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Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard - Politics - Nairaland

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Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by KingsleyJohn: 9:07am On Oct 29, 2016
“I looked around and I saw machine guns all around us. Some of them were also carrying automatic rifles. One of them shouted an order, and they started shooting.”

With these chilling words, Ify Uraih describes how the massacre of hundreds of innocent civilians began in Asaba more than 40 years ago. Here we document how this terrible event unfolded, why it is important, and why the people of Asaba now demand recognition. It started on October 4, 1967, when Nigerian federal troops entered Asaba, the Niger River town that was then part of Nigeria’s Midwest Region. The war over the secession of the predominantly-Igbo Eastern Region, renamed Biafra, had broken out in July; in August, the Biafran army had advanced across the Niger Bridge and progressed through the Midwest, headed for Lagos. Federal troops counter-attacked, pushing the Biafrans back across the Niger at Asaba. The Biafrans blew up the Onitsha end of the bridge, leaving the Federal Second Division, commanded by Col. Murtala Muhammed, on the Asaba side. Asaba, although ethnically related to the Eastern Igbo, remained part of Nigeria, and supported the government’s ideal of a multi-ethnic “One Nigeria.” As Wole Soyinka wrote in 1972, the Midwestern Igbo, caught between their desire to remain part of the federation and their identity with Eastern cousins, became “the most vulnerable Nigerians.” Asaba had a long tradition of high education, producing a disproportionate number of professionals and high-ranking civil servants, who had contributed to a sense of allegiance to a united Nigeria, and trust that Federal troops would behave appropriately. Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, had issued a military Code of Conduct, so when troops arrived, the townsfolk were unprepared for what followed.

Soldiers occupied the town, and began killing civilians (mainly boys and young men) accused of Biafran collaboration. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, were killed in the next three days, some apparently randomly, while others appeared to be targeted. Stanley Okafor, then a university student, described how he and several relatives were summoned by troops: “we got to the police  station and there was a huge crowd. And then they would come around and they would say do you know Mr. X, Mr. B, and do you know his house? They had names they wanted to kill. And once in a while they’d pick someone from the crowd, go to the back and you hear gunshots. And the crowd would wail.” Patience Chukwura, a young mother expecting her fourth child, saw her husband Eddie gunned down near the police station, along with his brother, Christian: “That made me hysterical. I held onto the soldier and said, ‘Why did you kill my husband?’ The man, with the butt of the gun, hit me on the chest and said, ‘woman, if you’re not careful, you’ll get killed as well.’ We feared they were going to wipe out everybody in Asaba, especially male children.” Troops invaded homes, demanding money, executing men and boys, and abducting women, often before setting the houses ablaze. The streets were littered with corpses. Patrick Okonkwo recalled that his compound was crowded with extended family members, when soldiers entered and shot his two brothers, a cousin, and two other relatives. His father buried them in shallow graves in the compound. On October 7, in hopes of avoiding more violence, Asaba leaders summoned everyone to gather to show support to the troops by making a pledge to One Nigeria. Hundreds of men, women, and children assembled, dancing and singing. According to survivors, as the parade reached a major junction, troops removed women and young children, and directed men and boys into an open area.

