By Rotimi Fasan

PERPETRATORS of the cowardly act of terror in Owo have murdered sleep and should henceforth sleep no more. Their strategy to not only violate that which we consider sacred but also strike fear in us will be met with courage and determination.

They were very deliberate in their perpetration of this foulest of murders. We must be deliberate in responding to them. Wherever they may be, whoever they are, we must find and bring them to justice.

Clearly, some evil forces are determined to shatter the relative peace that the South-West of Nigeria, a part mostly populated by the Yoruba, enjoys. They want the region turned into another wasteland as other regions have been in recent times. Be they Yoruba or from other parts of Nigeria, the terrorists that made the vicinity of St. Francis Catholic Church their theatre of operation and by so doing sent scores of innocent worshippers to their untimely grave must face the full wrath of the Yoruba should the Nigerian state fail to act with the dispatch that this demands.

Among the first thing that must be done is for the people of Owo, South-West and Nigeria at large, to accept that the perpetrators of this heinous crime are not and cannot be faceless.

They may not have been identified or identifiable in the immediate aftermath of their gruesome action but they will in due course be traced and identified. We must, therefore, not accept such words as “unknown gunmen” or “bandits” that have become standard in describing these evil actors in other parts of Nigeria. Whoever they are, these characters came from somewhere, whether in the forests or elsewhere in Owo. That they rode on motor bikes as early responders and witnesses have it should tell us that they did not drop from the sky. The motor bikes came from somewhere and returned somewhere. The infernal riders of the bikes who found no better place to detonate explosives and open fire on harmless worshippers than a church on what those who know call Pentecostal Sunday must by all means be found.

There is a clear attempt at democratising violence and making it an equal opportunity destroyer in the manner these terrorists chose to shatter the peace of a people. This is to tell the whole world that no part of the country is safe.

That the act was executed in the heart of the city, close to the palace of the paramount ruler of Owo, the Olowo and in Owo, which just happens to be the home town of the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, are pointers to the intentionality of the entire operation.

Which may explain why some are linking the attack to the very visible role the governor has played in recent times in the campaign for a shift in the power configuration of Nigeria to the South and the establishment of Amotekun, the dominant regional security outfit in Yorubaland. Many have rightly observed that while Amotekun has made its presence felt in the South-West, it has been most effective in Ondo State. If this is the reason behind the Owo attack, it will not matter at all. What should be of concern to us is that the attack represents an assault on our humanity and should not be left unanswered. Whatever was the motivation, Nigerians must not succumb to fear. We must rise to combat this new face of evil.

Until about a year ago, after Sunday Igboho was chased out of his home in Ibadan, to be later apprehended and detained in Benin Republic, where he is still under house arrest of some sort, all we heard in the South-West were attacks perpetrated by so-called herders who took pleasure in acts of brigandage, rape, kidnapping and murders.

These happened in outlying towns and farmsteads, far from city centres. They were acts of terror executed under the cover of darkness. But the massacre at St. Francis that took no less than 35 lives, other accounts put it at more than 50, was executed in broad day light. Those responsible for this just cannot be unknown or unidentifiable.

They must and will be smoked out, wherever they are. This type of terrorism must not be normalised as we have come to normalise the terror activities often attributed to both known and faceless groups like IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra),or ESN (Eastern Security Network) in the South-East, and so-called bandits and insurgents in the North-West and North-East. In these regions, the reign of terror has been total and untrammelled. The terrorists rule the roost and have taken the initiative from the governments of the regions in terms of who determine what goes on in the concerned areas.

In these places, homes are randomly visited and their occupants are marched into the forests from where their abductors demand huge ransoms. This is where the victims of such acts are not killed in the most gruesome manner.

The footages from St. Francis in Owo where children, women, men and, perhaps, whole families were wiped out in one fell swoop, make the heart bleed. It hurts to the marrows. That Nigeria has been reduced to a level where lives could be so needlessly taken, by both known and unknown persons and groups for whatever reasons, is a matter of serious concern.

Nigerians have in the last 10 years, particularly the last eight, lamented the state of insecurity- how brigand groups have appropriated the state’s power to execute and have proceeded to put it to dangerous use, while the state itself looks on helplessly. It is for this reason many Nigerians have called for power to be devolved to the state governments to establish and manage their own police unit. While Abuja has had nothing more than words of condolences to offer in the main to the many victims of these attacks, it has refused to accede to the demands for state police.

For how long shall we continue to allow merchants of terror to prowl heedlessly in our midst? What more can the government at the centre do? The governor and people of Ondo don’t need to wait if Abuja continues in its old ways of offering words of commiseration instead of action. Nor should the people of the South-West see this latest attack as the problem of Ondo State alone.

This is a call to action without giving up hope that Abuja will do its bit. It’s appropriate that people of the region are rallying round Ondo, donating blood and offering other forms of moral support to the people and government of Ondo. The fight against the forces of terror can and will be won through the focused and determined effort of the people. There is no place for terror in the South-West.

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