OZUBULU TRAGEDY AND LEADERSHIP RESPONSE
Unusual news popped out of Anambra State on Sunday, August 6, 2017. The State’s long run of good press in security and investment profile was suddenly interrupted with the insane massacres that took place at St Philip’s Catholic Church on this day right in the course of holy mass. Regardless of the casualty figures in dead and injured, the incident is horrific as to ignite both outrage and benumbed silence. Yet, the sensitivity of the incident begs against avoidable acts capable of aggravating the situation. Unfortunately, even as the political and security authorities are taking steps to contain the ramifications of the case, hasty, uninformed and prejudiced comments have tended to blur and misrepresent the issues.
The tragedy is too painful to be politicised and trivialised. The feelings of those affected by that horrendous assault are still touchy and tender like an open wound. They deserve our compassion, solidarity, understanding and assistance. The circumstances demand soberness on the part of the rest of us, not impulsive reactions, not whimsical tales, not flippant commentaries. Distortion of events as some are doing on social media has the effect of adding to the grief of the victims. In the face of the consensual view among the people of Ozubulu and other credible sources that the tragedy arose from a deal gone sour among their sons, the wanton interpretations that this was a case of terrorism or political conflict only makes sense from the angle of escalating tension. Such attitude insults the intelligence of the rest of us and visits unspeakable violence on the emotions of the victims.
It is difficult not to believe that the bug of conspiracy theory had since caught up with the Nigerian society. There is hardly any development in the country today that is not subjected to all manner of whimsical and magisterial interpretations. A notorious kidnap baron is finally arrested after eluding the security agencies for long and the next thing you hear on the internet is that it is the stock in trade of his ethnic group; kidnapping is another way they are chasing money. A government functionary decides to resign his appointment for personal reasons and the story is taken over by outsiders who turn the matter into a short work of fiction. If the coach of the Super Eagles loses an important football match, then God help him, because he cannot escape a barrage of criticisms from player selection favouritism to personal incompetence. Perhaps, it is a quest for sophistication; a penchant to appear different and ahead of others in analytical thinking.
But there is also the strong likelihood of overriding partisan interest. A petty mind is wont to have a jaundiced view of events. If not, why would an otherwise reasonable person choose to stretch the imagination to the ridiculous point of inventing a situation that does not exist? What is to be gained from this compulsive rumour mongering? If there was no beclouding bias, what is the profit from engineering confusion and seeking to cause disaffection in your society? If the motive in depicting the Ozubulu tragedy as act of terrorism or political violence was to portray the Anambra State Government as weak and incompetent, then, it was a failed propaganda.
Leadership response was swift, sure and sharp. Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, rose admirably to the occasion, arriving the crime scene shortly after the shootings. The Governor’s prompt presence at the site could only be attributed to a functional security system that has served the State well for three and a half years; thus, the visit was backed up by requisite intelligence communication and containment of the breach of public peace. Naturally, the most immediate task was tending to the injured and consoling the bereaved and the Governor did the needful. Anyone familiar with the bureaucratic anonymity of our teaching hospitals will appreciate that the Governor’s guarantee of underwriting the medical expenses of the wounded has probably saved many a life that would otherwise have been denied appropriate medical attention. It became known the following day that the Obiano administration had also mobilised 50 more doctors into the medical team caring for the injured. Discussions with the priests of the parish and witnesses as well as initial police clues provided useful insights into the situation. Armed with this information the State Government issued a statement outlining the frame of the assault, and reassuring on protection of lives and property.
Obviously conscious of the need not to jeopardise police investigations, the Anambra State Government’s advisory on the nature of the violence was conveyed in the Governor’s broadcast to the people of the state on Monday, August 7, 2017, a day after the State Police Command had described the attack as a ‘private feud’ between members of the same community. The Governor’s appraisal of the black Sunday as a ‘gang war’ converged substantially with the police position. More importantly, the Governor made two firm submissions. He pledged that the course of peace will be driven to a logical conclusion through the prosecution of the suspects in the crime. Obiano further avowed that by the help of God, such bloodbath will not take place again under his watch! Mercifully, a number of useful arrests have been made setting the time closer for the wheel of justice to begin turning.