The sad massacre of innocent lives by armed hoodlums who attacked St. Phillip’s Catholic Church has taught Nigerians a bitter lesson.
Many people have blamed the massacre of innocent worshippers that took place two weeks ago at St. Phillip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu in Anambra state to the shenanigans of drug dealers and their alleged intercourse with religious leaders in the state. According to the police, the massacre was as a result of disaffection in the camp of two powerful sons of Ozubulu community living outside the country identified as Chief Aloy Nnamdi Ikegwuonu, Akuchinyere Nwata 1 (aka Bishop 1 of Ozubulu) and Chinedu Akpunonu (aka Obrocho). In fact, Ikegwuonu is alleged to have built three churches in the area including the Catholic Church where the massacre took place.
A report by Vanguard revealed that the quarrel between the two sons of Ozubulu residing in South Africa was caused by suspicion among them over failure to keep to business deals. The two extremely rich sons of Ozubulu are alleged to be drug dealers and have perfected the act of competing and showing off their riches in the community before the sad encounter that claimed many lives at the church. One of them is said to be a popular philanthropist with numerous people on his payroll and many others on scholarship.
The disagreement which started way back in South Africa was because one person reneged on a business deal forcing the other person to send assassins in revenge. So, the assassins after being briefed that their target was in the community went after him but to their chagrin, he was nowhere to be found. What they did know was that he got hint of the plan and left a day earlier, according to reports in the media.
So when the gunmen invaded the church two weeks ago, they went straight for the target’s father who was at the church that early morning and shot him dead. However, they didn’t let him take the fall alone so the assassins unleashed mayhem on the innocent church members killing more than 12 of them and leaving many others seriously injured.
Since the incident happened 2 weeks ago, the police is yet to arrest the killers of the innocent church members.
What have we learnt so far?
Whether the culprits are caught or not, this incident has exposed the flawed nature of our religious centres all over the country. Will we remain silent waiting for yet another of this type of attack to happen before we take the bull by the horn? No!
It has become pertinent at this time for all religious leaders to take the issue of security of lives and properties of their members more seriously. They must as a matter of urgency add security features in all their places of worship. Apart from building road/house barriers, they must install close circuit cameras, alarms, security lights etc which can be used to prevent and possibly nab criminals after a crime has been committed.
Posting of armed security personnels to churches will not be a bad idea as it is obvious worshippers are no longer safe in places that should be seen as sacrosanct even to the most vile soul.
All over the country, it is still the same sad story especially in the northern part of Nigeria. Many lives have been lost to suicide attacks carried out by members of the dreaded terrorist group Boko Haram at churches in the north. They have succeeded mostly because of a policy of laxity and nonconformance in our worship centres. Yet, religious leaders have not found it worthy to restructure the way churches and other places of worship are built to make it difficult for such evil souls to penetrate. Instead of expending too much energy talking about the need for tithe, religious leaders must as a matter of urgency make safety a paramount feature of their places of worship. It is no more funny that churches that are supposed to be sacred places of worship, have become the playground where hideous murders are committed.
The safety of worshippers should be most paramount in all places of worship as dead bodies do not praise God. They must find every means possible to avoid making the church a place where the blood of the innocent are spilled by vicious men who have no fear of God in them.
In retrospect, the relationship between the church and the principal actors in this ugly incident must be reviewed in a holistic manner. The activities of the church and its financial relations calls for serious questioning. Churches as a matter of urgency must stop affiliating itself with people of questionable character.
It must stop catching every penny thrown at it by people who have through dubious means made money or those whose sources of income are questionable. The church must activate a check procedure to help it filter those that are not in good standing with the society who disguise as philanthropists to gain access to the church as an enclave to hide and continue their nefarious activities.
The principal actors in this ugly and tragic incident are alleged to have made their money through illegal means. They are very well known and influential people in the community as such, it will not be too difficult to ascertain their sources of income if pursued. Not only are they pompous, they are known for showing up at parties and other ceremonies spraying millions to showoff their wealth, according to reports. It pains me that the church did not for once deem it fit to consider what it would cost it by associating with such people of questionable disposition which would have prevented the loss of innocent lives in this tragic manner. It is now crystal clear to all that mixing religion with politics and tussle for power is a dangerous game which as we have seen is capable of consuming the lives of innocent people who are not players of the game. Churches all over the country have a bad reputation of dining with politicians, thieves, looters and criminals for cheap financial favours.
Here and there people who have been convicted and known to have stolen from the country are given front seats at churches. These criminal-minded people donate millions of naira, build churches, buy cars and jets for the men of God who in turn become mute so as not to annoy their benefactors. Due to such impunity, the religious leaders cannot question the obvious lapses in character which they might have noticed so as not to lose their sources of income. This has made it possible for the church to become the new hideout for criminals, looters, drug Lords, killers, rapists and ritualists who take up different responsibilities in the church in order to appear guilt-free in the eyes of men. What a shame!
How on earth did we reach this level of murdering people inside a church which ordinarily is unheard of? The Insecurity in the country is indeed alarming. Men of the Nigeria police must wake up from their slumber. It is not a rumour to say that since time immemorial, the men of the Nigeria police have been very disappointing in safeguarding the lives and properties of Nigerians. Instead, the policemen in Nigeria are good at harassing, taking bribes and running after the rich people in the society, even worshipping them as gods. The core job of securing lives has been bastardized by officers who are not only greedy but wicked. Sadly, that contributes to the high rate of criminality in the land. It is over 2 weeks since the incident, nothing tangible has been heard from the police. We hope this case will not die a natural death as we have witnessed in other cases in the past.
The Insecurity in the land is worrisome. As we complain about the police, Nigerians must learn to work with security operatives by providing necessary intelligence as at when due. This can be done by reporting suspicious faces to security operatives for prompt action.
There are many lessons to learn from this ugly church encounter. Community leaders must ensure that their people are safe and secure by setting up vigilantes to augment the effort of the police. No longer shall we allow evil monsters who are fighting a battle we do not know about to take the lives of our dear ones before our very eyes. Enough is enough.
-Alexander Thandi Ubani is an Editor with tori.ng.
He writes from Lagos.