They came to make supplication unto God: To pray, to sing, to dance. It was their first act of piety yesterday, Sunday morning. It turned out their last. They prayed, but it was not the kind of prayer anyone could have prayed for or wanted answers to. It was not the kind of way anyone could have wanted to end an early morning mass, or any day for that matter.
Like a bad movie, the song and dance suddenly ended on a sad note. It was a black, tragic Sunday for some hapless worshippers of St. Philip Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Anambra State. Sons of the devil, certainly from the pit of hell, descended on the once serene town, a community close to the more famous Nnewi, wiped out about 11 worshippers (police say eight), injuring scores of others in a dawn gun attack!
In a split second, blood-soaked clothes, decapitated bodies of innocent souls littered everywhere. Tears, like a burst pipe, flowed. In no time, the ugly news spread like a raging inferno all over the country, thanks to the social media, which posted the news and gory pictures on different platforms.
Oh dear, I am weeping as I write this piece. I weep for children who have now become motherless or fatherless; the men and women who have suddenly become widows and widowers; the children who are now orphans, and others who lost a family member, loved one, relation, friend, neighbour or just an acquaintance.
Even if you didn’t know anyone dead or injured, the mere fact that a citizen, fellow human was caught in the Ozubulu insanity diminishes us all, because we all belong to the human race and “are involved in humanity.”
According to yet-unconfirmed reports, what happened in Ozubulu was a fight between two prominent drug lords, struggling to establish their supremacy. One of them, according to the story, had allegedly even made hefty contributions towards the building of the church. The two men were bitter rivals. Their feud snowballed into deadly combat, which spilled into the church. As in turf fight, gang members of one of the drug lords, reportedly stormed the church that early morning on information that his rival and his family would be attending the first mass.
Eyewitnesses claimed the gunmen flashed torchlights at parked cars and faces, shortly before emptying volleys of shots inside the packed cathedral. It is not unexpected that both target and innocent victims were caught in the bloody encounter. Like I stated earlier, this story is yet unsubstantiated. But these are snippets from those who claim to be in the know of what could have triggered the Ozubulu bloodbath.
Anambra police boss, Garba Umar, said the lone, hooded gunman sprayed bullets in a particular direction first, obviously targeting his victims, before going on a sporadic spree.
However, whatever may be the immediate or remote cause of the tragic incident, Nigerians are united in its condemnation. The social media is awash with shock and anger. There are calls on the security and law enforcement agencies to bring the killers to justice, to pay for their sins. The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has pledged to bring the perpetrators to book. Nigerians are waiting. This is one terrible crime that must be unravelled. God Himself will be interested in this case. The hapless victims were murdered in His House!
On Facebook walls, condolences and comments are flowing, from both prominent and ordinary Nigerians. Citizens are grieving and mourning their fellow citizens.
Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, a gender rights and social activist, says: “Killings in Anambra church raise scares of insecurity in Nigeria to high heavens. Authorities can no longer pretend that all is well.”
The Nigeria Union of Journalists, in a statement signed by its National Secretary, Shuaibu Usman Leman, echoes Okei-Odumakin’s view on the insecurity in our country.
“The NUJ is upset over this tragedy that befell the Ozubulu people and notes that the level of insecurity of life and property in the country keeps rising with no reasonable solution in sight. This is a clear sign of danger to Nigeria’s democracy and to national security.”
A lawyer and activist, Jefferson Woghiren, queries: “Why should a church accept a Holy church from a known criminal? The church failed all those brutally killed this morning in this ‘drugged’ church. God is not man. He can’t be deceived.”
Ibim Semenitari, a journalist and publisher, asks: “Didn’t we know he was a drug lord? When he brought fat envelopes and chaired our high feasts? When we reserved him a prized place and hailed his magnanimity? When his name was revered and he took the Eucharist first? Didn’t we know something was wrong when we perfumed ourselves with the rancid smell of blood? We are the murderers! We who keep silent in the face of evil. We who celebrate Mammon and filthy lucre. We who hail wealthy and thieving lords.”
What the above interventions seek to interrogate are our warped sense of values; the decadence that has enveloped our nation as we breed, nurture and perpetuate depraved citizenry. Something is terribly wrong with our country. It’s not just the economic quagmire, the social malaise is something else altogether! The music our youths play and dance to are not just sexually explicit, they make you ponder the future of the future leaders. Crime and sex movies are regular diets on music and movie channels. The regulators have since gone to sleep. These should worry all of us.
Then, of course, our society’s worship of wealth and the wealthy. How can a country, whose soul has been sold to the god of filthy lucre, ever make meaningful progress? Who is to teach the young, impressionable citizen the virtues of hard work and transparency, when only looters and scoundrels with cash seem to get ahead in our country?
The Ozubulu bloodbath shows that misplaced societal values could have led to the criminality that has left all of us devastated.
The gory sight of the tragedy continues to churn the stomach and assault decency. No society should ever condone such insanity.
Indeed, when you behold the pictures of innocent, hapless compatriots and fellow citizens killed for no just cause, you ask: When and how did we descend to this bestial level, where no place is considered hallowed, where no blood is considered sacred, by blood-thirsty men? How come the sons of devil didn’t consider it a ‘taboo’ to storm God’s House, murdering in cold blood His children? Were they not bothered about the damnation that surely awaits their souls for the heinous crime of desecrating the Holy Place?
One thing is certain: If the Ozubulu murderers do not get their punishment here on earth, God, the ultimate and impartial judge, is there to give justice to the slain, by meting the worst punishment possible to the sons of devil.