By Prisca Sam-Duru

The Owo massacre on Sunday June 5, 2022, will go down in history as the most brutal of terrorist attacks in the South West of Nigeria. Losing scores of human beings and injuring many others who were full of life before they went to Church, in a twinkle of an eye, is unbearable.   They were innocent worshippers and must have believed that if not in the place of worship, where else can one be safe in a country terrorised to its bones.

The Owo attack as we all know was not the first. Recall the Catholic Church Ozubulu killings (Sunday 06 August, 2017); Christmas Eve killing in Madala, 2011 and, killings in other denominations in Kaduna State as well as other states in the Northern part of the country. A good number of worship places have been terrorised on several occasions; sadly, nothing has been done to punish the killers or stop further attacks.

Rev Father Joseph Bako Aketeh who was kidnapped and later murdered by bandits in Kaduna, in March 2022, has just been buried without the corpse. What a tragedy!  

As usual, all we get are condemnations from different quarters. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, issued a statement, condemning Sunday’s gory attack on St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, by suspected terrorists.

He also demanded that the murderers be brought to justice. The British Government through its High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, on tweeter, condemned the heinous killing of worshippers. In same vein, President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerian politicians including those among them that imported terrorism into the country, the Pope and, the entire world have condemned this unspeakable act of violence unleashed on innocent worshipers. 

That’s quite compassionate of them but the question is, was that the first of its kind; after the condemnations and expression of shock, what next? Is there any help coming from international community and Nigerian government to forestall such future occurrence or they are just waiting for another tragedy to occur so that they can condemn and express shock and tell us its demons from the pit of hell. 

Well, yes! We know these terrorists are demons and the government has a duty to crush them. The security situation has so degenerated that many now see the failure of security personnel to quash these perpetrators of violence, as deliberate. It’s also viewed as a sign of government’s unwillingness to do its job rather than a case of incapability.

   It has been a long week and Nigerians are still struggling to recover from the attack on St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State. They have painted the entire globe with their pain, fear of who will be next to die in the hands of rampaging terrorists in their father land, as well as disappointment on those who should help but refused to do so.

“Massacres in churches; Owo: Sunday 05 June, 2022; Ozubulu: Sunday 06 August, 2017. Before then there was the 2011 Christmas Eve killing in Madala. My condolences to the families. Attacks on churches in Southern Nigeria are rare. The three on focus were on Catholic churches.Nobody was punished for Ozubulu, with all the “concerns” we had, right noises, and lines like “the killers won’t escape justice”. 

Hopefully, Owo would be different. The investigations should be robust. While we attribute all crimes to “terrorists”, other criminals have not vanished”, Ikeddy Isiguzo wrote on his facebook wall.

Also on his Facebook wall, Mark Idiahi penned his thoughts on the massacre. “It’s a new week but it’s hard to wave the feelings. A three month old baby survived this massacre but the mother couldn’t but I have a question; what happened to the NIN and SIM connection for security? Why has the government normalized the sending of security after critics   but send condolences after mass murderers?”

Opening Monday’s Arise TV News segment with quotes from President Buhari’s speech, “…No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people, and darkness will never overcome light. Nigeria will eventually win”, Rufai Oseni asked his co-presenters, “Is Nigeria winning?” “We will, we will get there but I don’t know how many people will have to die before we do”, was Tundun Abiola’s response. 

That’s really the issue. What quantity of innocent people’s blood is required before there’s peace in Nigeria. “This is the tragedy here and this is not the first time it’s happening in Nigeria. It’s really sad indication that we could be heading backward. It happened in 2011 on Christmas day in Madala near Abuja. 

Gunmen killed 37 people and injured scores. According to global terrorism index Nigeria is the 6th most terrorised countries in the world. “We are seeing a lot of motion without any real movement. That is my fear and my other fear is where is next?”, she added.

“Well all the right adjectives have been used- ‘vile’, ‘cruel’ and ‘attack on humanity’ and how this is the hand work of demons according to the president. But the question is Nigeria continues to fail its citizens whether it’s in the North East, North West, or in the Eastern part of the country and now the South West”, Dr Ruben Abati stated.

According to him, the most important question is, “Which part of the country can confidently be considered safe? As we can see, Sunday, 5th June was a black Sunday at the St Francis Catholic Church, Owo. And it was the day of Pentecost; day when people went to Church and assumed that the Church should be a safe place they can look up to God. “The Pope has also issued a statement to commiserate with families but these commiserations have been very loud, very detailed from every direction but the issue is, will this not happen again?”

“This is coming just a week after the Prelate of the Methodist Church, Samuel Kalu Uche was abducted along with two other members of the Church in Abia State. The only problem is that the people that have been killed, did not need to die but the problem they had was that they were Nigerians; in a country where you may not be safe at home, on the road, inside a vehicle, inside the train and we keep getting this reports all the time and all you get is just statements of sympathy, condolence to the affected families”. 

