Owo Church Attackers Must Not Go Unpunished

Charles Okoh

Charles Okoh

We have shed too much blood since the nation’s return to democracy. Sadly, this is becoming more like the norm now rather than the exception and we have practically come to accept it almost as a way of life.

I recall prior to 1999 when my mother in law, of blessed memory, illiterate as she was, she was streetwise and had a wonderful perception on contemporary issues. She had lamented that killings by non-state actors under democratic governance is not only commonplace but politicized and often swept under the carpet, because according to her, the perpetrators of these crimes are often well connected in government circles.

About 23 years down that road, she could not have been more correct. Reports of murders and killings are so commonplace that it is extremely difficult to cite any murder case that has been resolved or brought to a logical conclusion. Killings are not just politicized but as well given ethnic and religious tinges. This more than anything else, is the reason there are unresolved murder cases either as political assassinations or as a result of banditry or insurgency.

Sadly, when these killings are reported, we just scream, wail and curse but before long, life returns to normal, with no arrest or conviction. Even when so-called arrests are made it is for the cameras and photo ops; all sounds and fury no more. The reality being that anybody can get killed and burnt for squabbles over N5 or for holding different opinions or belonging to opposition camps.

Perhaps, the situation is more heightened by the fact that this lack of willpower to bring the full weight of the law to bear on the perpetrators of these onslaughts on our sensibilities and humanity, has continued to emboldened them to do even more.

The death toll in last Sunday’s terrorist attacks on St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, and in Kajuru community in Kaduna State was over 70, in one day, yet the politicians think we are not at war.

That beautiful Sunday morning, Catholic faithful had gathered to meet with their creator in worship oblivious of the evil plot by some agents of the devil who had other plans for them. The gunmen opened fire and detonated explosives killing dozens of people during the attack. Among the several dead were many innocent children, women whose only sins, it would seem, were leaving their homes to serve their God.

Yet, their demented attackers and their allies and sympathizers in government, never mind their half-hearted and hypocritical public show of sympathy for the victims, say they’re killing to defend their Islamic faith. This is simply an attack on Christianity anybody who tells you anything else is fooling himself or herself. We know better.

How do you begin to trust a government that is doing all and fighting shamelessly against all efforts to decentralize or localize policing in the country; a government that would be first to deny or absolve suspects just for ethnic and tribal sentiments? These unprovoked attacks against Christianity must be called out for what it is; a plot to cow and decimate the population of Christianity to the benefit of their Islamic religion.

If you think this unnecessarily hysteria, can you explain to me why the federal government has not deemed it fit to arrest and bring to trial any killer herder or bandits or Boko Haram suspects after all these years, yet their immediate and swift hunt for the likes of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho. Why has the government maintained and sustained its spurious rehabilitation programme for these mass killers and yet has not opened such windows for others like Kanu, Igboho and their followers? Why did the government for seven years refused and grudgingly accepted to classify these bandits as terrorists, after so much public outcry? These are bare-faced cases of injustice and inequality.

What was supposed to be an initial relief was short-lived when rumours went out that some arrests had been made over the Owo massacre as it turned out not to be true.

The Ondo State Police command had denied knowledge of the arrest of the suspected perpetrators, although there were speculations that some of the suspected perpetrators of the attack were arrested by local vigilantes in Owo.

Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo, in his grief, could not hold back tears after visiting the scene. According to him: “What we witnessed in Owo on that Sunday, I have been looking for a word to describe it but I’m not too sure I can find one because it is indescribable. There is no word to describe it. If you say horrific, dastardly, horrendous, all those ones are common words and we use them for many things.”

As the victims were laid to rest last Friday, amid sobs by Governor Akeredolu, the relatives of the victims and all other well-wishers, those whose responsibility it is to bring these criminals to justice have since returned to their normal lives of politicking. That is our lot; everybody on his own, and God for us all.

Some of the most stroppy arguments I have heard are when the same people who fought tooth and nail to see that the regional security, Amotekun, does not see the light of day are the same ones asking why Amotekun could not forestall the attack. Some have even argued that the attack was a failure on the part of the state government, because according to them, the governor is the chief security officer of the state.

I have also heard some bunch of nitwits lamely argue that crime is not peculiar to our society. True, there are killings everywhere. In fact, in America, there have been more killings as a result of gun violence than through terrorists’ attacks. However, what cannot be argued is that you are sure that there will always be a manhunt for these suspects until they are brought to justice. Can we say the same of our country? Can we go to sleep knowing that if any Nigerian is killed we can rely on the government to ensure that these felons are brought to justice?

Since the aim of these marauders is to ensure that Christians stayed away from their churches has been achieved, what next. To the best of my knowledge churches are not only places where people gather, why are they the prime targets?

May the souls of these innocent Nigerians, who apparently had voted in a government they had hoped would protect their lives and property but have been let down, rest in peace. Nigeria has let them down. May their killers and their sympathizers in government, never know peace. May the innocent children cut short by these animals arouse God’s curse on them and their families.

As for Governor Akeredolu, we await the fulfillment of his pledge to ensure that the suspects are brought to justice. I know Akeredolu as a strong-willed individual who does not suffer fools gladly, but he must ensure that he keeps that promise. If these same suspects resurface in Borno or Kano as repentant terrorists or bandits, they will most likely be rehabilitated and taken care of with public funds and reabsorbed into the society.

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Professor Jideofor Adibe


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