Appraising ‘Eleme Kingdom: Battling the Enemy Within’

The enemy within is that person who is secretly working for your hurt, harm or downfall. He or she may pretend to be a friend, relative or colleague, but inwardly they are working against your progress. They may laugh, agree with and even defend you in your presence, but behind you they the very ones who will backbite, backstab and do everything to run you down. In a community like Eleme, the enemy within is that person working against the interest, happiness and progress of the land. These are the robbers, secret cult members, kidnappers whose reign of terror and violence is scaring away investors and investments from Eleme. They are the chiefs, traditional rulers, political leaders and community representatives who appropriate what the companies operating in Eleme provide for the people and convert them to their personal use. Such persons eat what belongs to the whole community as if it belongs to them. That person whose actions steal away the happiness and progress of the people is the enemy within.

The companies themselves are our enemies within when they do nothing to improve the welfare and status of the land from which they get so much, while their camps and plants on Eleme soil can be described as heaven on earth. For instance, NNPC and other foreign multinationals in the hydrocarbon industry have their presence in Eleme –yet Eleme has poor or no internal road network and zero electricity. The same NNPC operates in Bonny Island and Bonny has wonderful road network, enjoys free and stable power supply and pipe-borne water. In Eleme, on the other hand, we sit down in darkness in our modest homes while the life camps and plants of companies like Indorama, Notore, the Refinery and many more enjoy 24-hour uninterrupted power supply and other modern amenities. Why can’t they hook up their host communities to any one of their many electricity turbines? What stops them from extending the same amenities to their host communities so the people feel the benefit of God bringing them to their land? They could split the ten communities of Eleme into smaller clusters among themselves so that the burden of providing these amenities isn’t borne by only one of them. Rather they bombard the people with harmful fumes from their industrial activities which pollute our environment and have harmful effects on the health of the people.

The Rivers State government too, is our enemy within. Whereas it gets huge tax revenues from the companies that operate in our land, we have nothing to show for such contributions. If the Federal Government gives Rivers State monthly allocations that’s more than most other states, based on Rivers State’s contribution to the revenue of the Federal Government; what stops the Rivers State government from giving some concession and preferential treatment to Eleme for the huge tax earnings she contributes to the state more than other local government areas in the state?

It isn’t always easy to identify the enemy within, because he or she is an expert at camouflage. It is only after thoroughly thinking about your situation and looking at the specific roles that some people play in your life that you can accurately determine your enemy within. After identifying the enemy within you should speak out.

It is time for us as Eleme people to begin to speak out. Our silence has allowed things to go from bad to worse. It is the responsibility of every well-meaning member of society to speak out when they see things going wrong. Hiding our heads, tolerating evil and our failure to condemn what needs to be condemned is what gives room for the enemy within to thrive – it emboldens and encourages the enemy to continue in his or her wrong-doing. In civilized societies, people do not keep quiet when they see things going wrong. Positive change is impossible when people do not speak out. If the founding fathers of our modern day African countries, including Nigeria, did not speak out, we wouldn’t be independent today. The colonial masters wouldn’t have let go the comforts and privileges they were enjoying in Africa. It is because people spoke out that they had a rethink and gave us our freedom. For too long our people of Eleme have been docile and quiet. We need to speak out and encourage those who have been speaking out on our behalf. Speaking out against wrong-doing does not mean that we hate the person or people involved, but it is an indication that we hate their attitude or actions, which are affecting the generality of the people, negatively. Even in our homes, parents speak out when they see their children walking down the wrong path. They speak out because they love such children. They sometimes go beyond mere words to even discipline the wayward child, out of love.

It’s time to speak out!

Instead of condemnation, we have a situation in Eleme land today where most people tolerate their enemies, because of what they can get from them. These people are like an ignorant child that a mischievous adult gives chocolates to in order to take something precious from the child. Instead of speaking out against the actions of the unscrupulous adult, the child occupies his or herself with the taste and sweetness of chocolates. We can no longer continue like that. Eleme needs more and more people who have the care, interest and welfare of the land in their hearts. We need people who are genuinely burdened with the need for development in Eleme; people who will work for our unity and project our interest at all times – not people who will work against us. Indeed, every land needs people like that.

Presently, Eleme can be said to have fallen apart; to the point that perhaps the only thing we have left as a people is the name, Eleme. Apart from that name there seems to be nothing else that we can point at as binding us together; because everything else, even the truth, has become politicized. People you would naturally expect to speak out and stand for the truth are all silent and have all become like rubber stamps that approve anything and everything that comes their way without question.

