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The Ozubulu sacrilege


Umar Baba Garba

‘Sacrilege’ is the most appropriate word to describe the killing of worshipers in St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu in Anambra State. So have President Muhammadu Buhari in his message to the state government, the Catholic diocese of Nnewi, and the Anambra State commissioner of police, Umar Baba Garba described the heinous act. It should be added that revenge murder in a house of worship is the ultimate abomination.

In what is reasonably suspected to be a long-running drug gang war that has spilt over from South Africa, not less than 11, some account put it at 47-innocent  persons, young and old,  attending  early  morning Church  worship, were murdered  by  criminals  reported  to have been  after a  son of the town .  Many other suffered degrees of injury.  The target of the killers reportedly made his fortune as a drug baron in South Africa, and has become a notable philanthropist in the community including building the church where his father was killed along with other innocent worshipers.

The Ozubulu incident is outrageous for the reason that it was premeditated, methodical and chilling in execution. It is a shameless violation of sacredness of a house of worship. It is an affront on the State and its authority and power to secure both the territory of Nigeria, and the lives of all who reside within it. Directly, the capacity of the security services to live up to their respective professional duties has been called to question. Ozubulu is not a particularly large community. How can contracted killers come in and are not tracked by the local security agencies – specifically, the state security service and the police force? Besides, dangerous weapons are not only so available but moved around with ease. In a sane and safe society, this should not at all be so. 

Criminality is too much abroad in this land. Violence manifests in so many dimensions to the point that Nigerians are becoming blasé. It is hard to not read into these a struggle between the forces of good and evil for the soul of this country. Does human life matter anymore here? Nigerians cannot but feel terribly degraded by the psychological, spiritual, moral, and other forms of damage to them by all that they see, read, or hear going on around them. Indeed, these are times that try men’s souls.

Ozubulu and other  socially destructive acts like robbery, kidnapping,  ritual murder, political  chicanery, financial fraud, the list is long really, can be  explained by as many causes as  thinkable. But above all, it is very clear that the love of money and of power solely for the purpose of self-aggrandizement drives many of these blood-curling criminal behaviour.Nigerians now live in a culture that elevates material achievement and the flaunting of it above anything else. Money is the new god in this polity, with attendant harm to values and practices.Regrettably, in this respect, even the spiritual elite is largely found wanting. How come that criminals would donate a cathedral or whatever to the church and there were no discreet inquiries as to the source of their stupendous but tainted ‘blessing’?

It bears repeating: the incident at Ozubulu also speaks deafeningly for an unpardonable failure of proactive law enforcement. Beyond this, it is also a betrayal by government, of the spirit and letter of Section 14(2) (b) of the constitution which states that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’ This is to say, by this provision, which is the first raison d’etre of government at any level, is to keep the land and its people safe from evil men.

Ozubulu, a relatively small community, has been violently disrupted, physically, emotionally, psychologically traumatised. And if it is conclusively proved that this carnage derives from a disagreement between two indigenes, the negative effect on community cohesion is worrisome. For one reason, the termination of human life tends to close the door to future negotiation and agreement. The question must be asked therefore: where is the traditional leadership while the town is torn apart and visited with so much violence not by strangers but sons of the soil?

Even as the apparatus of government goes to work to apprehend the perpetrators, the Ozubulu community must come together and heal itself. The church directly affected has resumed service a week after the sad incident. By this, it has taken the lead in the process of collective healing and to defy evil. It must go further to help the Ozubulu community too.

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