Roughly 7 months after the violence that rocked Abonnema town during the last general election, in which lives and property were destroyed, the Amanyanabo of Abonnema, King Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel, embarked on moves aimed at bringing permanent peace in Abonnema in particular and Akuku-Toru in general.
He convened a peace and security conference in Abonnema City on Saturday, 3rd August 2019. Tagged Akuku-Toru Peace And Security Conference, the program was also aimed at exploring ways of ensuring a non-reoccurrence of the type of violence that rocked Abonnema City before, during and after the 2019 general elections.
Addressing the mammoth crowd of guests at the event which was held at the Multi-Purpose Hall, Abonnema, King Disrael Bob-Manuel said the peace and security conference was the second in the series of moves geared towards ensuring peace in Abonnema, adding that they had a peace walk on 13th July 2019, during which Abonnemans trooped out in their numbers demanding for peace, “Thereafter we went round Akuku-Toru where we discussed extensively the causes of breach of peace in Akuku-Toru.
“Akuku-Toru has been peaceful all along but once in a while, we get it wrong. Today, I want to assure everybody that issues of the past are past “There will no longer be any unrest because we’ve all agreed to work together as one family. The politicians have agreed to work together as a family. The chiefs have agreed to work together as a family. The youths, the children have also agreed to work together as a family. Therefore I can assure you that issues of breach of the peace are now the things of the past,” King Bob-Manuel said.
He thanked the Rivers State Governor, Chief Barr. Nyesom Wike, CON, GSSRS, for being behind the people of Abonnema each time they call on him for support.
He also urged the people of Abonnema to be law-abiding and peaceful so that their city could move forward.
The Abonnema King thanked the keynote speaker, Pastor Chrisopher Briggs, for his well-researched speech and promised to ensure that every suggestion made by the speaker will be acted upon.
In his speech at the event, Rivers State Governor, Chief Barr. Nyesom Ezenwo Wike (CON), represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, thanked the Amanyanabo of Abonnema, King Disrael Bob-Manuel for convening the conference. Governor Wike said the responsibility of ensuring peace and security is not the job of one man, hence the need for all the chiefs and traditional rulers to work together.
The Governor, who promised to support the Abonnema Monarch in his pursuit of peace at all times, again warned that any traditional ruler who fails to work for peace in his community would face consequences, adding that without peace, nobody can be king in his community.
Governor Wike, who was the Special Guest of Honour at the conference, wondered why none of the governorship aspirants from Abonnema in the last general elections, attended the event. He also expressed disappointment that officials of the Nigerian Army, who he said were major players in the events of February 23 and March 2, did not attend the conference even in a representative capacity.
He maintained that no meaningful achievement would be made in terms of peace and reconciliation if all the actors in the incident are not involved in the process.
“I want to thank the security agencies – those of you that are here. But I must say that I was not impressed to know that a local government that hosts the Nigerian Army – because we’re talking about peace and security – and I didn’t see any representative of the army. If we must talk about the election in Nigeria today and what went wrong in the last election, I must say that any discussion that does not highlight the ignoble role that was played by the army is a cowardly discussion. We must be bold and face reality. We must blame ourselves as politicians, we must blame some of our children who have joined the various cult groups but we must also blame security agencies that went wrong so that everybody must correct his or herself.
“I expected that in this gathering, in a community where you have an army base, I expected that the army should have been here too because what went wrong in the elections in this country, especially in this local government, can never be itemized without a good mention of the role played by the Nigerian Army,” Governor Wike said.
He pointed out that one of the solutions to electoral violence is electronic voting. He said: “It is important we know, as Rivers people and as Nigerians, that every society begets its leadership and every society begets its processes of leadership. We’re talking about elections in this country, even contries that are far behind us, little countries in Africa, today, are using electronic voting. In Nigeria here today, we’re still not there yet and Nigerians are quiet about it. That, to me, is cowardly. The governor has reiterated it over and over again. “Any discussion that fails to call the attention of this country to the fact that we’re killing the country by failing to introduce electronic voting, such discussion is cowardly, And we cannot move this country forward by cowardly attitude” He called on all stakeholders, including the chiefs, elders, women, youths and even children to begin to speak the truth so that Nigeria and Rivers State would move forward.
He thanked the Amanyanabo of Abonnema, the chiefs and youths of AKULGA, for hosting the conference.
