Home Special Report With eye on Christmas, Chief Joseph Dike leads effort to provide succour...

With eye on Christmas, Chief Joseph Dike leads effort to provide succour to his Ndokwa people displaced by recent flooding

133
0
SHARE

By Kingsley Dike

Chief Joseph Dike, who doubles as the Okpala Uku and Iyasele Onowu of his Onuaboh community, was very proud of his modest home at Onuaboh. He had personally supervised the architectural drawings to reflect his love for Brazilian style edifice, building a 10-room bungalow with its prized courtyard where he holds community conferences and meetings.

Thus, when the building was among the over 1000 homes affected in the recent flooding of the entire Onuaboh town and all the neighboring communities in Ndokwa East local government area of Delta State, one had thought he would be crushed. But that was not the case. When his children rallied to respond to his distress, he dismissed them in his typical great humor.

“I am 92 years old, if I die nobody can say I have not lived. So don’t worry about roof over my head when young families with innocent children have nowhere to call home. Please direct your efforts to where it really matters, the farmers who can’t farm nor feed their families, the many in my community now displaced and in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps across Delta State”.

Thus began the “Okpala Uku Joseph Dike flood relief project for Onuaboh community”. Chief Dike urged both the Federal and State government to solve the perennial flood disasters in not only Onuaboh but the Ndosimili areas of Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State arguing that this is the time to use the Ecology funds to rescue the riverine communities from the untold hardship from this year’s floods.

According to Barrister Harrison Dike, coordinator for the flood relief effort, the short-term goal is to raise about Five million naira (#5 million about $10,000.00 dollars) to assist the over 10,000 families in Onuaboh displaced from their homes by the floods with food items such as rice, beans, yam, noodles, garri and personal hygiene supplies. The effort in the long run would encourage displaced Onuaboh farmers to come back to their community as the flood recedes and start preparing for the next planting season. To this extent arrangements are in top gear to secure cassava stems, improved yam seedlings, okra, egusi and corn seeds indigenous to the area for those farmers able to return home.

“We are mobilizing and pulling resources together first as a family to honor our father’s wish to help our community and leveraging our contacts, friends, and professional colleagues to help our community recover quickly from this terrible flood disaster. Thus, we are appealing to all men and women of goodwill to assist by donating to the “Chief Joseph Dike Flood Relief Project for Onuaboh GoFundMe account:” https://gofund.me/859e18ad ”or pay to Nigerian local account FCMB:1904900011, Barrister Dike said.

The fund-raising effort is already gathering steam. Mr. Festus Dike, an accountant and graduate of University of Lagos (UNILAG) is using his alumni network both in UNILAG and Federal Government College (FGC), Warri to canvass support for the Onuaboh flood relief project and made a personal donation of One Hundred thousand naira (#100,000.00). His classmate at FGC, Warri, Mrs. Oritsemeyiwa Eyesan doled out One hundred thousand naira (#100,000.00) to support the effort.

Chick’nCone, Emory Point, Atlanta, a fast-food restaurant owned and operated by one of Chief Dike’s sons, Kingsley Dike, is supporting the effort with one thousand dollars ($1000.00) as part of its community support program.

“My Uncle Chief Joseph Dike’s life of community service is very inspiring. He is my hero and if at over 90 years old he still bears not his personal or family burdens but that of the entire Onuaboh and Ndosimili area then who am I to stand on the fence? ” Festus Dike said. He argues that while it is fashionable to begin to assail the government for the plight of the people, the Dike family ethos teaches that we do something no matter how little to attempt to salvage the situation and bring a little cheer to people who otherwise have nothing to cheer about during the yuletide season. “Christmas is a period of goodwill, and I am asking all men and women of goodwill to help us reach our goal by supporting the effort,” he said
Chief Joseph Dike had always considered himself a humble servant of his community Onuaboh in Ndokwa East Local Government Area (LGA) of Delta State and not their royal father. That is why he used the occasion of his ascension to the throne as the Okpala Uku of Onuaboh community 4 years ago to advocate for better living conditions for the people. He had called on the Government to look closely to the living conditions of riverine communities and change the current trajectory of their difficult living conditions of no passable roads, bridges, and electricity.
From a very early age he had served as English interpreter and translator for the elders in their interactions with visiting colonial officials in the 1940s. Then he was just a brilliant primary school pupil in the Native Authority (NA) Primary School in Onuaboh. He was to emerge a fierce defender and protagonists for the Onuaboh community and the Ndosimili people as a war affected area during the Nigerian Civil War in the 70s.

It would be recalled that the Ndokwa area was the scene of intense fighting between the Biafran rebel forces and the Nigerian Army causing widespread devastation, destruction, and displacement of entire communities. At the height of the conflict with the killing of AGIP foreign oil workers in Okpai and the Biafran invasion of the Midwest region, plans were made to relocate and settle displaced communities from the Ndokwa area in faraway places in Urhobo and Benin division.

Chief Dike led a one-man protest campaigning that the displaced families should not be taken away too far from their ancestral homeland. Through contribution of opinion articles in the lead newspapers of that era, his point of view got the attention of the General Gowon led Federal Military Government and families already taken as far as Ughelli, Benin, Auchi, Uzere etc. were brought back and resettled in Ndokwa town of Obiarukwu. This victory energized the then young schoolteacher, who was the Headmaster of Iyiatu LA Primary School in Kwale and led to his appointment as the Chief Refugee Relief Officer for war affected areas. He mobilized public opinion to call for the provision of relief materials particularly food and water for the displaced communities. He contributed to the then ongoing dialogue to prevent starvation that was ravaging the Eastern region from permeating the war affected areas in Midwestern region, particularly the Ndokwa area.
That is why the present plight of his people rankles. It is like history repeating itself in a way, albeit in a different way. But it is the same issues he confronted and dealt with as refugee relief officer for war affected areas almost 50 years ago (hunger, displace persons, relief supplies, community devastation and refugee crisis and camps) that are still dominating the headlines today.

There is a haunting, eerie, sad, and disappointing feelings about this, Chief Dike said. But he is quick to add, “I am grateful that this time we are not waiting on the government, I am proud of my own children coming together with their friends and colleagues to rescue a whole community. That they are doing this is a testament that my own life has not been in vain and for this I thank God”.

  • Kingsley Dike, who is a son of Chief Dike, is a retired United States Army Military Intelligence Analyst. He wrote from Atlanta, GA USA