Ozubulu Church 2

We need to realise that the time for us to go back to our roots and bring back those cultural heritages that can restore high social and moral values is now because I am yet to see a society with the kind of moral bankruptcy that we see today that is crime free and develops at the pace it should.


“…what on earth would make people open fire on innocent unarmed worshipers, including children and women, on a Sunday morning…?” – Rev. Fr. Hyginus Aghaulo, Catholic Diocese of Nnewi, Anambra State.

August 6, 2017 will remain a black day in the annals of Ozubulu community in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State.

Not just because of the lives that were cut short in the most gruesome manner inside a sacred place of worship by merciless killers, but also because, on that fateful day, the sleepy farming community was conspicuously placed on the world map for a very wrong reason.

For years to come, at the mention of the word Ozubulu, images of the blood stained floor of Saint Philips Catholic Church would immediately come to mind.

As expected, less than 12 hours after the gruesome attack, statements condemning the perpetrators of the heinous crime, from key figures including President Buhari, who is on medical vacation, poured in from all directions.

While the Catholic Church expressed concern over arms proliferation, Governor David Umahi said “…this type of wickedness…show(s) how wicked our generation is drifting…” For Senate President Saraki “…it represents the purest kind of evil…” while his deputy, Ekweremadu decided it was “…blood-curdling killing…”

Comforting as these statements may appear, none of our leaders cared to seriously ask why “…our generation is drifting…” Nor did they care to notice that we need not tread far to find answers to Fr. Aghaulo’s lament above. They pretend as if they don’t realise that dwindling values and social menace travel in the same direction.

When a society discards all ethical values, decides to celebrate people with questionable sources of wealth, dire consequences would naturally follow.

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Ozubulu is a clear case of what a society that pays little attention to conscience gets when the family unit is failing, when moral values are totally eroded; as such the blame for the death of those innocent people must be placed squarely at the doorstep of society, especially the church.

Violence against churches is not new in Nigeria, which is the reason why most churches in Northern Nigeria hold services under tight security arrangements today. But no one expected, even in our wildest imagination, what materialised on that momentous Sunday; the day, ironically, of the celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord in a Catholic parish in Anambra State, the ‘Home for Good People’.

In a state where almost 80 percent of the residents are Catholic, where almost every family can boast of a priest, what example has the church been showing, such that a man with every likelihood of being a Catholic himself, would be so conscience dead as to come into a church with a gun, and open fire sporadically on women and children, when his target was obviously not in sight? Doesn’t this tell a lot about how fast our moral values have gone down the drain?

Governor Obiano and the State police are unanimous in describing the occurrence as a battle from a foreign land that spilled into the State, even though one Mr. Ofomata has come forward to deny any wrong doing on the part of his benefactor, the man at the centre of it all, High Chief Aloysius Ikegwuonu, aka ‘Bishop’, a ‘business’ man and philanthropist.

Though celebrated at home, the high chief is alleged to be a ruthless 30 something-year-old millionaire who, in his line of ‘businesses in South Africa’ gave no qualms about dealing with opponents, as well as those who work for him. Yet, it is common knowledge that society accepted him, even celebrated him as it has been doing to countless others like him, so much that at 35, one of the churches he built was named ‘Saint Aloysius Church of Divine Mercy’ after him, and billboards of him and the governor quickly surfaced in strategic corners of the community. One wonders what sort of ‘divine mercy’ the high chief hoped to obtain from God by building Him places of worship, and for what?

At the last count, it was reported that ‘Bishop’ built three churches for his community, and even built roads and schools, some of which Governor Obiano commissioned. This, of course, raises a profound moral query: Should a community that is marginalised by mainstream government refuse or consent to donations from folks with doubtful sources of fortune?

Even though I don’t have the answer to the above question, I know that we like to make a lot of noise when an incident of this nature happens and thereafter quickly consign such stories to history and return to business as usual, and then all those who may have lost their lives would be forgotten.

We can live with a government which, by example, is failing to instill the much needed values in our children by distancing itself from or even probing questionable individuals, but can we justify a church that accepts gifts from and also celebrates such people?

Can the Catholic Diocese of Nnewi deny knowledge of the man’s source of wealth? And even if the entire community and government resolve to turn a blind eye, should we anticipate the same attitude from the Holy Roman Catholic Church?

Then, one of his ‘business’ deals goes wrong, and blood sucking hit men are drafted in, and a carnage ensues, and our leaders still find the nerve to condemn them rather than blame themselves!

The truth is, Anambra State deserves serious attention because of the level of money related rituals and criminality, increases in cultism, mafia related and gang activities, excessive materialism and the get rich-at-all-cost syndrome that is clearly on the rise and has taken over the minds of many of the youth in the state. And there are individuals from the state who have exported these attitudes to foreign countries, especially to South Africa, from where Nigerians, like citizens of other African countries, are still leaking their wounds from recent xenophobic attacks.

For instance, as far back as 2009, ever before Evans took the kidnaping enterprise to new heights, a group known as Civil Liberties Organisation compiled over 500 cases of kidnapping, from which extortions running into millions of naira have occured, in just three years! When the government of the state began to crack down on the kidnappers, they exported their trade to other states.

In November 2016, Vanguard newspaper reported how many of the youth in Nkpor and Ogidi had taken to membership of various rival cults and mafia groups. Even in Ozubulu, the youth had to protest ritual killings in April.

Almost a year ago, another known media outfit reported a gang of mafia boys going on rampage in Obosi because one of their members, a man with a questionable source of wealth, was arrested by the police.

A resident lamented how at a point, assassinations almost became the norm, as people no longer seemed to die from natural causes because almost all deaths reported were violence related.

I pointed out the anomaly in celebrating dubious people simply because they were ‘philanthropists’ to an indigene of the state and his response was: So what? Aren’t our politicians worse? At least the drug barons build schools.

Now Ozubulu has brought to the fore what moral bankruptcy and deadly quest for wealth can cause.

The government in Anambra State must know that it has a lot of work to do in this regard, and the police owes it to the dead and their families to thoroughly investigate this matter, bring the culprits to justice and ensure there is no reoccurrence of such.

We need to realise that the time for us to go back to our roots and bring back those cultural heritages that can restore high social and moral values is now because I am yet to see a society with the kind of moral bankruptcy that we see today that is crime free and develops at the pace it should.

Afeso Albert Akanbi is a novelist and researcher. Twitter: @afeso82. Instagram: afeso82. Blog: akanbifeso.wordpress.com.