The August 6, killing of 13 worshippers at St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Anambra State, by unidentified gunman during the 6am mass has underscored the deplorable general insecurity in the country. The Sunday tragedy has received overwhelming condemnations by all and sundry. It has also induced fears in the hearts of the faithful, especially in the affected area. It has equally raised some posers worth examining by the police investigating team. The police are yet to identify those responsible for the murder and the motive behind the barbaric act, even though, they have narrowed the killing to a feud among brothers of Ozubulu origin in South Africa or what has been referred to as ‘a gang war.’
The police theory, which came some hours after the act, ruled out terrorism and herdsmen’s involvement in the act. But some critics have countered the official narrative for the murder and insisted that it is an act of terrorism. They said that the manner of the operation has the trappings of terrorism. To this group, another poser is that since the murder some days ago, no terrorist group has claimed responsibility. Now that this is the situation, the police should thoroughly investigate the matter to get at the roots of it and unravel those behind it and the motive.
The police should have an open mind in their investigation and explore all angles, including those opposed to the official narrative on the matter. They should not foreclose any clue as being suggested by some people. It is not always tidy to begin from the answer to unravel a knotty question. The answer ought to come last after diligent investigation. The problem here is that crimes like this are difficult to unravel in this country.
Apart from the fact that the nation is acutely under-policed, the police are ill-equipped to investigate such crimes that require high technology as done in advanced countries. That the police received the news of the devilish act like other Nigerians is a pointer. The social media should take the credit for breaking the news. It should also take the blame for mishandling its reportage. The biased slants of the reportage, differing casualty figures, claimed motives and other aspects of the issue can be traced to the unprofessionalism of social media handlers. In this era of social media where everyone is performing the duty of a journalist, professional ethics is always a casualty. This is actually the case in the reportage of the Ozubulu incident.
The unprofessional handling of the news notwithstanding, we condole with the families that lost their loved ones in the Ozubulu tragedy and urge God to grant them eternal repose. We also pray for quick recovery of the wounded. The Catholic Church should immortalize the 13 martyrs of faith who died in active service. The church has a long history of immortalizing those that died in such martyrdom. They died in the Lord’s vineyard.
The local church should erect a befitting memorial for them in the church premises so that future generations should know of them. Apart from footing the medical bills of the wounded, the Anambra State government and the Catholic Church should take full responsibility of the burial of the dead and help their bereaved families to overcome the shocking and sudden loss of their loved ones.
Without preempting the outcome of police investigation on this matter and the motive behind the evil act, it is worth saying that Ndigbo in general, and the people of Anambra State in particular, should reexamine the age-long Igbo value systems and inculcate them in their children and wards. In traditional Igbo society, wealth is important but the quest for wealth is not pursued at the expense of morality. Agreed, the Nigeria-Biafra war dealt a great blow to Igbo morality. But 47 years after the war is enough for the Igbo to regain its morality.
The traditional Igbo world is materialistic but at the same time it is communal. It has set of morals to put in check the excesses of the powerful and the overbearing wealthy in the society. The extended family system ensures that all are carried along. That is why the Igbo society does not believe in one-man rule or king. They believe in consensus. These issues are well depicted in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
The Igbo question the source of any sudden wealth among its people. The current worship of money in Igbo society is alien to Igbo cultural ethos. The prevailing crass materialism among Igbo youths is foreign to Igbo culture. The attendant noise and publicity of the new rich Igbo is strange to Igbo culture. It appears the church is also promoting this craze for money.
The idolization of money and the new rich in the society is an unwanted feature of modern Igbo life that should be condemned by all. So also is the hankering after titles of whatever descriptions by modern Igbo youths. The church should not be part of those that worship money and the wealthy in the society. The church must preach against the unbridled quest for wealth by all means among the Igbo. The church can even reject any gift from suspicious quarters. The church should question the source of wealth of its members.
The Igbo people should go back to their culture and learn its eternal lessons for living. All Igbo children should be taught the rudiments of Igbo language and culture as well as Igbo history and civilization. The Igbo as a people are fast losing their essence and values. Regrettably, the church has, to a great extent, contributed to the erosion of Igbo culture and values by labeling some of them as devilish and sinful.
The current agitation in Igbo land due to marginalization, though real, cannot be used as an alibi to be lazy, disrespectful and lawless. The average Igbo is enterprising and can stand on his own with little or no government support. But the governments in the South-East should work more for the benefit of the people. In old Igbo, there are no beggars or put differently, there are fewer beggars. Every individual works, whether whole or physically-challenged, to earn a decent living. Today, the reverse is the case. We now have professional beggars in Igbo land. We have kidnappers. We have everything that is good, bad and ugly.
The new Igbo world or Igbo tragedy can be gleaned from various depictions of the Igbo in some Nollywood films; beauty, greed, hatred, murder, kidnapping, robbery, wickedness, juju and poison. Besides all the theories bandied on the Ozubulu murder, such incident can only happen in an atmosphere of general insecurity and availability of guns to unauthorized people. To stop such mass murder in future, government should improve on security of all Nigerians and their properties and not the security of the privileged few and also stop the proliferation of arms in the society. Getting at the root of this matter should prevent future ones.