THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TOWN BY DANPHIDEL AKPENYI
One Saturday morning, as I was busy ironing in my laundry shop, my son walked up to me and announced that he had procured a piece of land in Agbor. On enquiry, he told me at Owa-Alero.
He was born in Lagos. He did his Primary and Secondary school education in Lagos. He sees all Ika speaking persons and the geographical composite of Ika land as Agbor. When he moved from the family house, he rented an apartment in Azu Owa. He does not know neither does he see any difference between a set of people with same language and tradition.
His friends are mainly from the ‘other side’ so is his wife. He is over 30 years old and he is not in politics.
My bosom friends are from the other side; we schooled, played and ate together. I still can remember with nostalgic feelings, Christmas and New Year celebrations. ‘Ulaga’ from Azu Owa and that from Azu Agbor will converge at Old Lagos/Asaba Road by Abraka/Baleke Junction, particularly on the Boxing Day, in the evening. This is after they were done with their entertainment and sourcing for money in the day time.
They will line up on a parallel line opposite each other; Azu Agbor and Azu Owa Ulaga masquerade, each with canes in their hands and their supporters chanting warlike songs behind them. They will in turn, position their legs to be flogged. If any Ulaga masquerade shows any sign of being hurt or that he could no longer bear the pains of the flogging, it meant they have been defeated; it was great fun then.
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They will return to their respective homes without any ill feelings or animosity; it was a sight to behold. People from both sides of the divide normally come to witness this tourist-like event, a warlike situation with war songs, yet in a convivial atmosphere.
There were two major night clubs then, Pegasus and Lamina night clubs; all in Azu Owa. Guys from Azu-Agbor came trooping. There were no Okadas, neither were there cabs. Only very few came in their fathers’ Volkswagen ‘stolen’ cars.
There were no television sets then. When it came, only few families had it. Some crossed to Azu Owa or to Azu Agbor to watch, vice versa.
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There was only one Cinema house on Dorothy Street at Azu Owa; we all gathered there, one people, one love.
There were five major secondary schools then; Ika Grammar School, St. Columbus, Marymount College, Baptist Girls’ High School and St. Charles Grammar School in Ika land. Ika children schooled in these schools, blended and bonded into brothers and sisters. Yes, we became one in our innocence and simplicity.
In 1991, Delta State was created, more Local Governments were created. Ika Local Government split into two; Ika South and Ika North East Local Government.
For administrative convenience, the Old Lagos/Asaba Road and Orogodo Stream were used as demarcating line.
An administrative act that was to bring administration closer to the people, birthed distrust, ill feelings, unhealthy rivalry, destructive competition and unfathomable animosities. A people hitherto united and bonded by linguistic and cultural similarities are sorrowfully turned apart by evil mechanization of some few clannish and parochial individuals from both sides.
It becomes more pronounced in House of Representatives tussles; a new politics of who goes or who should not and how long has one side represented vis-à-vis the representation and duration of the other side. This House of Representative sentiment has dealt a serious blow to our fragile unity as a people.
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The ‘racist’ Owa man is angered by the citing of College of Education, now University of Delta (UNIDEL) and School of Nursing in Agbor. They feel marginalized and ‘sing’ about it.
The ‘racist’ Agbor man sees so much lopsidedness of the present administration’s infrastructural distribution, outlining the seeming glaring differences between the road network in Owa and Agbor Kingdoms.
Negative sentiments brew impatience and discord. All things can never be equal, it has never been and can never be. Equation in human matters seldom come to equilibrium.
The average Agbor man is uncomfortable in the presence of a group of Owa people, same with the average Owa man in the midst of Agbor people. How long can this continue?
We are neighbours living in the same geographical enclave. We speak the same language, share the same culture and tradition and the same history. For long, we have intermarried. We are blended and bonded; we have been one. What more can beautify and bond a people. Should we allow the scheming of some of our inferiority complexed brothers disfigure our colourful beginnings.
Onu Ika under the collective leadership of Dan Usifoh, pioneered by Fortune Ebie and Ika Village Square, piloted by Smart Ikem but convened by Barr Eugene Uzum are vigorously working towards bridging whatever gap between the people in Ika land.
The successful and well to do and well positioned sons and daughters of Owa and Agbor Kingdoms are all seem to be fraternizing very well. They should educate and encourage their ‘foot soldiers’, their kith and kin at the lower ladder to borrow leaf from them and relate harmoniously among themselves.
Blending of the two kingdoms through individual relationships and intermarriages, should be further boosted by concerted monarchical interventions. Owa Kingdom should give chieftaincy titles to well deserving indigenes of Agbor, this gesture should be replicated by Agbor monarch. Owa quarter should be created in Agbor Kingdom where Owa indigenes could build and own houses and properties. This again, should be replicated by Owa Kingdom.
Anything and everything that would enhance our unity should be amplified and encouraged by all. More associations like The League and Oak where Owa and Agbor indigenes are members should be birthed. Onu Ika and Ika village square are wonderful expressions of our desire to be one indivisible people with same tradition and culture and same language.
There should be periodical gatherings of the elders and chiefs from both sides to discuss matters that affect them, bearing in mind that what affects the eyes affects the nose.
When we as a people are well blended and united in love, sectional and parochial tendencies will die naturally. Equity and political equilibrium balancing emanates effortlessly. Rancor will fizzle out, love will blossom. Owa man will not see Agbor man as Agbor man but as a brother, vice versa. This is possible if we begin to love one another today.