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By Adanigho Julius, Warri

Many years ago as much I could remember being eight to ten years old, growing in the woods and timber forest of Udu, there was a freedom beyond our lands. Being a free born in Delta State, we shared a common cultural values of brotherhood and friendship in the neighborhood. My parents, though not indigenes of this state, gave a life of rootedness down to indigenous recognitions. I became an indigene before sorting more through struggles and pains to be regarded as a citizen.

We organized ourselves in the neighborhood and mobilise in one mind into the bushes and forests for occupational fight… We fought to have fishes by digging and bailing fish ponds, we fought to have agricultural produce by planting crops and tapping palm wine deep inside the forest and also fought to get local economic life by searching immersely for snails “congomeat” at the wee hours of the night. As children and young adults, we weren’t scared of entering into the woods and timber bushes.

However, as the unbreakable nature of timing proceeds unstopped, our community leaders needed quick monies instead of hard work. They were approached by Fulani herdsmen for spaces in the forest where they could graze their cows. Ironically, their offers to community leaders bogusely was irresistible. Leaders in the community collected these Trojan horse offers and lended them hands of simple mutuality. They quietly, yet progressively invaded our forest across the South West, South East and South South with surprising intentions against friendly mutuality.

They could no longer trace their origin to the north as they have titled Sarakis and established royalty in our lands where they shared our indigenous possessions into two divides. For my children and those out there, the sweetness of local explorable childhood is irrecoverably lost, and no one can boldly enter into the bushes to fetch snails “Congomeat”. Planting crops and other agricultural experiences can only be done in bushes close to the house. No one possesses the exceptional autonomy anymore to enter into our forests. We now own the land and Fulani herdsmen owns the forests and bushes.

They are part of the ownership fully ceded to them either by the greed of our leaders or the forceful occupancy with camouflaging cow grazing. You cannot encroach the forest of today which we found joy exploring as young adults yesterday. Our childhood is lost and this becomes the most dangerous point of our collective history as a people. I’m Israel Joe and this is a tale of two indigenes

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