In his opening remark, the chairman of the occasion, Rear Admiral Antonio Bob-Manuel Rtd, recalled that Abonnema used to be a peaceful city but wondered what went wrong along the line.
He said: “I belong to the generation of the fifties and I begin to wonder where we got it all wrong. Whatever happened to those wonderful years when we had so much to cherish. Abonnema was like a metropolitan place. We had just about everybody here living in peace, in harmony. Security was guaranteed. If a member of your family stole, that family will find itself ostracized. That was Abonnema.
“But today, it appears your son steals and instead of a rebuke, you welcome him. And it is in fact even beginning to be a part of our way of life. I reject that completely. Abonnema must go back to its former days of glory.”
Rear Admiral Bob-Manuel, who traced the wayward and violent lifestyle of today’s youths to the post-civil war challenges, from poverty to survival-of-the-fittest syndrome, and anything-goes attitude, advised parents to call their children to order while appealing to the traditional institution, the security agencies, the political class, the youths and all stakeholders to work together to ensure a permanent end to insecurity in Abonnema City and Akuku-Toru LGA.
In his keynote speech, Pastor Christopher Briggs described the Peace and Security Conference as another laudable dimension by the organizers, led by His Majesty, King Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel, to provide a robust platform for all stakeholders in the local government to share their thoughts and experiences as a people with a view to finding lasting solution to the growing culture of violence, criminality and insecurity.
Speaking on the topic: Strategic Response to Sustainable Peace and Security in Akuku-Toru local government are, Pastor Briggs bemoaned the high rate of violence that characterized the last general elections in Abonnema City, adding that it was unprecedented. “Never in the history of Abonnema have we witnessed, in size and magnitude, the mindless carnage, the use of sophisticated military hardware, the wanton killings and destructions of hard-earned properties of fellow indigenes,” he lamented.
Maintaining that the violence of February 23 and March 2 would remain a stigma until concerted efforts are made to delete it from their memories, Pastor Briggs, who looked at the immediate and remote causes of violence and criminality in parts of AKULGA in particular and Rivers State and Niger Delta at large, as well as the solutions and way forward, called on all stakeholders to eschew their differences and embrace peace and reconciliation in order to sustain real development.
In his brief remark, the DPO of Abonnema, Chidi Nzota, commended the Amanyanabo of Abonnema for organizing the conference and advised the people of the area, especially the youths, to give peace a chance, adding that when a problem takes over their community, they would have no place to go to. “I am saying that for God’s sake, give peace a chance. I’m here to maintain peace as the Chief internal security officer. The enabling environment for security officers to operate in Abonnema has not really been created. People are afraid of members of the Force, why? “The moment you’re descending from that bridge and coming into Abonnema, the first thing you see is your police station.
“I want to say that we in the Force and the security agencies, we’re going to create the enabling environment for peace. We’re not going to do anything that will undermine the peace and reconciliation in Akuku-Toru,” he said. The Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party in Akuku-Toru LGA, Ere Manuel, said there cannot be peace without the involvement of security agents who he said are expected to protect the people during elections.
“During elections, we expect them to protect us. A lot of things happened here. People ran. Guns, shooting here and there. For us to embrace peace, let us see that the security agents are doing their jobs. They should do the right thing. When you see what is wrong, you should correct it; that is why you’re here. Another thing is our parents. Parents should talk to their children. Whatever the children are doing, the parents know what is happening. Let them talk to their children. It’s our children that are doing what is happening in our community,” he said.
Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akuku-Toru LGA, Chief Dabiri, in his brief remark, advised that power should be given to the new security outfit in Abonnema which he said knows those who come in and out of Abonnema.
The AKULGA APC chieftain also called on wealthy sons and daughters of Abonnema to help provide employment opportunities for jobless youths of the area to discourage them from taking to violence, criminality, and breach of the peace as an alternative.
“Abonnema has sons and daughters who are well-to-do. “Five to six people can come together to set up industry in Abonnema or in Akuku-Toru and take care of employment. These are the problems. Our leaders, our rich men have failed us. There’s no industry in Akuku-Toru. The only industry is the council and the council cannot take care of everybody. “So we’re calling on them, as Belema Oil is doing, employing people. We have people in Abonnema like Belema Oil who is managing an oil firm. They can employ people. We’re all one; we have the same blood link. No PDP, no APC, no AAC. We are all one. Every person should come home. Let us live together. Abonnema is a peaceful community.”