From Wilson Okereke, Afikpo
It was a solemn moment at the St. Michael’s Schools, Oshiri, in Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, recently. Tears flowed from severe eyes, and sighs of agony intermittently escaped from grieving minds, as the remains of five little children that died recently in a road accident involving a water tanker were interred.
Five pupils of the primary section of the institution, Chiemerie Ngwe, Prosper Ogudu, Toochukwu Nwafor, Peace Ifeanyichukwu and Divine Nworu, were on November 3 reportedly crushed to death by a truck that lost control at Onu Orie Agu, in Oshiri community. The death of the kids has, since then, thrown the entire community into mourning.
But the management of the school said that the children, now referred to as ‘five little saints,’ did not die in vain. They then immortalised them by naming a bus stop after them. The bus stop at the entrance of the school was named Five Little Angels Bus Stop, in remembrance of the accident victims.
In his homily, Rev. Fr. Matthew Opoke, during the funeral mass organised by the Abakaliki Diocese of the Catholic Church, said the event was held because of the innocence of the victims before their demise.
He advised the bereaved families not to hurt themselves either consciously or unconsciously because of the tragic end of their children. He also urged the congregants to always live godly lives, saying no one knew when his or her death would come.
“We, the church, have value for both adults and children. It is based on this conception that we have gathered to celebrate mass for our departed children.
“However, I am urging all to prepare their ways in a godly manner because death does not give notice before it strikes,” he said.
Bishop of the Diocese, Dr. Michael Okoro, explained that the immortalisation was done principally to sustain the stories about the late children.
Rev. Fr. Edward Inya Nwachi, the diocesan director of education, who represented the bishop, explained to Daily Sun: “When people are born, automatically, a story is created, but when life comes to an end, some persons will think that the story has ended. But in Christendom, the notion is different because we believe that the same story must continue.
“Really, the children are not physically present with us but we can still tell stories about them. And in order to sustain the story, the Catholic Church deemed it necessary to immortalise the late children.”
He further advised the bereaved families to take solace in the Lord, knowing fully well that the victims had gone to where they would be interceding for their parents and others.
Rector of the schools, Very Rev. Fr. Maximus Obododike, said the funeral was in line with the Christian obligation of praying for the departed. He said that the church, having known that the victims were also humans who died innocently, the faithful decided to celebrate mass for them.
“We have the hope that the victims have gone to be with their maker. If we can pray for them, they will equally remember us while being with the Lord in heaven; they will surely intercede for us,” he said.
Obododike further disclosed that, since the first and second day of November every year had been set aside for the celebration of the saints and the departed souls, respectively, November 3 of every year would also be used for the remembrance of the victims whom he described as “five little saints.”
The rector then appealed for the construction of speed breakers in the area to forestall a recurrence, while seeking other assistance from public-spirited people and organisations.
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Chief Austin Edeze, who witnessed the ceremony, said the children were taken once so that they could form a union of saints and thereby create an impact.
He also urged the bereaved families to bear in their minds that the saints were being taken from their homes and as a result cease from crying. He further praised the priests and the entire Catholic community for honouring the children.
Also,national president of St. Michael College Old Students’ Association, Apostle Solomon Enyinnaya, expressed displeasure over the incident and advised the mourners and the community to take comfort in God.
Daily Sun gathered that the driver of the ill-fated truck, Innocent Nwancho Nweke, and his conductor, Dennis Ojim, who were allegedly lynched by irate youths after the accident, were also prayed for during the mass.