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Monday, May 27, 2024

Story of Owene in Benue community where spirits meet, torment residents

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Owene is a popular road leading to Atamaka-Ugbugbu community in Owukpa, Ogbadibo LGA of Benue State.

Owene in Idoma language is where four paths meet. Passing through this road where four paths meet is nightmarish to most residents of Ugbugbu and Atamaka communities. But Atamaka is a community known for its economic strength.

Surrounding communities including Ofu-Ugbugbu do not only depend on Atamaka for local and cheap food, especially yams and cassava but also rely on the community for its originality in palm wine tapping. Atamaka wine is arguably one of the best in the entire Owukpa district.

A serious traditional or church wedding within and around the community cannot be entirely successful without a visit to this arable community.

But historically, the road leading to Atamaka popularly called Owene may have frustrated past businesses in the community as many had no guts to go through that path for business activities.

Compounding the problem most recently are the activities of Fulani herdsmen.

Recall that only a few days ago, some suspected herdsmen attacked one of the youths, Inyanda Igah, in the community and snuffed the life out of him. This has created multiple problems for the Atamaka community and community leaders have called for urgent government intervention to save the community from herdsmen invasion and occupation.

A visit to Atamaka through Odokoro forest is usually fearful with the overwhelming fear of either herdsmen attack or the fear of evil spirits stationed at Owene.

But a youths leader, Augustine Okpe believes that Atamaka problem is no longer the Owene spirit as those things only happened some years ago.

Confirming that evil spirits lived at Owene, he said, “when our fathers like Adoyi Abah and Okpe Odo were here, they believed those things and they truly happened. But since Christianity changed our belief system, those evil spirits disturbing our peace at Owene have since departed. I have not heard of any such incident as someone being flogged, chased or struck with any form of disease from Owene recently. Though the paths are still there but those things that used to happen have all stopped.

“Remember that in those days, nobody, no matter how strong, is allowed to go to the farm on Eke market day. That belief was so strong and there was that immediate repercussion. I know about people who died or fell sick after going through Owene on Eke market day. That day was specially reserved for the spirits and I think the spirits themselves knew and ruled supreme that day.

“In those days, no single individual would be able to cross Owene as the evil spirits would physically chase him or her. Some lost their lives for attempting to force their way through. In those days, people going through the paths at odd times (9am and 7pm) would always go in groups. Even at that, nobody wants to walk behind others and nobody is allowed to turn back. Turning back implies seeing the spirits walking behind you.”

Okpe explains further that a man will know about his death when a strange voice calls him while passing through Owene. He said, “we lost many people after the spirits called their names at Owene. None of them survived. It was believed that when the spirits call your name at Owene, your days are near.”

Comparing the activities of herdsmen to the evil spirits at Owene, Okpe said the former was preferable. He said the rising cases of herders attacks on Atamaka road was becoming worrisome. He said that the Owene story was man versus the spirits and not man inhumanity to man as is the case with the activities of herdsmen.

“These herdsmen go to our farms at will and eat whatever they see on the farm. And if you complain, they will attack and kill you. Of course, you know about the recent killing of a young man who only went to tap palm wine and was brutally murdered by some herdsmen,” Okpe said. gathered that the police after visiting the crime scene took no further action against the herders who always stroll into Atamaka and other villages from Icahama in Okpokwu Local Govt.

A source who pleaded not to be mentioned said up till date, no serious investigation has been done with regards to herdsmen activities in Atamaka or other Ugbugbu villages including Odobe, Ankpa and Ubafu.

Speaking, he said: ” I don’t know whether the Benue State anti-open grazing law only applies to Makurdi and other towns in Benue with no consideration for villages and other local communities in the state.

” I appeal to Owukpa leaders to proactively take a decision on how these killers can be sent from our land. We can’t continue to lose our people to herders. I can confirm that nobody fears Owene along Atamaka and Ugbugbu road anymore. Owene as I know is not even in Atamaka, but almost in Ipole Ugbugbu. It’s only that you must pass through that junction when going or coming from Atamaka. The general fear now is that of herdsmen. They just attack you on your way to Atamaka, Odobe, Ubafu and Ankpa.

“About 10 people have been kidnapped along that axis since 2023. That is aside those who lost their lives to the herders. Something must be done urgently,” the source said.

Meanwhile, the National Chairman of Ugbugbu Development Association, UDA, Mr. Igoche Anthony appealed to the Benue State government to take proactive steps in tackling the incessant herdsmen attacks in all Ugbugbu communities, agreeing that the new Owene are Fulani herdsmen.

He also lamented the absence of the anti-grazing law in the area as there are no security forces on ground executing the law.

“Is the anti-grazing law even working in Benue? If that is the case, where are the enforcers?” He queried.

He called on the Benue State Government to save Ugbugbu community from herdsmen attacks. He appealed to Ugbugbu community to exercise restraints in the face of obvious provocation by the herders, assuring them that all legal means would be followed in order to end the incessant attacks.

Efforts to reach the Benue State Police command failed as all numbers called were unavailable as at press time.

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