s the crowd began to realize what might be happening, panic grew, as Peter Okonjo explained: “Women who came with their sons were removing their skirts and blouses to disguise them. And I looked at the whole place, there is nowhere to escape.” Ify Uraih was 13 years old, and had joined the parade with his brothers and father. He described how the officer in charge, identified by several witnesses as Ibrahim Taiwo, gave the order to open fire, and the massacre began: “Some people broke loose and tried to run away. They shot my brother in the back. The rest of us just fell down on top of each other. And they continued shooting, and shooting, and shooting. I don’t know how long it took; after some time there was silence.” Hundreds died; survivors report climbing from among heaps of bodies when the soldiers finally left hours later. Ify Uraih survived, but his father, Robert, and brothers Emma and Paul were dead. His brother Medua was shot multiple times, but survived. Between 500 and 800 were murdered, in addition to many from previous days, and many people fled the town. Although there is no firm death count, our research suggests that more than 1,000 died at the hands of the troops during October.  Most were buried in mass graves, without observing requisite practices, and the town was destroyed, with most of the houses looted and burned. The long-term impacts of these tragic events were profound; many extended families lost multiple breadwinners, and the town’s leadership was decimated. Survivor accounts and reports by relief agencies show that Asaba remained in dire straits until the war’s end, most inhabitants having fled or subsisting in refugee camps. Soldiers assaulted and abducted women and girls with impunity. The destruction was so complete that Asaba disappeared from the official roll of Nigerian towns in 1969. The atrocities at Asaba remained virtually absent from the published record, and have largely remained unacknowledged. A major reason was lack of media coverage at the time. Of course Biafra became world-famous, but its public, international narrative developed after the retreat of the Biafrans across the Niger, after which the federal government imposed a blockade, effectively starving the East into submission, and searing the images of emaciated children into the international memory of the War. This contrasts with the lack of attention in 1967, when the Midwest people suffered most. The Federal government suppressed accounts of military action against civilians in the Midwest, and the international media were carefully managed. The 1967 massacres received almost no press coverage at the time. In later historical accounts, the Asaba events, if mentioned at all, are usually dismissed as aberrant or unproven. In 2001, some Asaba survivors testified to the Nigerian Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (HRVIC, or Oputa Panel), commissioned by President Olusegun Obasanjo, and charged to consider the history of human rights abuses from 1966 to May 1999, of which civil war events were part. The Asaba accounts were included in the Ohaneze Petition, presented by Barrister Chuck Nduka-Eze, and drawing on earlier research by Emma Okocha, as well as testimonies recorded in 1969. The HRVIC’s report was never officially released, although it is now available on the internet. Obasanjo declined to offer formal apologies, although in a landmark moment, Gowon publicly apologized to the people of Asaba in 2002, opening the door to further efforts at truth and reconciliation. After the Oputa Panel, Asaba leaders formed a committee to develop a memorial process, seeking an academic partnership to research the history of the event objectively. We responded, and with the support of our university’s Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center, have been researching the events of 1967 and beyond. Our work is based on an array of sources, including archival collections on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as videotaped interviews with almost 80 people. Most are direct witnesses and survivors, while others testified about the long-term impacts on Asaba. They were interviewed in several locations – Asaba, Lagos, Ibadan, Benin City, and the United States, and their stories produce a compelling, detailed, and consistent account of the atrocities that befell their town.
Our research has produced several interrelated conclusions. First, it shows that the killings in Asaba were unprovoked, and stemmed directly from a chain of events that started before the war, continuing through the Biafran offensive across the Niger, which stirred up simmering ethnic hatred that had previously resulted in violence toward Igbos. This fueled the undisciplined actions of the counter-attacking federal troops against Nigerian civilians. Second, although the Federal authorities worked hard to suppress the news, people fleeing Asaba spread the word, and the killings of large numbers of people of Igbo ethnicity bolstered Biafran claims that the war was one of genocide. This helped steel the Biafrans’ resolve to continue the eventually hopeless war, and so represents a pivotal moment that directly contributed to the progress of the conflict. More broadly, the Asaba killings raise issues that go beyond the tragedy of one community. The war has left a bitter legacy; many today argue that the violence and ethnic hatred endemic in contemporary Nigeria are partly attributable to an institutionalised unwillingness to come to terms with it. Thus the Asaba events are instructive because they provide a vivid case study of the unresolved consequences of ethnic tension and state violence which have created barriers to reconciliation. Today, our work suggests it is time to “recalibrate” the nation’s collective memory, putting Asaba’s fate in its rightful place as a key event in the Civil War. Martina Osaji, who dragged the body of her father Leo Isichei from among the dead, speaks for many in Asaba:  “There is nothing you can do to replace my father — no amount of compensation.  I would rather have my father and my other relations. But I want the world to know this happened; that’s the only way we can remember them. God knows why I had to survive—for me to have a story to tell. And that is why I’m telling you now.” Thus the people of Asaba rightfully demand an acknowledgment of the sacrifices they made while expressing support for Nigerian unity. And they also wish to use their experience as a way to open dialog and invite reconciliation – so important in this Nigerian Centenary Year. Our research shows that wartime atrocities are complicated. For instance, several survivors recalled that amid the brutality, individual Federal officers and soldiers stepped in to prevent violence and protect civilians. Some, notably a Captain named Matthias, are remembered in Asaba for their actions, as they rose above the horror being inflicted – warning people to escape, shielding civilians, or even spiriting whole families out of town. Such stories show that good may transcend ethnic hostilities, and can offer opportunities for moral reflection. It is important to acknowledge the horrors of history; accounts of “upstander” soldiers help us understand our common humanity, making repetition of evil less likely. We are documenting all our research on our project website: www.asabamemorial.org, where readers may find a short video based on our interviews, our longer academic articles, and information about the ongoing research. We invite readers to peruse our work, consider how much Asaba is owed, and reflect on ways to avoid such horrors in the future.

