Eziomume Solomon, Nnewi
Founder and Spiritual Director of the Holy Ghost Adoration Ministry, Uke, in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Obimma, popularly called Fr. Ebube Muonso, has raised the alarm that he has been a target of many attacks by alleged hired killers and suspected cultists.
The charismatic Catholic priest of the Onitsha Archdiocese narrates how he narrowly escaped death in the hands of a cult group in his hometown, Nkwelle Ezunaka, in Oyi Local Government Area of the state. According to him, they wanted him dead because of a sermon he preached in the church.
You were attacked recently in your community, what actually happened?
The incident took place on June 12, 2020, in my community, Nkwelle-Ezunaka. I went for a burial at my community. The funeral started with a Holy Mass or church service at St. William’s Catholic Church in the community. In the course of my homily during the mass, I vehemently preached against cultism and cult groups, terrorism and hooliganism, which was common among young men in the community. Our youths are used to forming cult groups, which they use as weapon to intimidate people and unleash terror on innocent residents of my community. In my community, people, including the elders and the elite, sleep with their two eyes open, because of cultists. Many elderly men and women in the community have been rough-handled, beaten and flogged by those hooligans. During my preaching, I condemned their evil activities, and cautioned them. When I was preaching, the congregation was very happy, saying that they knew only Fr. Ebube Muonso could have the guts to speak out against the evil perpetrated by the cult groups because people live in fear in that village. So, after the burial service, people were coming to me for blessing, including my mother, and I was laying hands on them. In the course of doing that, my mother invited me for a discussion at home. As I was discussing with her, my brother’s wife called my attention that some bad boys, popularly known as Searchlight, were outside the gate, chanting their war songs and saying that they would humiliate Fr. Ebube Muonso. I thought it was an empty threat. So, on my way going, they invaded me with dangerous weapons. They threw stones on me, smashing and damaging my vehicle. In the course of doing that, I had to put a call across, and, eventually, a combined team of police and army arrived and rescued me. Even when the soldiers arrived, the bad boys were still brandishing their weapons, and the soldiers threatened to shoot them; but I pleaded with them not to shoot. Ever since I was born, I’ve never been so attacked anywhere; not to talk of being attacked by my own people. I have been hearing of their nefarious activities in that community; but I was unmoving, because, I am a very busy person. Eventually, after that incident, I wrote a petition and 11 of them were arrested by police. They were tried in the court of law, and eventually remanded as a corrective measure to deter them and others from such act. As if that was not enough, their sponsors and allies, who escaped arrest, started blackmailing me; peddling all sorts of falsehood against me on the social media. In their posts on the social media, they claimed that their reason for attacking me was because I collected their lands; about 200 plots in Nkwelle-Ezunaka; whereas in reality, I do not have one plot of land in that village. The towns people know the truth. They attacked me because I preached against cultism and their bad activities in the community.
Could you mention those nefarious activities of the cult group?
Their nefarious activities are many. A lot of young girls have been raped. Parents, who send their daughters on errands in the community get shocked when their girls return with the complaint that they were raped by Searchlight boys. They equally torture and flog elderly people, who kick against their activities. Story was told of a woman, who was going out one evening with her son for an errand. Unfortunately for her, the cult boys harassed her, beat her up and stripped her before her son; claiming that she looked at them. Whenever people have cases in the village, they would pay these bad boys to fight for them. In fact, for an average person in Nkwelle-Ezunaka, it would be better for a person to be taken to the police and charged to court than for one to fall into the hands of these boys. They had suppressed and inflicted injuries on many people. Imagine small boys flogging elderly people in the village. They engage in broad day robbery, and all forms of criminality. They would claim omnipotence and untouchable. People, I must tell you, are afraid of them. They constituted themselves as both police and the court of law; such that when you report a case to them against another person, they would go for war on your behalf. They will arrest, try, convict and punish their victims; after which the alleged offender will be made to cough out huge sums of money.
Has any family member or ally of those arrested approached you?
Yes, people have been coming to plead on their behalf, to the extent that I was moved to visit them when they were still in police custody. The day I visited them, my cook prepared good dish and we bought drinks. When we got to the station, they were brought out. After eating and drinking, I asked them, ‘my brothers, what did I do that you attacked me and wanted to take my life?’ They told me they acted under the influence of hard drugs. I then told my lawyer to halt any court process, and I also told him to start the process of securing their release. We were still in the process when, surprisingly, their parents, sponsors and allies started blackmailing me. They took to the social media, telling the world that they attacked me because I am a land grabber. They claimed that they were unjustly accused and remanded; adding that they attacked me because I took their lands; a claim they made to attract sympathy and to cover their iniquities. Indigenes of Nkwelle Ezunaka know that what they said were fallacies.
Before now, what was your relationship with the youths in the community especially in terms of assistance or empowerment to them?
I have empowered a good number of them. I’ve sent a good number of them abroad in order to improve their lives. I offered scholarships to the siblings and children of these people, who are after my life. Ebuka Obiozo, one of the boys that attacked me, was among the people I strived to lift out of poverty. I gave him money several times. It was because of him that I invited footballers like Emenike and Kanu Nwankwo to take him up in order to enhance his football career. I am yet to understand the core reason for the attack launched against me. I was made to understand that they were acting out the script of their sponsors. I believe they are doing this to intimidate me as they intimidate others; but Fr. Ebube Muonso cannot be intimidated!
So, what would be your suggestion on how to nip cultism in the bud?
I advocate zero tolerance for cultism. The cult boys are into blood covenant. This is why they are so wicked and mean whenever they are handling people. Cultism should be given zero tolerance. Let the government empower the anti-cult groups. Let personnel be recruited into the anti-cult unit of the police force so that cultism will be tackled.
What about addressing moral decadence among youths?
The church is doing a lot of work when it comes to youth reformations. This is why there are catechetic; that’s why there are services and formations in virtually all the churches. But you know, the church can only conscientize the youth to be of good behaviour; but when it comes to criminal matters, the security agencies will take over. But sometimes, when you are making efforts to correct somebody, you will find out that such person has become reprobate. At that stage, you use corrective measures, such as imprisonment, to call him back.
Have you forgiven your attackers?
I hold no malice against them. The reason they are still in the correctional facility is to discipline them; so that when they come out, they will become better and more responsible members of the society. They need to be tamed, so that they will understand that hooliganism is bad. I do not pray that they stay long in prison. My main aim is to tell them that what they did was wrong.