue. He was old and couldn’t endure the pains of the deep wounds he sustained”. Chioma didn’t clarify to me if the recently dead man added up the dead bodies to 10 or completed them 9. She also reminded me that there were other victims taken to the General Hospital in the same Nsukka; and definitely, other dead bodies will be there too, plus those who may have equally died in the process. She told me how Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the governor of their State, visited them and gave them each a hundred thousand naira each, just as the Senator representing Nsukka Senatorial Zone, Chukwuka Utazi gave them fifty thousand naira each; making it a hundred and fifty thousand naira each. (They were 5 patients in that very ward as at 26th evening of April, 2016). Also according to Chioma, the governor paid their bills and informed them that they’d be transferred to University of Nigeria, Teaching Hospital, Ituku-Ozalla between that evening and the next morning.

Celestine and Chioma, in a nutshell, believed that there is a conspiracy somewhere which resulted to the bloodbath. They believed there was an insider who facilitated it even though they refrained from mentioning the people/group they might have suspected. They are right! The constant pulse in that suspicion is this: An enemy served you a threat. You provided a security to avert it, yet the threat became real. So, what actually did the security agents do after all? Why did they leave their station only for the enemies to surface in a space of few hours? Were where those enemies all along? In the bush? Or did they use the same roads you guard to assess the community of Nimbo? Too many questions begged for answers in my mind.

“We can’t even wait for morning to come, so that we can be transferred to Enugu”, Chioma said resolutely. “This place doesn’t seem safe judging from two of the victims in the other ward who couldn’t speak Igbo when the doctors and nurses asked for their names. I am afraid of their body languages and facial expressions so far. They can possibly be informants who consciously got wounded as to keep penetrating our people further”. I left them at 8pm after showing them some little financial gestures. I assured them that I would keep checking on them and that if anyone who gets to learn of their story from me offers anything for them, I’d surely make it reach them. 

_____________

Chijioke is a musician, writer and freelance journalist. He wrote from Nsukka.

_____________

Photo credit: Chijioke Ngobili

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Partnership With Invisible Borders

Today, I’m glad to report to you on a collaboration with the guys at Invisible Borders Project. For the next few months, this blog will bring to you news, interviews, blog posts, and reportage from this beautiful travel project of the Invisible Borders: The TransAfrican Project. For those not familiar with them, for a couple of years now, this small organisation has organised trips across long distances, taking along writers, photographers, and other artists to document the human, social, literary, and cultural landscapes from one point to another, giving the reader a chance to journey across spaces they’d never otherwise traverse through the eyes and thoughts of the travellers.

This time, they would be travelling across Nigeria! (Read more about the 2016 trip here). Nigeria

Hear more: “In a period of accumulating upheaval across Nigeria—the recurring threats of Boko Haram fundamentalists in the northeast, and pro-Biafra agitations in the southeast—a trans-Nigerian road trip will elucidate the ambiguities of contemporary Nigerian existence. The Nigerian experience we seek to question is contemporaneous and global. In the absurdity of their rhetoric and the severe consequences of their violence, Boko Haram and the Islamic State are products of artificially constructed maps and policies – an indictment of the colonial project so to speak.” (See the map of the trip around Nigeria here).

KEY FEATURES OF THE PROJECT: 

  • A Team of 10 participants – 8 artists (4 photographers, 2 film makers, 2 writers) and two administrators (a driver and a project manager)
  • participants will travel together in a van, all the while, living, working and interacting with each other.
  • Participants are expected to develop concrete bodies of work in the form of photography, short films, and essays.
  • Outcomes and experiences of the project will be shared online, on a daily basis via a dedicated blog/app. See example from our 2014 Road Trip:http://app.invisible-borders.com/.
  • A Book articulating the photographic works as well as essays shall be published at the end of the project in conjunction with a feature-length documentary film.
  • The duration of the project is 46 days from May 12 – June 26, 2016.

The participants in the trip are Zaynab Odunsi (photographer), Emmanuel Iduma (writer), Eloghosa Osunde (photographer/writer), Yagazie Emezi (photographer), Yinka Elujoba (writer), Uche Okonkwo (writer), Emeka Okereke (Filmmaker/ photographer), Innocent Ekejiuba (Project Manager), and Ellen Kondowe (Head of Communications). You can read more in-depth profile of them here.

***

At KTravula.com, we will follow the trip, serving interviews, photos, thoughts, blog posts, and other artistic input from participants of the project. All these will come along with the usual posts from guest posters, and other updates from my pedestrian trips around Lagos and its environs. Keep a date.

Follow us on twitter and like our Facebook page for instant feeds.