S. Elizabeth Bird S. is Professor and Chair of Anthropology at the University of South Florida, while Fraser M. Ottanelli is Professor and Chair of History at the University of South Florida

Read more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/10/revisiting-1967-asaba-massacre/

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by gidgiddy: 9:23am On Oct 29, 2016
The Asaba genocide remains a dark time and a testament that the British created fraud called Nigeria should be dissolved into its component units as it was before the mad man called Lugard came to force Igbo/Yoruba/Hausa-Fulani to be together.

The worst thing about the Asaba massacre is not even the many hundreds of people who were killed for nothing (Hunreds of people were killed in the cable point area of the city).

The worst thing for me is that the evil man who led the Soldiers that did this, the Devil incarnate who killed so many people during his life time, General Murtala Mohammed is on the N20 note.

How can a mass-murderer, failed Soldier, accomplished coup plotter, genocidal killer and military dictator be honored by putting his treacherous face on the N20?

Incredible!

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by zakim(m): 9:25am On Oct 29, 2016
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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by nonaira: 9:27am On Oct 29, 2016
This story was what showed me what a joke and a useless country that Nigeria is. I rather serve any other African nation than one who committed such atrocity to innocents.

Every day I thank God for the hell that is happening in Nigeria. That country deserve each death, poverty, hunger, backwardness that experience every day . That useless country deserve the devil living and having a party in it. They deserve their punishment.

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by BudeYahooCom: 9:31am On Oct 29, 2016
Americans are reading and documenting. Professor(s) Birf and Otanelli must be IPOB, Kanu must have bribed them to write this according to yoruba muslim sycophants of the fulanis.

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by SuperS1Panther: 9:38am On Oct 29, 2016
Story!!!!!


We want to read about the massacres of the minorities by the Biafraudster bandits. Especially in the old Cross River, Rivers and Bendel.

We want read about the rap.ing of minority women by your retreating bandits.

We want to read about the looting of CBN in Benin, Calabar, PH and Enugu by your bandit fathers and uncles.

Bunch of jokers!!!!

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by ificatchmodeh: 9:41am On Oct 29, 2016
History..
Can't be forgotten,that's why they fought to remove it from school curriculum. .

Nigeria..a nation based on deceit..

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by skywalker240(m): 9:51am On Oct 29, 2016
Am not with ipob, but i sure know this country can never be one....


As 4 murtala ....he is RI P ( Pieces )
cool

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by ikennaj44: 10:31am On Oct 29, 2016
that's very bad, we were not born then. to average yoruba man here. Asaba, precisely Anioma as a whole is not igbo, they shoves it to our faces here but we are old enough to know better

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by mulattoclaroo(m): 10:52am On Oct 29, 2016
SuperS1Panther:
Story!!!!!


We want to read about the massacres of the minorities by the Biafraudster bandits. Especially in the old Cross River, Rivers and Bendel.

We want read about the rap.ing of minority women by your retreating bandits.

We want to read about the looting of CBN in Benin, Calabar, PH and Enugu by your bandit fathers and uncles.

Bunch of jokers!!!!

God bless you my brother. I'm a Bini man and my grandfather told me the atrocities these people committed on Benin soil. Edo was never part of the proposed biafra but yet they invaded Edo and looted our CBN. They'll never tell you that part but are always quick to play the victim card.

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by KingsleyJohn: 11:03am On Oct 29, 2016
mulattoclaroo:
God bless you my brother. I'm a Bini man and my grandfather told me the atrocities these people committed on Benin soil. Edo was never part of the proposed biafra but yet they invaded Edo and looted our CBN. They'll never tell you that part but are always quick to play the victim card.

They invaded Edo and looted your CBN. Asaba was Nigeria(not Biafra), yet Nigeria soldiers killed them in there hundreds. Even killed those that came to show solidarity with the soldiers.

