By Rotimi Fasan
IT’s now more than a week since the agents of evil made their presence felt in Owo, Ondo State, where they left the traumatised people of a morning massacre that took the lives of about 50 people, all worshippers at St. Francis Catholic Church.
In the intervening days since the cowardly attack, there has not been any meaningful clues about those responsible for it. Neither has any group or individual taken responsibility for it. This clearly proves how cowardly were the attackers.
They could only show their evil hands among the most helpless and harmless group of people there could possibly be- worshippers at the solemn moment of communing with their maker. The cowards are still unable to own up to their evil act in a vain effort to avoid discovery. But this can only be for a time. They will continue to run but cannot hide.
It is not difficult to imagine them still hiding in Owo, possibly within a short distance from the point of their disgraceful act, or somewhere in a neighbouring town or state, cowering in silence and waiting for the ruckus they created to blow over.
But it is the prerogative of the Ondo State government, Abuja and others involved in the investigation, to decide the modalities to smoke out the spineless killers, accursed specimen of the human race. Those who have perpetrated a crime as heinous as the St. Francis massacre cannot determine the terms of their own iscovery and prosecution.
May they not experience peace wherever they may be until the guilt of their crime impel them on the path of confession.
The crime was no sooner committed than the Nigeria Police pronounced it the handiwork of the Islamic State of West Africa Province. Even if this is true, announcing the origin of the perpetrators without any proof is a sure way to a botched investigation.
It follows a typical mode of no-investigation by the Police that is always too quick to be seen to be doing something than following necessary procedure. Soon they would throw up so-called suspects for prosecution without adequate investigation only to lose out on some legal technicality.
This crime fighting model is of a kind with the approach of operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, that stormed venues of the last delegates’ elections of political parties that produced thepresidential candidates.
This in a failed attempt at apprehending those out to induce delegates with money. They made their noisy entry at the Eagles’ Square venue of the conventions in reflective jackets imprinted with the organisational name and logo of the EFCC. Rotimi Akeredolu, governor of Ondo State, was right to describe the announcement by the Police as hasty. The announcement was simply untidy and appeared like an attempt at shutting down any suggestions or insinuations that could point the search for the perpetrators of the crime in other directions, as some Nigerians were beginning to do.
What is needed is for investigators to follow the trail provided by their investigation no matter where it leads. Not anticipate the outcome of the investigation in order to control the narrative around it. Mention has been made of the leading role the Ondo State government and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, as a person, have played in setting up the South-west security outfit, Amotekun.
People of the South-west have not forgotten Amotekun’s effort at fighting criminality perpetrated by herders who are mostly of Fulani origin, whether of local origin or those said to have crossed into Nigeria from neighbouring African countries.
Insisting on following the trail of this investigation to wherever it leads is not the same thing as profiling any ethnic group or people. We must all join hands to condemn evil wherever it shows itself no matter who the perpetrators are. For all we don’t know, the criminals behind the Owo massacre may well turn out to be locals of Yoruba, if not Owo origin, who operated individually or as part of a foreign terrorist collective, to unleash terror on their own people. It could also be the notorious marauders maiming, raping, kidnapping and killing all over the country under the guise of herding cattle.
But nobody will know this for sure for as long as we are too quick to keep certain aspects of the investigation, no matter how unpleasant, off-limits.
There is nothing about this latest crime that says it could not have been committed by any of the known groups that have so far operated in parts of the North-west or North-East of the country under the euphemistic labels of bandits or insurgents.
It’s in fact difficult to separate any of these groups from the so-called herders as they all seem to have adopted same strategies of operation. The different groups now work hand in hand and rather than getting overtly defensive about calling them by their real name, we should set our inhibitions aside and give them full-throated condemnation.
While we may still have some Nigerians who may be ignorant enough to stigmatise an entire people because of the antisocial behaviour of some of their kith and kin, the truth which no right-thinking person will deny is that nobody should be held liable for a crime they did not commit. Not even where they may be related to someone suspected of committing a grievous crime such as the terrorist action in Owo.
This will no doubt be a difficult call given the human tendency for stereotyping, a tendency that is heightened by Nigeria’s current politics of identity, belonging and exclusion. Yet, it is only proper that we all join hands to fight and condemn this kind of criminality that we are beginning to experience in Nigeria.
As I highlighted here last week, crimes like the gruesome terror of Owo should never be seen as a normal part of our lives nor should we attribute them to unknown persons, which will be only one step away from asking everyone to take it in their stride. No, criminal acts like this should be stamped out with every force at our disposal.
Perpetrators of such acts do not belong in civilised society and should never be allowed to live among normal human beings. They have lost every sense of humanity and the right to remain part of it. The national malaise towards amnesia, one by which we are afflicted and which enables us to move on without paying attention once an outrage has been committed against us, will do us no good if we do not insist on remedial action.
This is the season of politics quite all right and the concern now is all about next year’s elections and their key actors. But we must be careful not to forget our humanity.