Oscar Ofuka: Returning Peace to an embittered Community

Mr. Oscar Ofuka

By Kingsley Agim

Bendeghe-Ekiem – the most populous community in Etung Local Government Area – renowned for her hospitality and social inclination, was over the years a Mecca-of-sort for fun seekers, traders, farmers, just to mention a few.
Inhabitants – indigenes and strangers alike – coexisted in peace and harmony, earning her the moniker ‘Ayuk-Abah’.
Blessed with fertile soil, the community is also known for her huge agrarian economy, with cocoa, cassava, and palm produce, some of the mainstays of the people. To date, Bendeghe-Ekiem remains the commercial nerve-centre among her neighboring villages of Etung and Boki Local Government Areas.

Regrettably, recent history has seen Bendeghe-Ekiem – the once-upon-a-time hobnob of the people – become a monument of aborted glory. The community has plummeted into some precarious and disturbing situations: notably, cultism, drug abuse, youth restiveness and political violence.

There has been an alarming rate of cult-related deaths in the once peaceful community. The pre-election conflict that left five youths dead threw the community into more fierce animosities. Families were torn apart and at loggerheads with each other; friends became foes and the vicious circle of ill-will grew even stronger. Peace had become elusive.

But in the face of this ever present danger, one man – Dr. Oscar Ofuka, who is the Acting Chairman, Cross River State Cocoa Board, blazing the trail in cocoa development and re-generation in the State – took the gauntlet, with the resolve to return and entrench peace to a hitherto embittered community.

In order to stem the rising tide of cultism in the area, Dr. Ofuka, in collaboration with relevant security agencies, granted amnesty to cultists willing to renounce their membership, with N20, 000.00 as reward for such decision. This development saw scores of youths jumped on the opportunity to correct their mistakes (renouncing cult membership), with testimonies that “a cult-free life is the best any day.”

The Cross River State Cocoa Board boss has also built a modern police station in the community (soon to be commissioned) to replace the age long and collapsed post. This, according to Dr. Ofuka, will aid the police in forestalling crime in the community.

Realizing the power of football in peace building, after several fora of consultations with families and aggrieved parties in the village, Dr. Ofuka organized a well-package soccer competition to celebrate the Etung New Yam Festival. The thrilling games, which showcased glimpses youthful talents and quality, saw a people, once enmeshed in malaise and vindictive vendetta, hugging and fraternizing in an ostentatious show of affection. Peace has returned to Bendeghe-Ekiem.

The finale of the sporting contest drew attendance from security stakeholders in the State, notably, the Permanent Secretary – Security, Sir Alfred Mboto, Chief Security Adviser – Central, Mr. Ransom Odey, and representatives of the Police Division, Etung, all attesting to the peaceful coexistence amongst residents of the community.

While I urge other well meaning sons and daughters of Bendeghe-Ekiem to join hands in fostering peace in the community irrespective of the political differences and affiliations, I leave with this African proverb re-echoed recently by our peace-loving Governor, Sir (Prof.) Ben Ayade on the need for a peaceful society: “Peace is costly, but it is worth the expense.”
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