Owo Massacre, APC Nomination Fees And The Worth Of A Nigerian Life

Ayodele Suyi

Ayodele Suyi

Every normal person has not been himself since the videos of the horrendous killings at St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, went viral, last Sunday, June 5. I worked the phones for the major part of the day trying to get across to friends and relations who live in the once peaceful town of Owo. Everybody I spoke with, though not physically affected by the killings, was hysterical.

My mind raced through a lot of theories. I tried to imagine what could have informed the attack on the worshippers in the sanctuary of the Lord. Why Owo of all places? Why Akeredolu’s hometown at this period? Who did it and to achieve what purpose? In all the confusion, the only clear message I kept getting is the Yoruba non-verbal system of communication, known as aroko.

In the Yoruba worldview, aroko is a non-verbal semiotic communication device through which a coded message is passed on to a receiver, who alone has the capacity to decode and understand the message. For instance, if two communities are at loggerheads and one of the communities is desirous of peace, the one not wanting to go to war can send a message wrapped in a white cloth to the fiery community to signify its readiness to negotiate peace. If in return, the community sends a sword back, it simply means that it has crossed the red line and only war could settle the dispute.

Could the attack on the Owo church be an aroko to Yoruba land, through Akeredolu, to say that the attackers are ready and prepared to attack the Yoruba nation? If we agree that Ondo State is the tactical headquarters of Amotekun, going by the successes the outfit has recorded in the state and in Owo where the incident happened, what is the significance of that for the region?

If Akeredolu is the most vocal among his peers in the South-West and his home town was so brazenly attacked, what is the fate of the states administered by lukewarm governors of the rest of the region? Is this not a case of fire erupting from the shrine of Osanyin, the god of inferno itself? When a wind blows off the wares of an ogi- akamu – seller, what will remain of the stock of the yam flour seller?

That Sunday was not just a black Sunday for the people of Owo, Ondo State. It was a black Sunday for the entire Yoruba nation, nay, the nation Nigeria. It was a day that humanity was lost as some sons of perdition invaded the sanctuary of St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo and mowed down not less than 50 persons in cold blood, leaving several others fatally injured. The attack on the church at the peak of its morning mass was one that will go down in the history of the peaceful town as the most callous ever.

Why Owo? How do we explain the dastardly act without reading meanings into it? Owo is not just a town in Ondo State, it is the hometown of the governor of the state, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN. In the recent history of the nation’s debilitating security architecture, Governor Akeredolu has been the most vocal among his peers, especially in the South-West.

At a time the activities of killer herdsmen were becoming too threatening, Akeredolu it was, who rallied the South-West Yoruba governors together and formed a security architecture for the region in the name of the Western Nigeria Security Network, codenamed Amotekun. In all the six states of the South-West, one cannot deny the fact that Amotekun is more effective in Ondo State, while the outfit remains a stillbirth in Lagos State.

Akeredolu did not just talk about the problem of insecurity in Yoruba land. He backed up his polemics on the impunity of the killer herdsmen and other felons in the region by giving a marching order to unregistered herders to leave the state’s forest reserves. The acrimony that greeted his move from the northern part of the country was palpable, but the Owo-born SAN did not budge.

His tenacity of purpose and the rigidity of his resolve to rid his state of criminal elements received accolades from well-meaning Nigerians. He became the darling of the people and at a time, the South-East muted the idea of Ebube Agwu tailored along the structure of Amotekun. This goes along with the daily exploits of the Amotekun personnel in Ondo State as constantly reported by the media.

On the political terrain, Akeredolu’s voice is unarguably one of the loudest in the clamour for the presidency to come down south. He makes no bones about his campaign for equity, justice and fairness as the nation grinds towards the 2023 general elections. Given his penchant for defending the security of lives and property, his party, the APC, appointed him as the head of the security architecture for its convention/ presidential primaries which began in Abuja on Sunday, through Monday.

