From: TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt Hundreds of youths in Rivers State yesterday, staged a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, condemning the activities of some operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the state police command. Protesting on the platform of Niger Delta Non-Violence Youth Leaders Assembly (NDNYLA), they marched through some major streets in…
By Israel A. Ebije
If the massacre of innocent lives at Saint Philips Catholic Church, Amakwa, Ozubulu in Anambra State was bestial and shocking, the cacophony of tales tumbling from the mouths of those who claim to know the men behind the masked executioners is unfortunate, toxic and provocative. The immediate narrative was laced around two feuding ‘brothers’ who are both in South Africa doing drug trade. Names were not mentioned, motive not stated.
The subsequent tale on social media indicted a member of the church who is alleged to be involved in a drug ring with drug peddlers based in South Africa. When Nigerians thought the multiple tales were over, an “eye- witness insisted on social media that government was not generous with the facts, adding that the attackers were masked, and were in army uniforms. The inconsistency of the last narrative raises a red flag. First, the person stated the attackers blocked the gate with a private car, dressed in mufti, and he fled the scene before the killings. Same person changed the story, explaining how they methodically carried out the operation while he was hiding under the pew.
Distortions of facts, poor management of information and absence of technological equipment make Nigeria a place for soft target attackers. Gov. Willie Obiano was proactive, emotional and seemingly bent on unraveling killers of the church worshippers. What the governor lacked in his state broadcast are the names of the attackers who he alleged were business partners. Those who advised him to shield their names have only given speculators and haters the opportunity to peddle names and pictures of people who may not be connected to the dastardly act.
In developed countries, pictures of the alleged brothers, partners would be on international media. The governor, in his broadcast, may have wished that the act is not linked to terrorism, but I am puzzled about how to classify the act, if not with the rightful cognomen of terror. In all, the perspectives emerging from last Sunday’s killings are nebulous, and drafted to tacitly blindfold the general public from the monstrosity that hit the community. Every source of information appears to be doing subtle public relations for somebody, something, somewhere. What those behind the half-truths have failed to realise is the dark cloud hanging from above.
The social media is a platform where so many sides of a story are told on a single issue with platoons of blind followers camped along basic interests. For those who may be unfortunate to have their pictures in circulation, death by assassins, mob or security operatives may be their macabre fortune. Sadly, the government may have fueled the confusion by deciding to keep the names of the culprits away from the public domain – although, according to our laws, they are presumed innocent until proved guilty.
What does not really add up in the whole saga is how a drug-fueled feud precipitated the killing of innocent worshippers. Naturally, drug lords kill themselves to satisfy their bloodlust. It is, indeed, difficult to link women and children to drug trade that will demand their lives. About the version of the church allegedly built on property in contention among the drug lords, it still defies logic to take the lives of those whose only offence was to perform their religious obligation.
In ample time, the real face behind the dancing masquerade will be unveiled once the foot at the door is removed. The tacit lesson based on information trickling in is for Nigerians to vet free donations. So many Nigerian communities have benefitted from proceeds of blood money, especially in the South Eastern part of the country. Perhaps, it is time to query sources of income before accepting donations in places of worship and community development generally. Once you accept gifts from the devil, it won’t be long before demands of sacrifice require exchange of life.
The increasing quest to get rich in Nigeria is largely traced to social demands/expectations. Politicians loot treasuries to keep the people as conquered territories. Business moguls go into robbery, kidnapping and ritual killings to make money and impress the young, dazzle the elderly and oppress their peers. All along, the society cheers them. The more money you can spray, donate or dash, the more the titles, recognition and the higher the person climbs in the social pyramid of relevance.
Fake news can only gain traction once government encourages half-facts, which only makes the country a conducive place for heinous crimes, with culprits eluding justice. It is necessary for the government to give more details about this incident to avoid news fakers rallying the public in the wrong direction. So many people have died, and communities in melee over fake news.
Nigeria is still way behind in the area of managing itself administratively and providing security for lives and properties. For starters, we must have reliable information to prevent mischievous and misleading tales.
Ebije writes from Abuja