Patrick IbekweThursday, August 10, 2017
Port Harcourt, Nigeria


ll considered, the recent widely reported mass murder of several congregants of the catholic faith in what is clearly a drug war, is as baffling as it is instructive. Perhaps, I should start this piece in much the same way I would conclude it; whichever god owns the house in which this heinous act took place should defend itself. I confess that I am merely propounding a view that originates from the Christian Bible, but I shall return to this later.

The story surrounding the above stated blood-letting that occurred in Ozubulu-Anambra State of Nigeria remains hazy, and does appear to still contain a good bit of the usual rumour and mystery that accompany such events. However, and as rumours come with some grains of truth, the underlying facts are that this gruesome murder of more than twenty persons in a catholic church in Ozubulu resulted from a drug-related contract. And as usual, there was perfidy somewhere along the line, and someone got a bullet, leading to plans for a reprisal attack. The chain of events culminating in the Ozubulu reprisal attack commenced from South Africa, but ended in Nigeria. The two major characters involved hail from Ozubulu, and are both originally based in South Africa. The reprisal attack which was targeted at one of the major characters missed its target and settled for the young man's father, as one of its first victims. Now, the question is who lost and who gained from this unnecessary bloody sacrifice? It is certainly not Ozubulu, which as one comment posted, has been placed on the global map for unflattering reasons. Secondly, it should follow naturally that most, if not all the unfortunate victims of last Sunday's massacre are indigenes of Ozubulu. In other words, this settlement by blood and iron (according to Germany's Otto Von Bismarck), has left in its trail some measures of wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Ozubulu Community.

The missed target who is being targeted because he had allegedly also murdered some person(s) in South Africa, gained the loss of his father. Very nice! The father should die for the son, not so? Yet the missed target knows very well that in this kind of war, a white flag is rarely respected. A truce lasts only for as long as it takes the bitter party to plan another attack that it hopes would achieve success. This means that the missed target would have to remain in hiding and be content with mourning the loss of his father in secret. Perhaps, he would enjoy that. After all, it is common to find bereaved families, especially those of celebrities, wishing to be left alone to grieve in private. And what did the invading drug baron and his agents gain from this 'partial hit'? Of course, the satisfaction that he gunned down the father of the intended target? He may also have reasoned that since the intended target was known to have built the church in question, it would be a personal blow if it was reduced to a theatre of blood and carnage. However, there is one collateral damage. Since he also hails from the Community, he already holds the infamous record of assassinating an innocent indigene, irrespective of his relationship to the intended target. In addition, the intended target would not be seeking an opportunity to congratulate him for killing his father in his stead. The advice then for both drug war lords is to always look over their shoulders if and when they get the blessed opportunity to walk in the streets under the sunshine. It is indeed true that there is no peace for the wicked.

Finally, one must divert attention to the temerity of mere mortals traversing isles that angels fear to tread, thereby committing sacrilege. At least that is the view of our (recuperating?) President Buhari, who in far away London, reportedly condemned the attack in strong terms. It may be that the assassins would have trod with caution if our dear President was in the country and 'hale and hearty', who knows? However, it is my mission to enquire into how these marauding death merchants developed enough boldness to invade God's house? Unless, of course, I am to believe that it happened in a god's house. There are two other possibilities: First, in the case of the true God, it is possible that he has abandoned and rejected 'this house' for adultery and idolatry. The second possibility is that in the case of a man-made god, this god required some bloody sacrifice which has taken long in coming. Therefore, it was decided to give it in quantum measures. The truth is embedded in one of these three possibilities, it has to be!

And that brings me to the biblical story of Gideon (aka Jerubbaal), which I think is applicable to the sacrilege committed by these brigands at Ozubulu. The Bible records in the Book of Judges, Chapter six that a certain Israeli Jew, ceased with zeal and passion for his God, and incensed against his people for engaging in idolatry by serving strange gods, instead of the true God, went by night and destroyed the altar of the strange god then known as Baal. Gideon even went further; he built an altar to his God on the ruins of the former altar and offered his sacrifice, as instructed by his God. As soon as the men of the city established that Gideon was culpable, they visited in their numbers to dispense the appropriate punishment on him. Joash, the father of Gideon enquired from them if it was not the altar of a god that was pulled down; he thereupon advised the mob to leave the matter to the god whose altar was destroyed. In effect, if he was god enough he should be able to visit the requisite punishment on Gideon by himself. In plain terms, the old man was saying that humans must not be seen to defend gods, whatever the circumstances, at least not by force of arms, as practised by some religions. Needless to state that on that note the mob dispersed quietly, leaving Gideon and his father alone.

The gory events that occurred at Ozubulu may have come and gone, but it is clearly unnerving to most Nigerians, especially the congregants of the catholic faith, that assassins and murderers have no reverence for their place of worship, i.e., the house of God. While we collectively mourn the loss of innocent lives, the advice of Joash above is relevant and appropriate. If the true God is there, then he would speak for himself sooner rather than later! If he does not, then that leaves the other two possibilities discussed above, either of which implies that we are talking about a dead god. As they say, a word is enough for the wise.