Ozubulu – Can it happen again?

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REACTIONS to the 6 August shooting at OfufeAmakwa, Ozubulu, in Ekwusigo Local Government of Anambra State, proved that Nigerians could still be shocked. The contrary narrative is that they have “seen it all”, so nothing shocks them. Nigerians remain human, and mostly humane.

TO many of them, it was unthinkable that criminals could invade a church, shooting worshippers. Many consider places of worship sacred, hallowed, and deserving respect due the Almighty at all times. Many violations of places of worship in Nigeria have not changed the opinion of most Nigerians about reverence for the Almighty, generally understood in our various religions as our Maker.

VIOLATIONS that stemmed from religious terrorism could be understood. The parts where the violations are found are known. Attacks of places of worship in those areas, because of their frequency and the fact that causes of such nature take such courses, are seen as collaterals of the war against terror.

NOBODY expected OfufeAmakwa, Ozubulu, hardly on the map until the incident, to have attained global prominence in notoriety, in matters of uttermost disrespect to the Almighty. The area is peopled with lovers of the Almighty, who exhibit their gratitude to their Maker in their magnificent places of worship, and their dedicated presence there.

THE worshippers shot at St. Philip’s were at an early morning mass, an indication of their commitment to their God. There was more. The place they worshipped, dedicated to the Almighty, only last May, but requiring cleansing less than three months into its use, stood as tribute to the Great One.

NONE, young or old, could remember an incident where anyone attacked people in church, whatever the differences. A church was a place to settle a dispute, if there was any. August 6 changed all that – St. Philip became a place where a dispute was settled(?) in ways that were unimaginable.

SOME have dubbed it Murder in the Cathedral, parodying T. S. Elliot’s 1935 verse drama based on an eyewitness’s account of the 1170 assassination of the Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.
WHAT was the role of the killed in a dispute that was between two businessmen, as some would call them? How did the church become the choice location for settling a dispute in a manner that shunned everything a place of worship represented? Can there be any justification for the intensity of the brutality that was unleashed on worshippers at St. Philip’s?

FEW questions are being asked. Fewer answers are available. The consequences of the shooting at St. Philip’s include implications that may be lost in the treatment of the issue as a “normal” criminal activity. Some say it took a long time coming. Others speak of the inner dealings that resulted in the shooting in ways that exhibit gross ignorance of their complicity in criminal activities, since they knew about those activities, but kept quiet.

IT appears that the police would have few challenges in unraveling the causes of the shooting at St. Philips, if the information in the public domain is a guide. The more important thing would be what the police do with the information. We expect they should know what to do.

WE still suggest some. The investigation and persecution of whoever are involved in the St. Philip’s shooting, should focus on justice, which would be justice to the victims and the community. Justice would include measures that would see to safer neighbourhoods and the notice strongly served that criminals would face the law.

IF the shooters at St. Philip’s contemplated that the law could catch and kill them, would they have acted? If they had no assurances that if caught, their sponsors would rescue them, would they have signed up for the attack?

A GREAT part of what is wrong is that we have used decades enthroning impunity. There is hardly any difference between lawlessness and lawfulness, particularly as the public watches the high, the mighty, and the connected, trample on the law. Their actions destroy the law, establishing new orders where the law acts after confirming that suspects are powerless.

CRIMINALS have long learnt to align with power. They buy various layers of protection. They endear themselves to society through burnished philanthropic acts. Once the public gets the confusing signals of criminals associating with authority, it becomes circumspect about its judgment of the criminals.

IN many Nigerian communities, questionable characters are lords. They are to be found wherever there are vestiges of authority since any link to authority, no matter how tenuous, can be stretched to launder their status.

THERE is no confusion about what happened at St. Philip’s. A crime took place. People were killed. The proof is everywhere. While the focus is on why they were killed is important, it is more important to invest resources in apprehending the killers, so that they can lead to their sponsors. Arrest of the killers, not just suspects, would be steps to closing in on the beneficiaries of the dastardly incident.

IF there is no decisive dislodgement of the gang that perpetrated the killing, the authorities would have been emboldening others to act, either in reprisals or in furtherance of new crime locations. Beefing up security around churches is not a solution, as the measure would simply expose other places to attacks.

ST. Philip’s, OfufeAmakwa, Ozubulu, today stands as the metaphor for unbridled criminality. We cannot wait to see the authorities turn the scorn, taunt and threat to opportunities that mark a new metaphor, namely, that crimes would be punished–always.

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