Jude Okoro, Calabar The Federal Government has decried the incessant communal clashes between Ukelle community in Yala Local Government Area of Cross River State and their Izzi neighbours in Ebonyi State. The government said crisis has not only affected the farming communities, but has far-reaching consequences on food security in the country. Read also: Anambra…
The shock of an attack on a church in Ozubulu, in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State, and the temporary police investigation report that it was a gang war has kept my mouth agape. It reminded me about two novels I had read decades ago, “The Godfather” and “Murder in the Cathedral.” In those days, they read like fairy tales springing from the bounteous creative offerings of the authors.
“The Godfather,” written by late Mario Puzo, became a classic of sorts, giving birth to several translations and a box office hit movie. The characters in the novel at the time seemed to me like people that could only have come from Italy, known at the time to be the home base of Mafia groups. It was as strange as suicide stories emanating from Afghanistan and such places, such as I never imagined would sprout from our shores.
The Ozubulu shooting at St. Philips Catholic Church was a rather rude shock and reminder that the world’s emergence as a global village has advanced on both negative and positive strides. Nothing can be more despicable than attacking a church and snuffing life out of those who have come to receive life.
The technically defeated, yet dreaded insurgent group, Boko Haram, has been most slammed for taking their battle to churches and sending worshippers to the great beyond. It has been their stock in trade, which was why initial reactions to the Ozubulu incident gave the group away as culprits until the police and Governor Willie Obiano came with the shocking story that the shooting was the extension of a drug war between barons who hail from the town but operate from outside our shores. Some people, judging by their reaction in the social media, are still unconvinced about stories on the attack, and thus take the story with a pinch of salt.
The matter is still under investigation but the release of the initial investigation result must be an action to stem the tide of public opinion, where commentators had attributed the shooting to herdsmen or, of course, Boko Haram. The safe thing to do is take preliminary reports as it stands until further notice.
Eleven people, including three from the same family, have been sent to the great beyond and 18 others received injuries. The dead are in the morgue just as the wounded are getting treatment at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, Nnewi. Governor Obiano has promised that the state government would write off the bills and the minister of health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has sent more doctors to the hospital to help look after the injured.
President Muhammadu Buhari and Acting President Yemi Osinbajo have both come down hard in condemnation of the attack.
The stories, as told by the police and the governor, are being controverted by one Jovita Ofomata, who is a friend to High Chief Aloysius Ikegwuonu, also known as Bishop, who built the church. The assailants were said to be in pursuit of Ikegwuonu at the time of the attack. Ofomata, who also chairs the Ebubechukwuuzo Foundation in Ozubulu, said he was shocked by what has come out of this ugly incident. He said his friend and benefactor was no drug dealer and had no problem with anyone.
“People say he is a drug lord, and that he took money belonging at another gang. So many stories, and I can tell you that we are even confused about where these stories are coming from.
“All I can say is we will leave the police and other security agencies to do their work, and we urge them to do it well and I believe the outcome will help us to know what happened … He is an estate developer based in South Africa; he has built many houses even here in Nigeria and sold them, he is also into property management and he is an importer who deals in beverages and spare parts, which he imports from China. Ebubechukwuzo is not a drug pusher,” Ofomata reportedly told Naijachurchnews in Ozubulu.
“He said his friend was an estate developer and importer based in South Africa who left the village two days to the sad incident. He expressed shock that his friend, who played football with youths and moved round the village freely, devoid of security details, would be the target of such horrendous attack.
The police should get to the root of the matter. The high chief has lost his father in the incident and his step mother was injured. If the attackers knew his father and shot him, why would they point the nozzle of their guns on other innocent people? What point has been made in killing people who know nothing about a supposed war between two gangs? Those are issues to be untangled.
The sad revelation is that life has lost value in our clime and gunmen go on the rampage without let or hindrance, even to such sacred places as a church. Some people have reportedly been arrested and we hope the public would be kept abreast of this matter.
Why would these gangsters bring their war home, far from their operational base and inflict injury on people remotely involved in the war?
Perhaps the church may do well to see where their fat donors get their money. Available information shows that Ikegwuonu has also built two other churches in the area. No one, not the least me, is coming to any quick conclusion on the matter.
The church must find a way of turning down blood money. Those who take guns and not the holy book to the church must know how those who live by the sword die.
The time of reckoning for these killers in the cathedral should not be drowned in the bureaucratic tenets of judgement.