Ukelle: Nigerian community of many untapped potentials
By Lukpata James
Ukelle community in Cross River State falls among minority groups like the Tiv, Benin and Idoma in Nigeria. It is a nation that formed part of Yala II State Constituency of Yala Local Government Area of Cross river state. It has unique cultural heritage and beautiful landscape, densely populated and it is an agrarian society that boasts of tones of various agricultural produce.
Ukelle is strategically located, bordering Ebonyi in the West and Benue in the Northern part respectively. Its inhabitants comprises artsans, peasant farmers, civil servant and technocrats very lovely people,easy-going, industrious, hospitable, brave, and fearless. Their language is kukelle with both old and New Testaments of the Bible still in existence as part of the proved that ukelle nation is identifiable.
In some quarters, especially the adjoining neighbours, Ukelle nation is been described and alluded to the strength of the Israelites in the Bible whose population is not much as compared to other most populous Nations but powerful in warfare at all times. Just like the saying in Achebe’s ‘ Arrow Of God’ that never lay a hand on a man that says nothing, the Ukelle custom and tradition forbid ill treatment and attack on innocent people especially strangers living within them even during crisis situation strangers from the enemies’ camp are allow the liberty to move about without any form of molestation.
As an agrarian society, Ukelle Nation contribute about 40 percent each of garri, rice and yam as major agricultural products in Cross River State.
Unarguably, Ukelle nation boasts of several acres of arable land, reserves, up land, large quantity of lime stones and abundant natural resources such as precious stones, huge salt deposit, lead among others that are yet to be harnessed.
If not for the lack of motorable road connecting Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory and some North central States such as Benue, Nasarrawa and Plateau as well as the challenges linking neighbouring South East states such as Ebonyi, Enugu and Anambra, Ukelle should be a leading economic hub in Cross River State and the South South region.
Like a woman in labour longing for help to survive, Ukelle is in dire need of assistance from the Local Government up to the Federal level to catch up with contemporary opportunities.
I read the article above with a bleeding memory. However, I’m very happy that such heart-touching issues can be presented in a well articulated manner to the public glare by an Ukelle blood.
It’s unthinkable and therefore so sad and painful to see a people in this 21st century who are still being deliberately left in the anal of cruel strangulation, this is inspite of, unarguably, being so industrious, determined, brave and economically potent; a people with much zeal, vigor and huge self determination to succeed in all spheres of life.
I was born, lived and grew up in one of the communities in the Northern part of Ukelle till age 14 when I moved due to school activities. Even as a little boy growing up in that seeming obscure environment, I saw the potentials in the land – the brilliance in the pupils and students, who by far outshined their contemporaries from other parts of the then famous Ogoja LGC (as it was then called). I was one of them by God’s grace. Yes, there was a time, at the all-time famous Mary Knoll college (not my Alma Mater, though) when students who got admitted from Ukelle primary schools whose academic records where by far brighter than those from other parts of the State. It’s a verifiable fact. The agrarian nature of the place and the people’s love for agriculture has been from the ancient; the markets being flooded with several tons of various agricultural produce almost every day of the Ukelle week (Ukelle week runs in a 5-day circle) across the communities; our young men then engaged in commercial activities; trading on textiles, provisions etc etc – competing with the Ndigbo famous traders.
Indeed, all of these potentials never paid off as it should due to one singular obnoxious evil that has continued to fruaght the Ukelle Nation, which is LACK OF BASIC INFRASTRUCTURE, ESPECIALLY THE ROAD. This has been a nightmare over time.
I weep for my people. I grew up to meet this road quagmire of which several Govts have made moves to attend to, but it never see the light of day largely due to insincerity of purpose. For instance, way back between 1973 and 1980 more than twice this 30 km road – Yahe to Okolo river in Idah Wanihem – (a border community with Benue State) was surveyed but nothing beyond that was done. Another instance, before the end of former President Obasanjo’s tenure, one of the Ukelle sons who was appointed as a PA to the then Minister of Works, discovered a file in the office with it’s content stating that Yahe-Oju road (as it was known then) has been constructed, completed and commissioned. He raised alarm that caught the attention of the his boss who responded by sending a team there for on the spot findings. That was done but unfortunately, nothing was heard about it going forward until the very young man, this Ukelle illustrious son died after a while.
Ukelle LGA was created by Shagari Fed Govt in the 80ties, but was proscribed by the then Buhari led military Govt alongside others, like Yala. Today, Yala LGA is back to life and Ukelle is subsumed into Yala LGA and painfully and shamelly so we are being maltreated as a second fiddle by a people whose pupolation is less than ours. What a shame.
Who has Bewitched Ukelle Nation. Who has Done us this evil. Who is Responsible for this Degradation of a people who Soars even in the midst of cruel and debilitating condition and hardship.
MY MESSAGE: Ukelle Must Rise Up And Emancipate Herself or else the Nation may remain in a brisk illusion for more several decades… God forbid.
Thank you so much forvyour in-depth analysis on The UKelle set back.Your presentation shows you are part and parcel of the predicament and the poor plight of the UKelle Nation.I look forward to partner with you to Nov Ukelle out of the wood.
THANK YOU MOST SINCERELY SIR.