By Morenike Taire
The country- not Anambra state alone- woke up to a tragedy of gargantuan proportions last Sunday. It is no longer news that gunmen walked into a catholic church in an Awka village during the early morning mass- while most of the nation still slept on this day of rest- and proceeded to massacre the faithful and not so faithful, in the goriest manner possible.
As survivors are reliving the nightmare and the body count is increasing, the rest of the country will now shudder each time they walk into a place of worship on Sunday morning. Soon, public places will be avoided altogether, since none- even the ones once considered sacred- can be considered safe any longer.
There have been terrorist attacks in universities, shopping malls; the office of the United Nations. Children have been abducted from the presumed safety of their schools and boarding houses. Foreigners have been abducted from their places of work. Lecturers have been cut down by explosives. No one is safe.
It is on this premise that the Lagos State government advised parents, at the onset of the summer holidays of 2017, to keep their children and wards at home rather than pursue the age-old culture of attending extra-mural activities.
Who, then, is safe?
Former US president Barack Obama defined terrorism not as the firing of the bullet or the detonation of the bomb; or even the deployment of the most ingenious of unlikely weapons the evil mind of a terrorist can conjure; but as the change of lifestyle occasioned by these events.
According to him, when the man of violence has been able to drive fear into the minds of those he attacks to such a degree that they are willing to change their way of life in order to avoid the violence- that is terror.
The truth is that with between the Badoo and the abductors, Lagos is currently squirming under the tyrannical fist of terror at this time. With herdsmen running amok and being given fancy names different from the terrorists they are; with Boko Haram doing their thing, the country appears with every passing day to be sinking deeper and deeper into a terrorist state.
What happened in Awka last Sunday fit the bill as it has probably altered the way that sleepy village will relate to itself forever. Neighbours will no longer trust neighbours. Law enforcement will hang around for a while; there will be some ramshackle sort of investigations. Arrests have been made and will be made. We will be outraged about it for a while.
Fresh facts will emerge but we will ignore them and stick with the drama. Eventually, it will all fizzle out, giving way to more nouvelle sources of outrage. We are fast developing a thick skin to terrorism, just as we have developed a thick skin for virtually every man made misfortune that has bedevilled us.
While this is one evil we cannot afford to have a thick skin about, cynicism is, ironically, the one vice that can help to thin out our calloused skins. And so while we must mourn our callously departed, it is of utmost importance to continue to dig into the causes of our conflicts, particularly the social ones. We must also find the dots and connect them in the hope that a total picture or even half of a picture will emerge.
The dots emerging from investigations into the shootings at Awka suggest the beginning of a picture that is disheartening to say the least.
It confirms that the de-sanctification of the church has occurred not from the outside as it is currently touted about the Awka Catholic Church shootings but from right inside the church.
The religious body in Nigeria- not at all restricted to Catholicism, Christianity or for that matter, Islam- has become its own worst enemy and while adherents and non-adherents alike continue to refer to religion as the opium of the masses, it is clear it has become anything but.
In Nigeria, religion has lost the power to send adherents frothing at the mouth with diligent vituperations and hysteria. The opium effect has definitely worn off and it has lost its ability to keep the masses happy.
Religion has assumed a new role in the Nigerian space, which is to apportion money and power according to the portion each greedy adherent can grab.
As long as priests are collecting cash from drug peddlers to build monuments unto themselves in the name of church buildings, gunmen will find nothing strange in stomping the grounds of property put up by one of their kind.
As long as prospective governors are standing before shrines to swear allegiance to godfathers where looting of the commonwealth is concerned, ordinary men will go using their bare feet to kick the shrine out of their beleaguered way. As long as former presidents and their families stomp around flaunting ill-gotten wealth, ex-servicemen will be cleaning them out with no conscience.
New classes of crime will continually emerge, and new laws and strategies will have to be developed to counter them.
Such strategies have to be sustained, and as Barrack Obama often said in articulation of his foreign policy regarding terrorism, “It’s better that we don’t shoot first and aim later.”