Owo bloodbath: Over 50 killed; I’ll make them pay — Akeredolu

Muyiwa Adetiba

The recent killings in the ancient city of Owo in Ondo State were as reprehensible as they were totally unexpected judging from the profile of States that had erupted in violence in recent times. Owo doesn’t fit that profile. Owo, a culturally rich town, has always been relatively peaceful. Its internal squabbles in the past were centered around its culture and its politics.But these seem contained.

Its relationship with its residents and neighbours have usually been peaceful. Like many Yoruba towns, it has of recent complained about the infestation of its forests by herdsmen, now otherwise known as bandits. But nothing suggested the situation had reached a tipping point – we did not hear of a seemingly innocuous fight in the market place or a farmer/ herdsman infraction in the bush or a religious argument that got out of hand.

 The suddenness, the ruthlessness and the timing of the attack have led to a mushrooming of conspiracy theories. June 5 was Pentecost Sunday. It signified the birth of the Universal Church otherwise known as the Catholic Church. It was also the anniversary of the day Moses received the Ten Commandments. So it was an important day in the church calendar. Was it therefore a religious attack?

Did the attackers know about Pentecost Sunday and decided to use it to press home its Islamisation agenda? Owo is the ancestral home of the Governor of the State. Akeredolu has been quite vocal about the security of Yorubaland in general and Ondo State in particular. He was a strong advocate of the ‘Amotekun’ security outfit. He was also known to be opposed to open grazing. Was the attack ethnic? Was it a show of power? Of ethnic superiority? Again, Akeredolu had been in the forefront of zoning the Presidency.

He had been the conscience of the party in a way that made those who didn’t want the Presidency zoned to the south uncomfortable. He had been effective in lobbying his fellow Governors from the North who officially conceded zoning the Presidency to the South much to the discomfiture of some people.

This concession took place barely a day before the attack. Was the attack then political? And was the choice of Owo deliberate in order to punish its ‘son’ for his ‘meddlesomeness’? Finally, there are those who believe that Yorubaland has been surrounded by militias also known as bandits who may be waiting for a command to invade whenever the occasion demands. Was the attack a sample, an enactment of such a command? Is there something sinister brewing in Yorubaland that its people need to be more wary of?

I do not normally indulge in conspiracy theories. The problem of a conspiracy theory is that it usually takes a set of facts which may not even be completely true as a foundation to build not just one edifice but several skyscrapers which might not withstand the constant wind of truth. Unfortunately, it usually results in a heightened fear or even paranoia for those who choose to believe – this is not to say conspiracy theories are completely baseless and those who peddle them have no cause.

Fortunately, the profession I have embraced for almost half a century does not encourage them. In fact, it holds conspiracy theorists at an arm’s length. Much like the legal profession, journalism thrives on facts and the presentation of evidence. The fact in this case is that a group of people mindlessly and without any discernible provocation, descended on people who were worshiping in their chosen house of God to unleash carnage and violent deaths. We leave it at this time to investigators to tell us who the people were and what the motive was.

Unfortunately, a fact, bolstered by evidences of past assaults, is that the perpetrators may get away with it. Another fact is the failure of intelligence. How did these people get into a sleepy town, position themselves, commit mass murder and slip out without being noticed? One glaring fact is that there are way too many guns in the country and many of them are in the wrong hands. How do they come into the country?  Another unacknowledged or understated fact is that many of these guns are controlled and sadly often deployed by the very people we elect into public office. In order words, our politicians.

Less than four years ago, an outgoing Governor from the South-west was apprehended for being in possession of a cache of arms. Before then, some hoodlums raided a bank killing innocent people. Investigations led to an ex-Governor from the North-central as their godfather. Nothing happened to the two ex-Governors beyond newspaper indictments. Instead, they got ‘promoted’ to the Senate and they both came out recently to vie for the Presidency.

It was a case of daring ‘whoever is without sin’ among the political leaders to cast the first stone. These days, when we say a politician has ‘structure’, it might be another word for saying he has enforcers and guns in strategic places. Our politicians operate like the mafia. They carve out fiefdoms and install operatives who do their bidding in exchange for protection. This bidding covers everything from registration of voters to intimidation and even murder. Their machinery is oiled through graft and grime.

Many politicians with the so called ‘structure’ and ‘grass roots support’ are promoters of violence and coercion. We cannot ignore that many of the flashpoints in the country are manipulated by politicians for ulterior motives. We cannot dismiss that the massacre in Owo had no political hand.

The special conventions of the two major parties have shown us the power of money and ‘structure’. It is a shame what we came up with in a country brimming with brilliant and resourceful people. It is a shame how pedestrian and insulting the criteria for choosing the candidates were. This is possible because in the end, it is not about the future of the country. It is not about addressing the poverty and unemployment in the country. Yes, the two conventions showed us how rotten and decadent our system is.

It is easy to give up on Nigeria after watching the entire charade called special conventions wherethose who had no ‘structure’ or money were treated as jokers by the delegates irrespective of their brilliant submissions- it is obvious Obama could not have emerged in a country like Nigeria.

It is telling the reasons some gave for stepping down for their preferred candidates. Those who thought 2023 would birth something new have been shocked at the role money and a Machiavellian attitude played in the whole electioneering process.

The parties have settled for politicians with ‘structure’ and ‘grass roots’ support; people they believe ‘can win’ the presidential election – we now know what that means. Those who hoped for a ‘lift’ through fresh ideas from younger contenders are again saddled with the tired faces of men who are old in ideas and age. In Nigerian politics, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

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