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WOMAN OVER 30

We have crises in two communities like between Biara and B-Dere. The crisis is
because of land dispute. This crisis happened to the extent that many souls were
lost. We lost many souls but now there is peace between the two communities.
The
land issue, it happens that we heard that our land, which belongs to us, Biara
people
take it from us. We realize that actually it is ours, but instead of giving us fully
they
started to fight - even their elders told them to give us but they refused. The
whole
community were involved. When they refused to give the land peacefully, they
fought us. But now we are on the land.
The council of chiefs at Gokana zone settled it traditionally through an oath. They
pinned the laga3 in Biara and B-Dere town squares, with an oath that we should
not
fight anymore. They believe that the laga is the toughest law among the elders.
If the
3

A raffia palm frond used to symbolise a cessation of hostilities between communities.

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laga is not respected the whole Gokana will turn against the community. The
whole
Ogoni uses it. The laga worked. The first time, the Biara people touched their
own
but we did not touch ours, but the second time they left the laga. The
gbenemene4
begged the elders to forgive the Biara people for removing the laga and asked
them
to pin another one, because it is a serious offence to remove the laga when it
has
been pinned. In this community, if you make trouble, you are traced, and when
you
are found out, it becomes a personal problem and not a community problem.
That is
how we resolved the issue with the Biara people. If anybody from their
community
looks for trouble, it will be handled as an individual problem and not a
community
one, so that we will not have to go and fight them.
During the problem with Biara, I was inside. It was mostly the youths who fought,
with
support from the elders. They did not kill any woman in both communities
because
they believe that if a woman is killed the war can never stop.
Then there was a fight between K-Dere and B-Dere. The little I know is what I will
tell
you about the fight. It was just one morning we came back from farm, but one
basic
thing is that K-Dere people are traders while B-Dere people are farmers. I just
came
back from farm one day. As we came back we realised we saw group of people
setting fire on our belongings. In fact it was terrible, nothing like crisis before, we
go
to their market and they come to ours. We thought we had peace. We heard that

whether at the cinema hall where they were watching ball someone lost his
phone
and before one hour fire was set on B-Dere. We asked what happened. So it
happened that B-Dere people asked what is wrong, what happened, what did we
do? They replied that we never even start; we will use your community as
football
match.5
The elders of Gokana were told to look at it. As they are settling peace, they
settle
the war. It is painful, since you were born your fathers house has not been burnt
for
no cause. As this thing is paining us, we went to farm and the following day, they
killed a man. So it is then, B-Dere said you set fire on our houses, we keep quiet,
now you kill our man so B-Dere retaliated at this point. So, as you see when you
were coming, both sides destroyed property.
It happened that the whole Gokana and Ogoni came in for peace. They made
settlement but they refused. 6 Even the government intruded, because they
carried all
the police, armoured car, because the fighting was tough. They stay here for
months.
Even one bishop, I will not mention his name, and his entourage, came and made
the settlement, but they still refused. The whole Gokana came again and they
pin the
laga again with the oath. It is then it became like what you see today.
Concerning internal problem, we settle it with the elders, the village council of
chiefs
and the elders. They call both parties and they settle it. If you are guilty, you are
fined
but you are warned not to do it again and people obey the elders. When you say
fight, you know that souls are lost and you cannot count. 7 I can say that K-Dere
fight
was tougher than Biara because it is closer to us. There has not been any
compensation for the things we lost during the Biara fight. For the B-Dere and
KDere
fight, we both destroyed our houses, but government has not yet compensated
us.
Gokana paramount ruler.
Means they will deal with the other community.
6 I.e. the elders made a settlement but the people of both communities refused it.
7 Means a lot of people die.
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Concerning managing conflicts in two different communities, the whole Gokana
council of chiefs pin the laga and if they are not obeyed, they face you. About
community problems, like husband and wife one, it is the work of the council of
chiefs
in the community. They are elected after four years, which is changed if they are
not
competent. They call both parties and ask the fault. If they cannot marry
together,
they tell them that if they cant live together they should separate but if they can
live
together they give advice and tell them to go. Oaths are not taken all the time,
especially in marital conflict. If both of them refuse to marry again, 8 there is
something called torbake.9 That is when the council of chiefs will stand, the man
will

touch the libation and it will be said to him with effect from today go in peace,
nothing will happen to you, I wont think bad about you, stay in peace. From that
day, divorce starts. This method is stronger than courts. If you do anything
against
the woman or the man, you will die. If the man says he wants to marry the
woman
again, you have to redeem everything10 and it is tough.
During the K-Dere and B-Dere fight, there were no particular targets, just that
they
went through every first house on the boundary between us and destroyed them.
All
the houses on the border were brought down. It was mostly the youths of the
community. The thing that B-Dere did was to tell them not to kill, as they kill us,
they
die. One thing I do not fail to tell you is that we have never fought them first, it is
when they came we pursue them. The fight affected us in the community.
Traders
did not sell, we ran into the bush, souls were lost, hunger, no favourable
condition,
you cannot live freely, fear along the way, we lose many things, no development
of
any kind. It is better now than before but it is not all that okay. Like one of my
friends
is from K-Dere, we talk to each other and sometimes we cry because we do not
know when all these will end.
The present local government chairman did a solid thing. He set a panel to guide
and
if they see you doing bad, they hold you responsible. I believe that it is the panel
that
made it okay. They picked ten-ten from each community and these people will
hold
people responsible.
For Biara, we live together, we even intermarry, and we no longer have any
problem.
We do not intermarry with K-Dere. We can marry their women but we cannot
marry
their men. The fault is not ours, anyone who tries it 11 will die. I cannot tell how it
started, it is from our forefathers. It is as curse. I cannot tell, it is too hard.
What we lack in this community is that we have so many graduates without gain.
Some of these problems make these youths do what they do. If they plant
industry
here and put our youths, it will help the community a lot. We need more schools.
We
need hospitals. We already have primary health care centres.
During the K-Dere war, there were weapons, all sorts; I dont know where they
got
them. I cant tell, I only heard the sound. But the way our youths get power these
days, they will still kill, because they know where to handle you and you die, but
it will
not be as much as when they use weapons.
We have our women house. If you do wrong or naked someone, 12 you will pay
fine.
Even if you utter some words which are negative you pay fine. We have a
women's

I.e. if they refuse to continue in the marriage.


Torbake is a traditional divorce ceremony in Gokana.
10 The whole process of paying the bridewealth.
11 I.e. anyone who offends the prohibition on intermarriage.
12 Remove a persons clothes in the course of a fight
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leader. Even in our traditional chiefs, we have women there, if there is something
important they will ask women for their opinion. If they are on the same page,
they
carry out the issue. Finally, there is something I will not fail to tell you, all women
hate
it, but we cant stop it. In Gokana, if a man marries a woman and he dies, she
cant
marry again. As long as bridewealth has been paid. Unlike in other places, if
something like that happens she can remarry no matter how old. If the woman
attempts to remarry it can never work. I know about 3 persons that have tried it
and
they are back to the land.13 Even if you bring another man, your parents will not
accept. I dont like it myself - it makes one suffer long in life. That is the problem
we
women have.
Concerning security, it is only God who is our helper here. Unless during the
crisis,
some of the young men helped us. But I have not heard about any organised
security.

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