Okey Sampson, Umuahia
Ohafia community in Abia State, in the years of yore, was synonymous with war. The people could be said to be the foot soldiers of the people of old Bende. However, with the advent of Christianity and its twin brother, modernity, the people decided to put behind the curtain their warrior mien. What is happening in Ohafia today, in the attacks by ‘unknown gunmen’, wouldn’t have happened in the area in the times of yore because, as the Igbo would wisely put it, no bird wins the duck in the defecation battle.
Residents of Ohafia, which is the political capital of Abia North senatorial zone, are, for the past one year, yet to breathe fresh air from smoke pollution caused by the wanton burning of public institutions in the area, neither have they in the true sense of the word slept with their two eyes closed.
First, on April 17, 2020, in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, an unhinge policeman who drank himself to stupor shot and killed an apprentice trader, Friday Arunsi, at Ebem Ohafia.
Assurances by then commissioner of police, Etim Ene Okon, that, “There is no way policemen who were not on duty, even if they were, will be involved in such heinous act and I allow them to go scot-free. We are definitely going to charge them to court for murder without wasting time,” could pacify the youths, who reacted angrily.
Immediately the news of Arunsi’s death filtered into town, youths took to the streets in the community to protest the killing of their son by a trigger-happy policeman. The rampaging youths set ablaze the DPO’s car, two police patrol vans belonging to the Ohafia Division and set all detainees in the cells free. They also burnt down the magistrate’s court and high court in the area. The community was yet to recover from the effects of the protest when another erupted shortly after.
Ifegwu Udo, aka Lucifer, founder of the Church of Satan, in Ebem Ohafia, was arrested and detained by police over acts said to have brought bad influence on youths in the area. Lucifer, who was later declared a persona non grata, was in a while to be released by a court of competent jurisdiction. The court’s decision didn’t go down well with the youths and Lucifer’s release was greatly greeted with protest.
Although no public property was destroyed during the protest, Lucifer’s Church of Satan was torched and it remains to be confirmed if Udo has recovered from that protest.
Speaking then about the protest and banishment of Lucifer, one of the leaders of the youths who gave his name as Umah said, “After the incident in Ohafia in which the police station, high and magistrate’s courts were burnt, we discovered after investigation that the policeman who killed the trader-apprentice that triggered the protest came out from Lucifer’s brothel where he got himself drunk before he shot dead the young man”.
After the incident, peace seemed to have returned to Ohafia, but it was short-lived. It was Reggae music maestro, the late Bob Marley, who, in one of his classics, echoed what the good Book said that when the world thinks it’s peace and safety, an abrupt destruction comes. When it was believed that Ohafia had come to know peace, another wave of destruction, this time from ‘unknown gunmen’, erupted.
In the wee hours of May 10, gunmen in a bizarre fashion attacked and set ablaze the Independent National Electoral Commission’s office in Ohafia.
Authenticating the dusk attack, dazed chairman of the Local Government Area, Dr. Okorafor Ukiwe, in a terse statement by one of his aides, said, “The Ohafia Local Government Council has received with dismay the unwarranted burning of facility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Amaekpu Ohafia in the early hours of Monday, May 10, 2021”.
The flabbergasted council boss could not fathom why, despite the administration’s mobilization of youths, hunters and vigilance groups to guard public facilities in the area based on earlier intelligence report received, the gunmen were able to strike, and successfully too.
“This attack is condemnable, especially coming at a time the commission just concluded inventory taking of electoral materials nationwide in readiness for the 2023 general election”, he further said.
Dr. Ukiwe appealed to the general public to remain calm and vigilant in their activities and to report any suspicious activity to the nearest security outfit.
While the appeal was yet to trickle down to its target audience, in the small hours of May 11, 24 hours after they burnt the office of INEC in the town, the unknown gunmen struck again, burning the office of the National Law Drug Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in the area.
The second attack had the trappings of the previous one, but unlike the INEC office, where many electoral materials and other documents were burnt, what was destroyed majorly at the NDLEA office was drug exhibits.
The gunmen broke into the armory and cell, but there were no guns to cart away or suspects to set free as the agency had taken precautionary measures before the gunmen arrived.
Having had a full dose of protests and destruction to public property, some natives were of the view that any aggrieved person or group in the area should sheathe their sword and allow peace to reign. They opined that the protests and destruction were mainly carried out by strangers and it was not in the interest of the community and its people.
Umah Obasi, one of the Ndi Ezie Ogos (ruling chiefs) in Ohafia, said: “Ohafia people are peace-loving, we don’t support violence. But I must tell you that the protests and the recent destruction of public property were not done by our people, but stranger elements.
“The Ezie Ogos and the entire Ohafia people are not in any way in support of recent destruction of public property in the area and we are going to do something to guard against recurrence.”
A community leader, Egwu Uduma, spoke in a same vein. He said no Ohafia man would willfully destroy any property in the area, moreover when some of them were built through communal effort.
“Our people will not willingly go out to destroy public property in Ohafia because some of them were established through our sweat,” he said. The community leader, warning of the effects of such destruction, said, for instance, since the destruction of the courts in Ohafia, people with judicial matters now travel to Umuahia to settle them. He said the community would strive to do something to stop the wanton destruction of public property in Ohafia.