By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA – CHIEF Aloysius Ikegwuonu is a well-known businessman in Anambra State. Said to be based abroad, Aloysius, popularly called Bishop by his admirers, became famous about three years ago when he took Anambra State by storm through his philanthropy to the needy. At the last count, he had built about three churches, one of which is St. Philips Catholic Church located in his village, Amakwa Ozubulu in Ekwusigo Local Government Area. In the past few months, some people living with him outside Nigeria have been castigating him in the social media, with some accusing him of reneging on some of their business agreements with him.
While the attack on the church he built in his village was a surprise to many people in the community, others who had been following the social media attack on him might not be surprised. The attack on St. Philip’s Church could, therefore, be the climax of business gone sour.
Social media attack
It might be too early to ascertain what actually led to the attack for now as the Police said they were still investigating, but many villagers from Amakwa community who attended the early morning service and were caught up in the unfortunate incident would not forget August 6, 2017 in a hurry.
After the shooting incident inside the church, blood was splattered all over the place and some of the windows of the church were badly torched. By noon that Sunday, both Governor Willie Obiano and the Catholic Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Most Reverend Hilary Okeke, as well as the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Garba Umar, had visited the church where a large number of policemen were already surrounding the premises. Many Catholic priests from within and outside Nnewi Diocese were also seen at the church sympathizing with their colleagues.
The parish priest of St. Philips, Reverend Father Jude Onwuaso, still lacked words to describe what happened when South East Voice visited the parish house next to the church. Surrounded by a large number of elderly men and women from his home town, Onwuaso apologised for his refusal to speak on the matter, saying the Nnewi Diocesan Communications Director, Rev Fr Hyginus Aghaulo was the only person directed by the Bishop to address journalists.
Aghaulor said: “What on earth would make people open fire on innocent unarmed worshippers, including children and women, on a Sunday morning? We condemn this ungodly act in its totality; we pray Almighty God to console the families affected and assure them that our hearts are with them as we pray for the quick recovery of the wounded. For the entire parishioners, we call on them not to be discouraged in their usual practice of faith. It is when the forces of darkness attempt to overshadow goodness that the light of God shines even brighter than ever just as it happened on Easter Sunday. Evil may make attempts but God and goodness will always triumph; we call on the good people to continue to pray for the deceased worshippers and their families.”
Though most of the people refused to discuss what might have fuelled the attack on the church, it was gathered that mistrust among people from the area residing mainly in South Africa was rampant and giving elders in the community a cause for concern. One of the people who summoned up courage to talk on the matter said: “Our boys living in South Africa are killing each other and we don’t know why. This year alone, about five of our boys had been reportedly killed, not by foreigners, but their fellow Ozubulu people over alleged disappointing business deals. Some of the issues had been tabled at village meetings by the relations of those concerned and sometimes settled at that level, but we are not there in South Africa with them and, therefore, do not know if the intervention of the villagers made any impact.”
The clarification by Governor Obiano that it was not a terror attack doused the mounting tension in the state as many people were already saying that it might have been herdsmen, Boko Haram or IPOB members. The governor said: “It is tragic that these two people had to bring their quarrel abroad to the village and to the church where innocent people had to be killed and injured. We are not going to relax until those who perpetrated this heinous crime are apprehended. That, I can assure you.”
Obiano, who was visibly worried about the incident said: “It was so bad that the gunmen went round the church to ascertain that the car belonging to the person they were after was there before they entered the church and started shooting, not knowing that it was his parents that came with the car. I don’t want the churches in this state to become apprehensive because of this incident because it is an isolated case.”
The governor commended the doctors for their quick response to save lives, adding that but for their intervention more lives would have been lost. He also promised that the state government would offset the bills of those being treated and assist in bearing the cost of the funeral of those who lost their lives.