It was Professor Emmanuel Ayandele, a former vice chancellor of the University of Calabar, who described Cross River state as "an atomistic society perpetually at war with itself." He made this remark about four decades ago in the wake of communal clashes in the state. Since then nothing has changed. Communal clashes are getting more frequent and more deadly as there is unrestrained proliferation of small arms in most communities.
The latest communal clash took place between Abanwan and Orugbam as well as another between Afona and Abini all in Biase local government area of the state. The clashes followed the usual pattern, with attacks and reprisals resulting in deaths, burning and destruction of houses and the communities trading blames.
Weeks before the Biase communal clashes took place, four Bahumono communities in Abi local government were locked in prolonged confrontations also resulting in deaths and burning of houses. Communities affected include Ediba, Ebom, Ebijakara and Usumutong.
Last year, the people of Ababene in Obubra Local Government were attacked by their neighbouring community, Inyamitate, while in Obanliku local government, the people of `Busi 4' community were attacked by Busi 1 community same period. Ukele in Cross River state and Izzi in Ebonyi state had fought a bitter war in 2017 which led to the death of several persons on both sides and the destruction of several houses in the affected communities. In this case, the National Boundary Commission had to wade in to determine who owns the land, between Ukele and Izzi people.
At the moment, at least three communities in the state, Orugbam, Ikot Offiong and Ebijakara have been sacked in the wake of communal clashes. At the root of these clashes that have caused untold hardship to the displaced victims is ownership of land. The alarming dimension the clashes have taken calls for concerted efforts to stop them.
With one of the largest arable lands in the country, Cross River state should not be losing so many lives and property because of fight over land.
The state is so blessed with a land mass most of which has not been cultivated for hundreds of years. So, it amounts to foolhardiness for people to lose their lives because of land. The fighters are usually blood brothers or people of the same tribe that have even inter-married.
The state government should set machinery in motion to stop this blood-letting caused by communal clashes. Security agencies should be more pro-active in dealing with the situation. Security personnel should infiltrate volatile communities to pre-empt any communal clash. Without concerted efforts by relevant agencies, these communal clashes would persist.
Community leaders and traditional rulers should also talk to their subjects with a view to compelling them to live in peace with their neighbours. They have better ways of disciplining erring youths who may want to flout their instructions. They just must live to their responsibilities as traditional heads of the various communities by interfacing with relevant government and security agencies.
All stakeholders should be ready to make whatever sacrifices within their powers to end the regime of hostilities and killings in the various communities. No price is too big to pay for peace. This should concern everybody who loves development. Enough of the killings.