By Paul Olayemi, Sapele
Her eyes were red, hair disheveled, as she bites her lip, trying to hold back the tears that are now beginning to trickle down her face. Arms akimbo, she shakes her head in regret but Gladys Chibueke can’t stop thinking why it has to be her husband in a killing that has to continued to shock this timber town during the last presidential election.
She lost her husband when gunmen opened fire on voters in the Amukpe area of Sapele, Delta State on the day Nigerians voted for their President and Federal lawmakers.
Omamode Wilson, 39, who said he was there that afternoon, vividly recalls the moment the gunmen struck “We had almost finished registration and about to commence voting when gunmen suddenly surfaced from nowhere and started shooting.
“I saw people running for their lives, one old woman was trampled upon and she was crying and begging for help but everyone was trying to save their heads, I was surprised that only two persons lost their lives that day”
When the dust finally settled, several others, caught in the crossfire and stampede were found injured too. It was a gloomy day.
Eight months on, the road to persecution for the offenders seems not to be in sight and families of the victims have cried out over abandonment.
“Those who promised heaven and earth before and after Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s visit, have abandoned us and nobody bothers about us again, many of the politicians no longer pick our calls,” Gladys, wife of late Michael Chibueke,42, one of the two who was killed on the day, told Sunday Vanguard in her dingy one-room apartment in the Otite area of the town.
The 36 years old mother of four said though they were responsive at first with some of them even coming to visit and find out how they were faring before and after the incident , “no one bothers if we are living again, my last child is sick and as I speak to you, my sister has taken her away for medication because I can’t afford to eat not to talk of medication, the children have stopped going to school too. Before school resumed last September, I tried reaching across to them but there was no response. If Michael was alive, he won’t have allowed this” she sobbed.
Mama Roseline Ogufere, grandmother of Jeffrey Otevane, another victim who was killed that day, Who brought Jeffrey up after his mother’s death and now saddled with the responsibility of taking care of late Jeffrey two kids also narrated to Sunday Vanguard how promises were made after the shooting “The politicians came in droves, and made different kind of promises but for months now, they have become difficult to reach, maybe because the Governorship election was close then, but now they hardly pick calls.
My son has had to chase them from one place to another. We have been left to our fate”
A neighbour who craved anonymity told Sunday Vanguard how Wala, an uncle to the late Jeffrey stormed the Okirighre garage in Sapele, sometime in September to disrupt work on stores being constructed there “He was furious that they have been ignored for too long and he was fed up of their hide and seek game, he would call and nobody would answer him, it was obvious they were avoiding him and the PDP stalwarts had to reach out to someone who calmed him down before work could commerce”
The source said when there was no response again, on the 8th of October, Gladys and Sarah Otevane, wife of late Jeffrey Otevane stormed the office of the Sapele Local Government Council chairman Hon Eugene Inoaghan, accompanied by Jeffrey’s uncle.
“And when the chairman saw them, he had no choice than to put calls across to the police and the doctors in charge of the case, he(the Council chair ) practically paid the pathologist to come to Sapele so that the autopsy could be done and the bodies released to the families and you know the tradition for the wives that if the husband is not committed to mother earth, they can’t do anything, Gladys even told me how the husband keep appearing to her that he wants to rest properly”
Nine days after the lives of the young men were cut short, the Sapele local government chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, issued a press statement accusing the All Progressive Congress, APC, of carrying out the attack, an allegation which the APC has since denied.
With Governor Ifeanyi Okowa visiting days to the Governorship election and according to Madam Roseline Madu, late Michael’s mother, a promise to reach back to the families after the governorship election, why was much promise made and little done?
Austin Ayemidejor, the Director of Asaba International Airport and PDP stalwart in the state said the claim of abandoning them was not true “how will they say we have abandoned them when we keep reaching out to them, they come to see me and I make sure I attend to their needs especially their wives”
Ayemidejor said “if the governor says he will return after elections, you should know we are the people on the ground expected to carry out his promise and we are doing everything to help in this regard. After the burial, we will pool resources together to give out to the families”
The Chairman of Sapele Local Government Area, Hon Eugene Inoaghan also denied the story of neglect by the families ” the incident happened on the day of the presidential election, but I have continue to try my best, this issue has gulped over 2 million naira of my own cash and I am still spending” adding that the reason why the corpse has not been released to the families, eight months after, was because the autopsy is yet to be concluded.
Mike Egbune , a barrister and human right lawyer who spoke on the issue said it was appalling “unfortunately we are in a society that does not place so much importance to promises that have been made, you see if I make you a promise and I fail to keep it, it’s not an offence, but this will serve as an eye-opener to these youths and others that if you follow politicians during elections, they don’t have the credibility to defend you, we should learn from this”
Two days after their visit to the Local Government Council boss, the bodies of the deceased were finally released to the families. and amidst tears on the 7th and 8th of November, eight months after they were mowed down, late Michael and Jeffrey were committed to mother earth, the People Democratic Party, PDP was said to have handed over the cash of two hundred thousand naira, (#200,000) each to the two families for the burial of the slain men.
Wala again said though they were grateful for the cash “we spent close to #300,000 but we thank God for that first, we only hope we hear from them again, and those who killed my brother should be brought to book”
Why No Persecution yet?
The Commissioner of Police, Adewale Adeleke told Sunday Vanguard that he is not aware of the case but if anyone is speaking of that issue. You should know it’s political, and I can’t really place the case if someone has been arrested, but I will ask them to check the police file if it’s there we will prosecute anyone caught and enough evidence is against him, we will certainly take the person to court”
“You know, one thing is to arrest, another is to find a witness who will testify against him and for now the case remains pending until we will find those who saw him that day and will say yes, he did it in court, let them bring enough witness and let’s unearth the case”
A claim Ayemidejor does not see in that way “we learned one of them, Shadrach was arrested and taken to Asaba and from there to Abuja, we are yet to hear anything from them, I believe they know what they are doing, look, the APC know what they are doing, and I tell you the case not seeing the limelight was deliberate”
Barrister Egbune who again spoke on the delayed persecution, urged investigations to be thoroughly carried out, “and if anybody is guilty, he should be charged to court and tried accordingly.
A week after the burial of the election victims, Sunday Vanguard visited their families at the Otite and Amukpe area of the town. Where they were asked if the other fund, Ayemidejor said was being pooled together has been handed over to them? Madam Ogunfere nodded her head and with open arms asked, “you sure say we go see them again?”
Like Gladys said when the same question was asked “Na who die na him throwaway him own, Michael use him family take gamble, now he don leave us, we leave the rest to God”