By: Okonji Chiadika Sunday
Isheagu is a town whose origin is traceable to the Eastern part of the contraption called Nigeria. It consists of 7 districts (quarters) namely: Ogbetiti, Ogbeonishe, Umueze, Umuoma, Umuonichi, Isikiti and Onuiyi. It is a town with a growing population that runs into thousands. Isheagu is an Igbo speaking community, situated amongst hundreds of predominantly Igbo Biafran Indigenous ethnic nationality in the present day Delta State called “Delta Igbos” or better still, the “Aniomas”. It is an integral part of Enuani clan in Aniocha-South Local Government Area, with Headquarters at Ogwashi-Uku. It is a community naturally endowed with sprawling portions of arable land, untapped crude oil deposits and other viable economic resources. It has various large fresh rivers running across it’s territories with diverse kinds of fish and animal habitats. Major occupations include agricultural activities like fish farming, cultivation/production of cassava, yam, garri processing, hunting, etc. Isheagu has a retinue of reputable intellectuals who are greatly doing exploits in their various fields of endeavors across the world. The indigenes of Isheagu are exceptionally outstanding in hospitality, peacefully co-existing with non-indigenes and very blatantly abhor all traces of injustice and oppression. Prior to the Biafra/Nigeria civil war between 1967-1970, Isheagu used to be a beehive of activities socially, economically and politically.
On 2nd of May 1968, Isheagu was murderously invaded by a contingent of the Hausa-Fulani cum Yoruba ethnic dominated Nigerian army, led by a young commissioned officer in the rank of a Lieutenant-Colonel, late Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, from the present day Edo State. He later became the first military governor of the old Mid-Western region in 1973 which transformed into Bendel from where Delta and Edo States of today were created. Late Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia retired as a Brigadier-General of the murderous Nigerian army. He led a detachment of the Nigerian troops from Asaba to Isheagu on what was termed “definitive intelligence report”, linking Isheagu people as saboteurs. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia and his army of vampires stormed a once peaceful and bubbling town at about 8:00pm on a commando-style invasion. They clinically rounded up His Royal Highness- late King Agbogidi Obi John Onyema I, all his Chiefs-in-Council and summarily got them executed. It was a gruesome war carried out by the Nigerian government under the arch-genocidist, General Yakubu Gowon against a relatively innocent people of Isheagu. Other indigenes especially men were picked up and killed. The sin of the community against the military government of Yakubu Gowon, was the safe haven granted the Biafran soldiers who they termed as enemies. The reckless killings continued from dawn of 3rd of May same year 1968, being Afor day, a major market day in Isheagu. The rampaging Nigerian troops shot sporadically at every moving object which claimed the lives of quite a number of the indigenes including women and children who were cut down in the cross-fire. Over 500 Isheagu citizens were gruesomely murdered, with men as predominant victims.
Amongst the 7 districts (quarters) that made up Isheagu community, only 3 namely: Umuonichi, Isikiti and Onuiyi, were not directly affected due to Riiver Iyete that separates them from the other 4 districts of Ogbetiti, Ogbeonishe, Umueze and Umuoma which were directly wrecked. The invading Nigerian army were scared crossing the river to get to their other targets.
Killed along with the king of Isheagu town, HRH late King Agbogidi Obi John Onyema I, were all the Chiefs-in-Council (Palace Chiefs) which included:
1) Chief Adianeze
2) Chief Dominic Oshagwu
3) Chief Jacob Nteh
4) Chief Nwabuokei
5) Chief Obuzor Odogwu
6) Chief Thomas Enudigwe
7) Chief Andrew Nwabudike
� Chief Thomas Ojogwu
9) Chief Okonta Nzeagwu
10) Chief Obuzor Nwadei
11) Chief Joseph Onyeanalim
12) Chief Okwuokwu Ogobueze
Survivors of this genocide, managed to escape into nearby forests, farmlands, across the rivers and few neighbouring communities. Some women and children were forcefully taken as refugees to Ogwashi-Uku by the Nigerian soldiers. When the vampires discovered that the town has been deserted, they resorted to destroying and razing down buildings. The ever bustling town of Isheagu was thereby mercilessly reduced to a ghost community.
Disheartening among all these, was the brazen acts of sabotage by some assumed friends in the neighbouring communities where some Isheagu victims sought refuge. On very insignificant misunderstandings as is common amongst mortals, the Nigerian soldiers still stationed in the “conquered town of Isheagu”, would be alerted. They would get down to the spot, pick up the “male refugees” involved with their trucks to the deserted Isheagu central square at daylights and got them summarily executed in cold blood by having their throats slashed open. It was really a horrifying experience for Isheagu people.
As survivors started finding their ways back from their hideouts at the end of the civil war, they were confronted with the daunting, sorrowful and traumatic tasks of burying the remains of their loved ones. Mass graves were variously dug at different locations for burials. Debris of destroyed buildings were cleared. Scarce quantities of relief materials like machetes and roofing zincs were sent to a whole community. Lots of financial savings were lost as nothing was done in that regard to assuage the sufferings of the people. They were left to their fate for survival. Mud houses were erected by a few to accommodate returnee families through self efforts. The massively uncleared military explosives left behind by the Nigerian soldiers after the war, claimed additional casualties among returnee survivors.
Our neighbouring communities on their own parts, never showed concern for the excruciating plights Isheagu people suffered but instead cruelly and selfishly resorted to using the unfortunate opportunities occasioned by the sacking of the whole community to encroach into Isheagu lands. This has in no small measures created a near endemic inter-communal strifes prevalent in the area till date, between Isheagu and her neighbors.
It is noteworthy to state at this juncture, that since the end of the civil war in 1970, there has not been any commensurate government presence in Isheagu given as a compensation except for a General Hospital that was built in the 70s. This is a town where over 500 innocent souls were gruesomely killed by the Nigerian army under the watch of an arch-genocidist, Yakubu Gowon and his cohorts.
Isheagu people have been unjustly murdered by Nigeria and left to lick their wounds for decades of years. This painful experience will forever remain indelible in the psych of both the present and upcoming generations of Isheagu indigenes.