Our first elites and traditional rulers after independence – people like Dr. Nwato, Osarolor, Osarunu, Oluka Ngei and Justice Wai-Ogosu – were not so. They were men who did not compromise on any issue that involved Eleme. They stood for the progress, unity and fame of our land; and our people had confidence in them that they would uphold the interest of the land at all times. These were men of honour, dignity and integrity. They were formidable representatives of the Eleme nation who were quick to respond to the call of their people and always made time to attend any meetings that had to do with the welfare of the community – despite their tight schedules. The same cannot be said about the present generation of Eleme elites and traditional rulers who are only interested in what they can get from Eleme. Call a meeting of Eleme people today and most of those who claim to be our present day elites and traditional rulers will not show up. The only time matters of Eleme becomes a concern to them is when they hear that Eleme is to get a quota or share of something – political appointment, business opportunities. They pop out of nowhere to claim the people’s quota and when they don’t get it, they cry out to attract sympathy and incite the common Eleme people into thinking that they are being cheated, thereby attracting the support of the people for their own selfish protest – pretending to be fighting for the people. As soon as they get what they want, they disappear to enjoy the loot with a handful of their supporters. They have absolutely no thought for the welfare of the land and her people. Most of them don’t even have homes to lay their heads in Eleme. To them, Eleme is nothing more than a platform on which they can stand to get whatever they want and go away.

By all standards the present generation of Eleme elites and traditional rulers have failed the land.

They have made Eleme the subject of mockery and ridicule among her neighbours and the state at large. This is because these so-called elites and traditional rulers have no shred of dignity or integrity, since they have rubbished the pride and dignity that our first elites and traditional rulers spent their lives and careers to build. Instead of building on the foundation our predecessors laid for us, some of these present day elites and traditional rulers have been busy tearing down that foundation for a little morsel of bread. These enemies within us no longer care about integrity, value or leaving behind a worthwhile legacy and footprints for others to follow.

There is hardly any area that the present generation elites and traditional rulers can point to and say it has succeeded – whether it is in our traditional, political or socio-cultural institutions; in the area of development or being a voice of reason, giving advice and counsel to the future generations, everywhere is failure. One very unfortunate thing for which the present generation elites and traditional rulers shall never be forgotten is the fact that they are the major instigators of cult activities, criminality and violence in our land. They have factionalized our people and motivated our youths into joining all sorts of dangerous and senseless groups for their own selfish benefits. In the days of our ancestors it was taboo for an Eleme man to lift up a machete against another Eleme man – today our young people kill themselves in the name of belonging to different factions and supporting different so-called elites and traditional rulers. The enemies within us have made hard work, educational pursuit and building of worthwhile careers unattractive to our young ones by enticing and distracting them with quick, easy and filthy money. The situation is so bad today that the percentage of Eleme sons and daughters actively pursuing education or building careers is nothing compared to those who have made themselves willing thugs and expendables of these so-called elites and traditional rulers. What that holds for Eleme in a future of rapid educational advancement and Information Technology is anybody’s guess.

The expectation and prayer of some of us is that the coming generations will not be like the present one – rather they should look into our history and emulate the example of our first elites and traditional rulers by being like them or better. This article serves as a wake-up call to every well-meaning Eleme person. It is time to begin to talk to our children about the failures of this generation. It is time to begin to prepare our children and counsel them on the need to do better in their own time. We need to make our future generations realize that undue focus on getting money and power is a distraction that can deviate their attention from the real thing – which is building a strong, united and progressive community. It is a distraction that has adversely affected the present generation.

It is up to the well-meaning sons and daughters of Eleme to stop the wrong trend and change the present practice and failure. We need a strong sensitization to change the trend: parents should begin talking to their children; churches and Eleme socio-cultural groups and organizations need to begin talking to their members; schools, too, should be involved in this drive. Those of our present day elites and traditional rulers who have come to the realization that they have failed the people need to own up to their responsibility and begin to actively work towards correcting their errors.

Eleme can no longer afford to continue like this.

If we must no longer give the enemies within us the upper-hand, there is no better time than now for every well-meaning son and daughter of Eleme to join this crusade of making our land better.

* Eleme Kingdom: Battling the Enemy Within is a book written by HRH Appolus Chu the Egbere Emere Okori Eleme is the paramount Ruler of Ogale Eleme, Rivers State

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