GOING TO CHURCH IN AKWA IBOM? TAKE YOUR HYMNAL, YOUR BIBLE AND YOUR AK47
The Chairman and General Overseer of Qua Iboe Church of Nigeria, Rev. David Udoudom, was so surprised. What he had never heard of in his close to 60 years of existence in Akwa Ibom State had happened. And it happened right inside his church.
And he exclaimed in his native Annang dialect: Nsuto mkpo idom; ibisikaama ikang idi ufokabasi? Meaning: What kind of thing is this; are we all going to be coming to church with gun?
That was early this year when members of Qua Iboe Church, Iwok Nsit in Nsit Atai local government area of Akwa Ibom State were trying to psychologically play back the event of January 31 where kidnappers had stormed the church, killed two women; injured several others including police orderlies and succeeded in kidnapping the former director general of NYSC, General Edet Akpan (rtd).
Governor Godswill Akpabio was also there in the church to console and encourage the distraught congregation which did not know whether to continue crying or to curse the villain that has desecrated their place of worship.
The clergyman might have made a prophetic utterance even in his state of confusion - taking guns to the church as a security measure. Nobody knows how many people had silently responded to that rhetorical question by arming themselves to the church. It wasn't until Sunday, June 20, that it dawned on the entire state that kidnappers or assassins would no longer enter a church in Akwa Ibom to kidnap or kill people without at least a fight.
Mr Paul Inyang, an elder of African Church and former deputy secretary of PDP in the South-South zone, had gone to church that day armed either as a security routine or response to some premonition.
The service had gone halfway before the evil visitors arrived at the Ebenezar African Church, Mbierebe Akpawat in Ibesikpo -Asutan Local Government Area. The state police commissioner, Mr Walter Rugbere said the hoodlums numbering six came on three motorcycles. They held the pastor hostage and demanded to see Paul Inyang.
Paul Inyang himself, 'an elder in church told him to run; but instead of running he went to his car and brought out his own gun and shot at the people. They then killed him.'
'The police heard the shooting and laid ambush for them and they clashed with the police. They even shot one police corporal on the leg. But we have been able to arrest one of them. Others escaped but we already know their leader and we are in his house waiting for him. He is a known person in Ibesikpo,' Rugbere said.'
It was one killing in the church too many. Gov. Akpabio, like the one that happened in Nsit Atai, went personally to console the family. He was accompanied by his wife, Unoma.
Like in the Qua Iboe Church case, he had directed the security agencies to fish out the culprits and bring them to book. He said he would not sleep until the criminals are arrested and brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others and commended the security agents for arresting one of the gunmen, noting that people would have pointed fingers at the government if one of them was not caught.
He hinted that government, using the enabling laws, would confiscate the house of one Monday Akapautong fingered as the ring leader of the murder plot by one of the arrested criminals. The governor also urged the Village head of the area and the local government chairman to assist government in apprehending the criminals who are still on the run.
The Governor who described the incident as a sad one and commiserated with the people and government of Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government over the demise, asked the family to take heart in the fact that their father was a good man, praying that the blood of the slain would haunt the killers.
Akpabio, who declared ''enough is enough'' castigated politicians who are desperate for political power by killing, maiming and blackmail to get to government.
The untimely spokesman of the family and second son of the slain politician, Idongesit, put it straight that his father died for Akpabio, or for supporting Akpabio. He said the father had equally enjoyed the love and support of the governor, and that his father had helped to build PDP in the state and in the country. As such he was happy that his father died gallantly.
He did not explain what he meant by gallantly; whether it was taking a gun to the church, firing a shot that did not kill even one of the hoodlums but getting killed in the process? And the governor did not also explained what he meant by 'Enough is enough'
Maybe Inyang's sacrilegious murder would finally bring to an end the murderous strange culture which has come to pollute the state in the past one year it has even brought the inspector general of police, Mr Ogbona Onovo to a hurried working visit to the state. He made sure that he went to Inyang's house to hear things for himself. Some people said they wished he had come when other people were killed.
Maybe the Bosnia on the church premises was unique, unique enough to jerk people and groups out of their confusion and inertia. One of such groups which addressed some journalists on Thursday is the Coalition of Civil Society/Human Right Group led by Mr Ifot Ifot.
Ifot was blunt; he told the governor, the police and the state house of assembly to stop the carnage.
Ifot lamented that so many natives of the state have been killed and harassed by men of the underworld probably sponsored by some political gladiators in order to attain a certain political height.
'These heinous activities have rendered many children orphans; wives, widows; husbands, widowers; while dependants have their bread winner's sun set at noon. For the records Akwa Ibom has over the years been rated the most safe and peaceful state of the federation as a result of the effort and commitment of our forebears.
'Posterity will never forgive us if we continue to keep mute and watch nefarious activities gaining grounds and popularity in the state.
'As the 2011 general election is fast approaching, we in the Human Rights and Civil Society groups are not unaware of these social ills but have been silent over time to see repentance on the part these negative actors. However, our silence has reached its limit hence the need for us to launch into serious investigating and fact finding activities with a view to unravel the faces behind these mayhem done on our peace loving people as this will also serve as a determinant of who goes into what within the political scenario in the state.
'We call on the Nigeria Police and other security operatives to unmask these hoodlums when identified so as to serve as deterrent to others. We also urge members of the public to be vigilant, security conscious and report suspected hoodlums to the appropriate quarters.
'On a very strong note, we wish to impress it on all our political office occupants as well as seekers of political office holders to exercise restraint in their actions, utterances and activities in their quest for political powers in order not to fuel undue tension within the polity as democratic powers are not taken by force but through a free and fair balloting,' the group said.
Will Inyang's 'gallant death' bring an end to the killing and kidnapping in the church, in the school, in the streets, in the homes, at petrol stations and everywhere in the state especially now that everyone including Onovo has begun to show concern? Or will the trouble continue into the election year so that more people could die even more gallantly? Nobody appears to knows the answer. For now, going to church is like going to the African National Congress (ANC) rally, one must add Umshini Wami; 'Bring me my machine gun.'