Dr. Chike Akunyili, an accomplished medical expert, was not known to be a politician. He was a gentleman and a philanthropist to the core. It is, therefore, a puzzle that some gunmen murdered him late last month at Nkpor near Onitsha in Anambra State. His murder is as sad as it is troubling. Akunyili had gone for a memorial lecture in honour of his late wife, Prof. Dora Akunyili, the ex-Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and former Minister of Information at Onitsha in Anambra State.
It was when he was coming back from the lecture that he encountered the hoodlums who killed him. The assailants also killed his driver, orderly and five others.
The motive behind the attack is not very clear yet. Some reports blamed the killing on the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Some others accused the Department of State Services (DSS) of having a hand in it. There are yet some other reports which ascribed political motive to the killing. Those who killed him were said to be chanting “no election in Anambra.”
However, the IPOB and the DSS have denied involvement in the killing. The DSS described the allegation against it as spurious and illogical. It urged the public to be wary of the false narratives by those desirous of using it (the Service) to cover up their heinous acts. IPOB, on its part, alleged that the death of Akunyili was pure political assassination. According to the group, those who killed the man were the same people who allegedly killed the wife with poison for purportedly exposing ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua’s death.
Whatever be the reason for the heinous crime, it is obvious that a shining star has gone. Akunyili was a surgeon and medical director of St. Leo’s Hospital in Enugu. He treated priests in Bigard Memorial Seminary and elsewhere free of charge for 45 years. According to his children, he fought in the Biafran war and had a bullet lodged in his skull ever since then. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather. In recognition of his dedication and service to the church, the Vatican bestowed on him the Papal Knight of St. John.
No doubt, Anambra State, nay the entire South East region, is degenerating to a state of anarchy as non-state actors have taken over and the elected governors appear handicapped to tackle the challenge. Shortly after the murder of Akunyili, some gunmen attacked the police station at Ajali in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State. They not only killed five policemen, they also set the station ablaze. At Nnewi, some other hoodlums set ablaze the office of the Department of State Services (DSS) and the home of the All Progressives Congress Chieftain, Joe Igbokwe. Two people, including a student of the College of Sciences at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University were reportedly killed during the attack.
Earlier this year, some gunmen had also invaded the Civic Centre, Isuofia, in Anambra where the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) governorship candidate, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, was addressing the youths of his community. Soludo escaped death but his three police orderlies were killed. There have been many other killings in Anambra State in particular and the South East in general in recent times.
The situation in Anambra is particularly worrisome because the state will go to the polls on November 6 to elect a governor. Now, there is palpable fear in the state and people are now wary of being identified with any political party. Hoodlums had burnt some party vehicles and even attacked some party stalwarts. This will likely affect investment and the economy of the state. It has also affected the social life of the people. Apart from the brain drain in the health sector, the few doctors we have are being killed.
So far, the response of the Federal Government has been to threaten a state of emergency in Anambra state. The government has also deployed soldiers to different parts of the state as President Muhammadu Buhari said the killers of Akunyili would face judgement. On his part, the Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano, placed a N20 million bounty on the murderers. It is good that the police have arrested two suspects in connection with the killing.
It is commendable that the South East governors met recently in Enugu and vowed to frontally tackle the challenge. They have also mandated each state in the region to hasten the establishment of Ebubeagu security outfit. While we condemn the murder of Akunyili and others, we call for a thorough investigation of the killings. Moreover, the authorities should sit up and arrest the lawlessness that has taken over the region. Politicians should play with maturity while security men should really be on top of the situation. There must be an end to the festering bloodbath.
Let all stakeholders work in concert to check the looming danger. We do not know who the next victim will be. As Akunyili’s children put it, “death in any situation is painful, but when it is as brutal and senseless as murder, our hearts break twice.”
We commiserate with the bereaved family and pray that God will give them the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.