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Of Nigeria’s Real Founding Fathers

I just finished reading this long (but totally worth it) piece by Dàmọ́lá Awóyọkùn, on the life of some of Nigeria’s founding fathers. Correctly, the piece begins by dismantling the myth that the triad of Awólọ́wọ̀, Azikiwe and Bello were the founding fathers of modern Nigeria, giving credit to where it is due to those who fought and survived slavery in order to birth a new country “bound in freedom.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Meanwhile as Crowther spoke about the horrors of slavery, a lady minimally dressed and too unassuming to deserve interruption of the narration came in and she listened to him with breathless attention. There was no voice speaking for the slaves in West Africa until the British rescued Crowther, gave him dignity, gave him culture and education and he became a voice, the voice. And when the Prince spread the map on the table wider to see Lagos, it blew out the candle light. As Crowther wrote in his autobiography, the Prince then said, “Will your Majesty kindly bring us a candle from the mantelpiece?” Then  it dawned on Crowther the unassuming woman who had joined them earlier on was Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom and Empress of India.
Wrote Crowther: “On hearing this, I became aware of the person before whom I was all of the time. I trembled from head to foot, and could not open my mouth to answer the questions that followed. Lord Russell and the Prince told me not to be frightened, and the smiles on the face of the good Queen assured me that she was not angry at the liberty I took in speaking so freely before her, and so my fears subsided.”   After bringing the candles, the Queen then asked about what she can do about the slave situation in Lagos, Ajayi Crowther said seize Lagos by fire by force.  Captain Labulo Davies, the second of the founding fathers, was a lieutenant on HMS Bloodhound the flagship of the fleet that bombed Lagos.

There are many stories of this nature that need to be told and told again of people whose efforts gave (and continues to give) us the freedom we currently enjoy, linking the colours of the present to the struggles and sweat of the past. Why is Ajàyí Crowther not on the Nigerian currency again?

Read the full report here.

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Reasons Why We Write

by Afọlábí Bólúwatifẹ́

IX

Because forgetting

is unforgivable,

irredeemable even

and we must not go too far

from redemption

beyond reach-

of  Abram’s water drops.

VIII

Because pain must be kept-

safe

to be felt

again

and again.

VII

Because we must never stop trying

to define beauty

even when our inks embrace emptiness

and pens fall into pits-

of clichés

and stereotypes.

VI

Because fragnance is transient

and a sunrise

is never complete

without words-

radiant,

magical,

warm.

V

Because time is infinite

and life is measured in spaces-

between seconds

between laughters

between tears.

IV

Because they said-

feelings are just biochemical reactions

in the blood and brain’

neurotransmitters bumping against receptors-

exciting

inhibiting

exciting.

But we had to prove Loewi wrong.

III

Because words don’t die

and immortality has not lost the gaiety

that bewitched Galahad

so we still attempt

to bury parts,

organs-

in alphabets

and phrases

and paragraphs.

II

Because of voices

between sulci and gyri

that won’t stop whispering-

puns,

quips,

poetry.

That have grown resistant to Haloperidol.

I

Because,

Because one thousand  poems are not enough.

Because there is always space for one more-

I am lost without youboluwatife

I can’t live without you

I am empty without you.’ 

__________

Afọlábí Bólúwatifẹ́ is a 4th Year Clinical student at the University College Hospital(UCH), Ibadan. He is passionate to a fault about poetry and is currently working on publishing his first collection of poetry. His poems have been published on Kalahari Review, Kollectiv, several online blogs and some editorial boards at the University.

He tweets via @oluafolabi.

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Three Poems by Yemi Adesanya

musings

Slayed by a Muse

Once upon a heart beating oxygen rich lines

Valves of words and arteries of rhymes

A muse hit the source, it beat too fast

Flooded veins in shock

They got no weather forecast!

Once upon a girl dancing to a broken song

Steps of yawns, her moves all wrong

A trip to Musedale was too much fun

Drank the whole pub

See how far gone she is!

Gushing streams of crimson lyrical richness

Fight to be unleashed in clots of definite dizziness

Sudden letting turns to pooling bytes

All valves are broken;

What an eloquent way to die!

___

Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill went off the grid

To pet a rampant boner

Jack came first and spilled his spunk

Then Jill came, trembling after.

___

Special Characters

Awaken from a Comma,

As someone shouted: “His Colon is on fire!”

Saved by a timely Exclamation!

Now he’s gotta live with a Semicolon;

Punched by Punctuation Mark

Who thought he could win an Apostrophe for the move

‘Twas pretty stupid, Period.

The hypocrisy of a Hyphen

Joining two unmarried words

In pseudo-matrimony; don’t Quote me

But I’d say, “There’s a big Question Mark there.”  Wouldn’t you?

What a bunch of Special Characters!

________

12916850_10154140811573410_4598977437559999249_o

Yemi Adesanya is the author of Musings of a Tangled Tongue, now available on Amazon (Kindle and Paperback), Lulu, and Okada Books. In her other life, she disguises as an accountant and risk manager, in Lagos, Nigeria, where she lives with her husband and children. These poems were taken from the book, with the permission of the author. More of her poems can be found here.

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