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by richidinho(m): 11:12am On Oct 29, 2016
Yet there was no form of rehabilitation in the region since that time.

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by gidgiddy: 11:21am On Oct 29, 2016
SuperS1Panther:
Story!!!!!


We want to read about the massacres of the minorities by the Biafraudster bandits. Especially in the old Cross River, Rivers and Bendel.

We want read about the rap.ing of minority women by your retreating bandits.

We want to read about the looting of CBN in Benin, Calabar, PH and Enugu by your bandit fathers and uncles.

Bunch of jokers!!!!


What has Biafra got to do with the massacre of innocent civilians in Asaba?

What exactly is your point? That Nigerians Soldiers are right to massacre people because Biafran soldiers did the same? Yet, it was your so called Nigeria that said it is fighting for unity. How can you be shooting the same innocent civilians you are saying you want to be 'one' with?

The same Asaba that the massacre happend in wasnt even Biafran territory (although it should have been)

Nigeria is a joke

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by Nobody: 11:26am On Oct 29, 2016
mulattoclaroo:
God bless you my brother. I'm a Bini man and my grandfather told me the atrocities these people committed on Benin soil. Edo was never part of the proposed biafra but yet they invaded Edo and looted our CBN. They'll never tell you that part but are always quick to play the victim card.

Useless Afonja. Same person as SuperS1panther above. I don't know why God created this people with such a wicked, devilish and evil heart...just naturally wicked!

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by Aquariann: 11:37am On Oct 29, 2016
Can we also have an expose on the exploits of the Biafran forces during their Mid-west invasion, particularly in what is now known as Edo state?

Because their actions and in actions during their occupation of the Mid-west actually led to the Asaba massacres.

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by SlayerSupreme: 12:28pm On Oct 29, 2016
Nigeria will pay! In blood or kind!

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by EternalTruths: 12:36pm On Oct 29, 2016
Clinton9000:


Useless Afonja. Same person as SuperS1panther above. I don't know why God created this people with such a wicked, devilish and evil heart...just naturally wicked!


You have forgotten that their ancestor was cast out of heaven due to his wicked and treacherous heart

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by orimsam: 12:51pm On Oct 29, 2016
EternalTruths:



You have forgotten that their ancestor was cast out of heaven due to his wicked and treacherous heart
and ur tribe was banished from isreal becos of there wicked and treacherous heart

Lost tribe of yisreal

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by nku5: 12:56pm On Oct 29, 2016
SuperS1Panther:
Story!!!!!


We want to read about the massacres of the minorities by the Biafraudster bandits. Especially in the old Cross River, Rivers and Bendel.

We want read about the rap.ing of minority women by your retreating bandits.

We want to read about the looting of CBN in Benin, Calabar, PH and Enugu by your bandit fathers and uncles.

Bunch of jokers!!!!


Biafran soldiers NEVER committed any atrocities. Liars go to hellfire

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by ThumbzTNA(m): 12:57pm On Oct 29, 2016
The only creature my Bible tells me was cast out of heaven was LUCIFER. And Afonjas claim Oduduwa fell from heaven. And Oduduwa is their fore father. So Afonjas are descendants LUCIFER. That explains their wickedness

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by nku5: 1:01pm On Oct 29, 2016
Aquariann:
Can we also have an expose on the exploits of the Biafran forces during their Mid-west invasion, particularly in what is now known as Edo state?

Because their actions and in actions during their occupation of the Mid-west actually led to the Asaba massacres.


This is rather weak propaganda. Nigeria is a bloodthirsty monster that is paying for its sins.

Show us where Biafran troops committed atrocities. No be matter of "my uncle for village tell me say..."

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by gaddafe(m): 1:10pm On Oct 29, 2016
nku5:


This is rather weak propaganda. Nigeria is a bloodthirsty monster that is paying for its sins.

Show us where Biafran troops committed atrocities. No be matter of "my uncle for village tell me say..."

Of course its a weak propaganda. When the civil war started, Briafran soldiers were armed with the holy bible preaching the gospel while the nigerian soldiers kept killing all the briafrans. and briafrans were looking like zombies. You guys are seriously funny.

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by SuperS1Panther: 1:21pm On Oct 29, 2016
nku5:


Biafran soldiers NEVER committed any atrocities. Liars go to hellfire

They were saints from planet MArs. We are laughing in Ibibio.