He was in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, overseeing the security arrangements for the tension-soaked presidential primaries, when the agents of darkness came calling at his home town. Receiving the gory tales of the massacre in his homeland, Akeredolu, temporarily, abandoned the party assignment and flew down home. He wept! The white-bearded legal luminary could not hold back tears as he saw the bodies of his kith and kin, whose lives were cut short by the scoundrels, who came, killed, maimed and disappeared into thin air!

I saw the picture of Governor Akeredolu as he wept at the sight of the dead bodies in his backyard. It was a gory sight. Even if one consumes a whole pot of concoction prepared with the head of a tortoise, the pile of corpses and the dams of blood in the church premises would elicit tears. I looked again at Akeredolu and I searched endlessly for his brothers, who flew back to Akure from Abuja with him at that critical moment, I did not see any?

I asked: Was Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State not in Abuja and did he not hear about the Owo massacre? What about Governors Dapo Abiodun of Ogun; Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun; Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos and even Vice President Yemi Osinbajo? What was Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu doing in Abuja that he could not accompany Akeredolu back to Owo? Why am I asking these questions?

In Yoruba philosophy, it is said: “ada ni kan rin lo ma nje omo ejo ni ya – a snake suffers when it moves alone. Our elders even go a step further to say: “ti oka ba saaju, ti paramole tele; ti ojola nwo bo lehin, tani je yo agada si omo ejo” – if the puff adder leads, and is followed by the viper with the python giving a backup, who will bring out the cutlass to attack a snake?

That is the golden opportunity the sons of Oduduwa missed to make a strong statement on Sunday. Just picture in your mind a weeping Akeredolu, with a Fayemi shaking his head in rage; Sanwo-Olu pointing his habitual finger; Oyetola saying “this is not acceptable”; Abiodun lamenting: “this is despicable” and Tinubu muttering his condemnation with Osibanjo clasping his hands on his chest and tell me what would have been the reaction from Aso Rock and the top echelon of the nation’s security?

Such an assemblage would have drawn more than the ineffectual “curse” from General Buhari. Imagine Tinubu, Osinbajo, Fayemi and Ibikunle Amosun declaring that they would not return to Abuja for the APC primaries until the Owo killers were fished out. Think about the effects that would have had! But they missed the opportunity, not because they did not know the import of that collectivity, but because they were merely blinded by their personal pursuits that will eventually lead them to nowhere. They have forgotten that there must be a citizenry before they can be described as political leaders.

After the wind has been taken off the sail of what would have been their strong collective voice, the very moment the incident happened, seizing the effect of immediacy, the aforementioned sons of kaaro oojire started to scamper to Owo on Monday- 24 hours later – and turned the palace of the Olowo of Owo to a Mecca. For the first time in history, Tinubu did not ask: “where are the cows”?

Rather, he, for the first time, again, since disaster has turned to one for ten Kobo down south, donated the sum of N50 million to the victims of the killings and another N25 million to the Catholic Church. Put together, the donation is a whopping N25 million short of the N100 million presidential nomination form for the APC presidential aspirants! We may therefore ask: which is more expensive: human life or APC nomination form? But we must give credit to Tinubu for at least shifting from his disbelief of the orchestrated annihilation of his Yoruba kinsmen, to identifying with the Owo victims irrespective of the political undertone.

That is if one chooses to ignore the fact that there was a massacre of equal magnitude in Igangan, Oyo North of Oyo State last year without a whimper from the one who revels the appellation Asiwaju of Yorubaland. In the same vein, it is gratifying that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also found his way to Owo to empathise with the victims.

Should we therefore be praying for presidential primaries every year so that aloof politicians like Tinubu and Osinbajo and co could show empathy and give support to the helpless people of the South West who have suffered untold injustices in the hands of the ‘ariigbodowi’ tribe (those whose vile acts cannot be queried) of our time?

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Professor Jideofor Adibe


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