Religion used to provide succor to a lot of people, even if these days, it has become something that induces anxiety all over the place, especially at the hands of some militant Muslims who fault the law for being inadequate, and would not trust it, and so subject those who blaspheme their religion to death by burning. Christians in Nigeria used to feel safer in churches under the eyes of an invisible but invincible God, but it appears that that is no longer the case.
Owo`s morning of mourning
On June 5, 2022, gunmen stormed the St Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State where they attacked worshippers who had gathered for mass. At the end of the attack, about 39 people were killed and many more injured.Of course, as the news spread across the country like wildfire, a country which is no stranger to bad news was stunned afresh.
A shellshocked country.
The attack in Owo sent alarm bells chiming across the length of the country. A major reason for the tolling of the alarm bells was that the attack happened right in the heart of the Southwest which until then was thought to be the last region in Nigeria untouched by the terror raging in Nigeria.
The chilling crimes of June 5, 2022 which cut down worshippers in Owo have since been attributed to the activities of the Islamic State-West Africa Province(ISWAP) which seems hellbent on spreading its terrorist tentacles to every part of Nigeria.
Although doubts have been cast over the claims, the mere fact that a country already convulsed by terror also has to worry about the menace of a group as deadly and as determined as ISWAP is yet another challenge. The country and its panicked citizens have certainly struggled to cope. The question these days mostly bothers on ‘ where next, and who next?’
A country in coffins
On Friday, June 17, 2022, mourners and sympathizers gathered at the same church where the attacks took place for a funeral mass for the victims of the attack and amidst more familiar tears, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ondo, Jude Arogundade and the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, who is himself from Owo spoke.
While the governor admitted that the government had failed to defend those slaughtered by the attackers, the Bishop spoke of how a part of Nigeria lay dead in the coffins.
Mounting fears and frustration
The attack in Owo which killed more than 40 people may have jarred a slumbering country into wakefulness, but it was not the first and with the way things are going, it will not be the last.
Even during Nigeria`s most secure times which have since faded into distant memory, the security architecture of the country was not watertight as should be befit the Giant of Africa. What was largely on ground was a rickety structure which was sure to crumble under little pressure. Now, with pressure building from every side, the signs are of a national disaster.
A parlous pattern
All over the country, from Maradun, to Birnin-Gwari to Igama to Anemi to Owo, agonizing deaths have continued to come for civilians and security operatives alike, at a frightening rate. The government`s response has been tepid at best and the greatest worry is that terror when it finds little resistance in a place digs in its heels and simply refuses to go away.
What is even more disturbing is that the government appears overwhelmed by the challenges. Whenever another attack happens, the government rinses and repeats condolences, and commitments to bring the killers to justice. But hardly enough is ever done.
Every serious country which has a serious government in place puts the security of its citizens above everything else. Here, it appears that those in government get too easily excited and distracted to get their priorities right.