They were bandits, renegades, rebels, arsonists, looters, rapists and murderers. Simple as ABC.

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by orimsam: 1:30pm On Oct 29, 2016
gaddafe:


Of course its a weak propaganda. When the civil war started, Briafran soldiers were armed with the holy bible preaching the gospel while the nigerian soldiers kept killing all the briafrans. and briafrans were looking like zombies. You guys are seriously funny.
not funny but stupidd
Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by nku5: 2:53pm On Oct 29, 2016
SlayerSupreme:
Nigeria will pay! In blood or kind!

Nigeria is already paying. People are killed like chickens every day and life is cheap. It is also a poverty stricken country with little or no infrastructure. Ghana small as it is has more respect than Nigeria

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by nku5: 2:55pm On Oct 29, 2016
SuperS1Panther:


They were saints from planet MArs. We are laughing in Ibibio.

They were bandits, renegades, rebels, arsonists, looters, rapists and murderers. Simple as ABC.


How does this post prove that your assertion is a dirty weak lie
Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by nku5: 2:59pm On Oct 29, 2016
gaddafe:


Of course its a weak propaganda. When the civil war started, Briafran soldiers were armed with the holy bible preaching the gospel while the nigerian soldiers kept killing all the briafrans. and briafrans were looking like zombies. You guys are seriously funny.

You are lying and doing a very weak job. Show a little proof and spare me the jokes

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by nku5: 3:12pm On Oct 29, 2016
Of course we know God no dey sleep.

Col Taiwo, the beast who organised the massacre who is pictured here was gruesomely shot to pieces in the 1976 coup attempt by Dimka's men in his home state and was buried by his mother.

Murtala his boss who approved the killings was shot by the same coup plotters.

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by Yyeske(m): 3:14pm On Oct 29, 2016
This is rather despicable, Asaba was still part of Nigeria and not Biafra. If this had happened in Onitsha or Enugu or any other location in Biafra, it would have been understandable though still wrong

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by nku5: 3:26pm On Oct 29, 2016
Yyeske:
This is rather despicable, Asaba was still part of Nigeria and not Biafra. If this had happened in Onitsha or Enugu or any other location in Biafra, it would have been understandable though still wrong

The massacre was the reason why Biafrans fought like lions. They believed the FG was out to exterminate them.

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by asorocker: 3:30pm On Oct 29, 2016
The funny thing is that the same Nigerian Military has been made refugees in their own country by a militia made up of illiterates some times i wonder in the work of the Army is actually to preserve the territorial integrity of the country or to shoot at defenceless unarmed young men .

The Generals who will tell you how they will waste their useless blood for the sake of one Nigeria just signed off an oil rich peninsular to its smaller neighbour cameroon.

Nigerian Militaries is really a huge joke on real , May God Help us.

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Re: Revisiting The Asaba Massacre--- Vanguard by Aquariann: 3:41pm On Oct 29, 2016
nku5:


This is rather weak propaganda. Nigeria is a bloodthirsty monster that is paying for its sins.

Show us where Biafran troops committed atrocities. No be matter of "my uncle for village tell me say..."

Read up.. http://www.dawodu.net/midwest.htm

Outright molestation, harassment and killing of non-Ibo civilians occurred on a daily basis. At night "suspected saboteurs" were fished out of their homes and arrested.

The Hausa community in the Lagos street area of Benin and other parts of the state were targeted for particularly savage treatment, in part a reprisal for the pogroms of 1966, but also out of security concerns that they would naturally harbor sympathies for the regime in Lagos. But non-Hausas were just as badly treated. And as the hostility of the local population became more intense, so did the degree of indiscrete brutality for "internal security".

Non-Ibo alumni of St. Patrick's College, Asaba and Government College, Ughelli, found to their chagrin that old school ties meant nothing in the new dispensation


You're okay with the stories your uncles and grand parents told you, but you don't think I should be okay with what my own uncles and grand parents told me.

Dude, one of my parents was on the Federal side while the other was in the heart of Biafra during the war. While one attended school, the latter was hiding in trenches. I heard both their stories of the war period.

But I can assure you I've made several independent research (while also reading journals) about the war and i can tell you the Biafran troops were as savage in acts as the Federal troops if not worst.

Edolites and (Northern ) Cross Riverians don't despise the Igbo just because they are illustrious, they do because of their experience during the Civil war

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