Dr Abati questioned at what point the security operatives arrived the scene of incidence considering that the presiding priests said they sent distress calls. Another issue is whether the ugly incidence had any political undertone. “What is the implication of this for the unfolding political process in Nigeria. Are there some 5th columnists who want to cause problem? 

It’s particularly sad because Ondo State and South West have been relatively peaceful when you look at the other parts of the country. Since Owo is close to Lagos, the trouble is almost in the country’s commercial capital and that’s why, the level of alert should go up as the threat level is going up because it looks like some people are probably targeting… bringing their madness to the Atlantic Ocean and Nigeria should not wait until that happens”. 

In the contest of election, Dr Abati continued, “Every effort should be made to make sure that nobody sabotages the electoral process. It’s very frightening, and I’ve read quite a number of commentaries on this and everybody is in unison that we have every reason to be afraid because of the way things are going in Nigeria. 

“Christian community will see this as an opportunity to remind everyone that there’s an attack against them in Nigeria that is premeditated, and deliberate whether it is on blasphemy or persons from the underworld going with improvised explosive devices to attack a church and following up with a massacre. The Owo massacre is unacceptable”.  

Referencing Nigerian singer, Bukola Elemide professionally known as Asa’s song, ‘There’s fire on the mountain and nobody seems to be on the run’, Rufai Oseni said, “That’s the case of Nigeria”. “But it didn’t just start and that’s why we should be careful. The states should stand strong because you can condemn all you want but once you don’t create solutions, the problem continues. 

“I ask, what solution was created to the Igogo killings, Ibarapa area- the people that were killed; the skirmish that resulted, what solution was created? What solutions have the State created to the killings in the East. What solutions did the state create to various blasphemy murders like the one that happened in Abuja recently, again. What solution is the state going to create to this Owo killings”.

According to him, those questions are asked “specifically because we want the betterment of our country but the states have to stand strong. We need to speak truth to power. Let us say it the way it is; the only reason people died in Owo was because they are Nigerians and their state has failed them. We want Nigeria to be good, we want Nigeria to win but the state has to show willingness that it wants to win this conflict. We can’t build a country where people speak truth to power then you call them to come and answer to security agencies and you try to shut them up”. 

Carrying on with lamentations on Facebook, Yinka Olatunbosun wrote, “Blood on Bible made me cringe”. 

Iquo DianaAbasi wrote, “Nigeria just weakens one. Sucks away the very air you breathe. 

I can’t even find the words to articulate the pain. But yesterday’s killing reminded me of the Sunday in 2011 when we came out from service and heard that a church in Madala, Abuja had been bombed. Many more of such bombings and shootings have happened in the past 11 years. Sigh. And we have a government. May the bereaved be comforted in their grief”.

@Obot Obot Archibong; “We import everything…this Kind of massacre is foreign to us”.

Ajibade Samuel wrote;   “I believe that there is need to enact a law mandating   all places such as Motor parks, Schools, Hotels, Hospital, Religious buildings, Business / Commercial Organizations, Government Secretariat at all levels to have functional CCTV within and outside their premises. May God protect us”.

John Odey wrote… “The only law they’re going to face is get them arrested and, handed over to the government who will in turn rehabilitate them, send them into the forces of their choice; Army, Navy, air Force, custom, police or immigration service, or are there any other laws they’re going to face other than these???”

Reacting to the VP Yemi Osinbajo’s statement … ‘Owo killings unspeakable evil, perpetrators will face the law’, Ifeanyi Onwusoro wrote, “Perpetrators will face the law” have been the common refrain of this government on every other incident; from the President to his Vice. Question is, is there really any law to be faced by these terrorists? May be elsewhere but certainly not Nigeria. None have ever faced this always referred law”.

@Ebong Essiet; “Who are the darkness and their leaders? The elected leaders who know the terrorists but refuse to take action against them? If it were to be in the South East IPOB would have been mentioned immediately without any proof and the Army would have arrested innocent youths and labelled them ESN/IPOB. This is what Sunday Igboho was fighting against and the Yoruba traitors in APC betrayed him”.

Adegba Oluwasegun wrote; “Continuous condemnation and absolutely zero action against this repeated evil. I lost count of number of times this government has condemned attacks and killings of innocent citizens yet they do nothing to stop it. The worst government this country has witnessed, yet, they want to continue after 2023”.

Paul Ofu wrote, “In order to save lives, let this contraption called Nigeria be dissolved. We can’t continue like this except we like what is happening. Only God can bring relief to the family of those killed”.

Obviously livid, Michael Ifeoma wrote, “You have failed this country as our leaderStop speaking English for us all the time and find the solution to what is happening”.

@Olajide Abraham; “I think this is the most insensitive government Africa has ever experienced. No Value for Human Life. Nothing is wrong if the so called president pay a condolence visit to Ondo State tomorrow, condemn the heinous Crime!. But all he does is keep Quiet. I pray such Catastrophic government will not come upon us in Nigeria!”

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.