…The Ikwgwuonu angle
By Vincent Ujumadu
OZUBULU community in Ekwusigo local government area of Anambra State may have lost no fewer than 30 of its indigenes residing in South Africa, no thanks to the suspicion among them over failure to keep to business deals.
Amakwa village alone in the community, where last Sunday’s shooting incident at St Philip’s Catholic Church, in which 13 worshippers were confirmed dead and 27 others injured during 6.00am Mass, had also lost five of its indigenes this year in South Africa.
The villagers revealed this when we visited Ozubulu after the Sunday killings.
“In 10 years about 30 people from this place have been killed in South Africa,” a woman who preferred anonymity for security reasons told us. “It had to do with one deal or the other”, she said.
This came as the traditional ruler of Ozubulu, Igwe Nnamdi Oruche said it was the struggle for who would become the president –general of Ozubulu Development Union, ODU, in South Africa that triggered the problem in the community, even as he admitted that there was an incident in 2007 when four members of the town’s vigilante group were murdered under questionable circumstances at the neighbouring Ukpor in Nnewi South local government area.
Though the people of Ozubulu had, since the incident at St Philips Catholic Church, tried as much as possible to brush aside the issue of linking the shooting in the church with the problems associated with drug business by some people from the community, palatial mansions dotting the various compounds in the area could give the community out as an area that was not experiencing ongoing hardship in the country.
We also gathered that not all the indigens of Ozubulu in South Africa are into drug deals and other dubious trades.
Saturday Vanguard made inquiries about the owners of the mansions and discovered that most of their owners reside in South Africa and were either dead or had not returned home for a long time due to fear associated with the nature of their businesses. Looking at some of the houses, it was obvious that they had been abandoned for a long time.
It was gathered that many of the people who own the houses consistently contribute meaningfully towards community development through their relations, especially in the area of church building, road rehabilitation, market construction, among other projects.
Take the case of Chief Aloysius Ikegwuonu, popularly called ‘Bishop’ for instance, he started contributing towards the development of Ozubulu many years ago and before he returned home and got involved in community development.
Some years ago, he was awarded a chieftaincy title by the community even in his absence due to his contributions towards the development of the community.
The traditional ruler of Ozubulu, Igwe Oruche said: “ I am not familiar with the young man, but the coronation committee recommended him because of his philanthropy.
However, back in South Africa, he was said to be leading a group for the election of the South African branch of ODU, and there was a crisis that led to loss of some lives there.
The Monarch of Ozubulu, Igwe Oruche confirmed that the problem started about 10 years ago when ODU, which has a branch in South Africa, wanted to elect a new President- General there.
He said: “This created a major disagreement over who would be their leader in that country and it eventually tore them apart. But the overall President General both in Ozubulu and in Diaspora, Engr. Norbert Anigbogu intervened by inviting the two factions back home for a peaceful resolution of the problem.
“When they returned, a traditional oath was prepared for them to take in order to enthrone brotherliness among them and to further quell the rift between the factions, but most of them refused to take the oath on the basis that they are Christians.
“At that point, an alternative was made and a Catholic priest was invited to perform the Christian aspect of oath- taking which was done and everyone appreciated it.
“But later, the conflict was rekindled by some of them who reneged the agreement made during the oath taking alleged that since I, the traditional ruler, was not present during the exercise, the reconciliation was null, void and improper.”
The Monarch said that despite the disagreement, another executive of ODU three years ago, went further to invite Alloysius Ikegwuonwu-led group and the rival group to return home for another peace move, adding that after appealing to them to maintain peace, the aggrieved parties visited the Blessed Sacrament of St. Michael Catholic Church, Ozubulu, where they also embraced themselves as brothers and became happy with each other again.
The monarch also recalled that Ozubulu witnessed a similar bloody scenario in 2007 when four vigilante members from the community were murdered in cold blood in Ukpor, a neighbouring town, adding that it was a man on the palm tree that saw the killers when they were cutting off some of their body parts.
The Royal Father called on the state and federal governments to assist the community in tracking the killer squad and bring them to book, promising that the people of the community would not rest on their oars until the needful is done.
“We have an old culture, so our traditional deities will bring them out when the rituals are done by us at the appropriate time.” Igwe Oruche said.
Many people at Amakwa Ozubulu were therefore surprised when insinuations were made that Ikwgwuonu might be a drug baron, adding that most of his businesses were well known in the area.
Chairman of Ikegwuonu’s Foundation, Mr. Jovita Ofomata said it was through the Foundation that he executed all the projects, dismissing the insinuation that he was a drug baron.
Ofomata said: “It is through his foundation that he built the Catholic Church where this incident happened. That is not only that Catholic Church, he has built.
“Two other Catholic Churches; St Aloysius at Eziora Ozubulu and St Francis at Egbema Ozubulu were also built by him. Through this foundation, he has helped so many people and also granted scholarships to so many in Ozubulu and beyond.
“What happened on Sunday has left us in a state of confusion and up until now, I must tell you that I am convinced that that act is pure terrorist attack.
“There are so many stories flying around which are not true. People are saying there is a problem between Ebubechukwuzo and some other people and I can tell you that, that is not true, because till now, he has not lodged any complaint that he has a problem with anyone.
“So I don’t know where that information came from. People say he is a drug lord, and that he took money belonging to another gang. So many stories, and I can tell you that we are even confused where some of these stories are coming from.
“ I can only say to this, is that we will leave the police and other security agencies to do their work, and we urge them to do it well, and I believe the outcome of it will help us too to know what happened.
“Ozubulu people are sad over this incident and only God knows why it happened and also those behind this act, and the person or persons must be brought to book. According to him, Ikegwuonu left on Thursday for Lagos, from where he travelled to South Africa.
On the nature of his business, Ofomata said: “He is an estate developer in South Africa. He has built so many houses even here in Nigeria and sold. He is also into property management, and he is an importer. He deals on beverages, spare parts, which he imports from, China. Ebubechukwuzo is no a drug pusher.
“Concerning when he will be back, I can tell you he will be back by next week. We told him what happened and he is surprised and he will be coming by next week to take his fathers’ corpse
^. You know his father was among the victims and his step mother was also shot. I was at the hospital and the step mother is doing well, and she was asking after his husband, and was asking questions and we did not tell her that her husband had die
“Ebubechukwuzo has not complained about having problems with anyone. We have called to ask him if there is anyone he has problem with and he said no. We asked him if there is anyone he is suspecting and he said no.
“ He was here just last week, and when he came back here he moved freely without security. So I do not know where that information that he is drug lord emanated from. He played football with youths in the village, bought football boots and gave out to many footballers in the community before leaving.
“I know him well; he is my secondary school mate. I know him very well, we attended the same secondary school before we joined our areas of businesses.