What is happening in my beloved Anambra State? The news coming out of the state is heartbreaking. All is not well in the South East but Anambra, particularly, is bleeding furiously and at a terrifying rate. The euphoria that greeted the election of Prof. Soludo is being eclipsed by the barrage of bad news coming out of the state.
I had hoped we could capitalise on the relative calm that surrounded the gubernatorial election itself, and the joy at its outcome to ride into a bright, new dawn. We would show the rest of the South East how to work a state. Sadly, that’s not quite how things are working out.
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Every day, there’s more news of attacks and killings and abductions and overall mayhem. Last week alone, about 20 young men were killed by hoodlums at a funeral in Ebenebe, Awka North Local Government, where the corpse was desecrated too. The coffin was allegedly opened and the corpse shot at multiple times and beaten. Some have said those responsible are cultists.
In the same week, as the funeral in Ebenebe was invaded by armed thugs, 84-year-old Prof. I. O. Onyemelukwe was shot and killed by armed men at Oko on his way back from Enugu to Nanka. His daughter, the writer and lawyer, Cheluchi Onyemelukwe, wrote a tender, beautiful eulogy to her brilliant father – who served Anambra State (and Nigeria) as a public servant and as an academic – on Facebook writing that “Despite the circumstances of his death, we are grateful to God for a life well-lived, a joyful feisty life lived every single second, a life committed to doing good…” Per reports, “the gunmen killed Prof. Onyemelukwe in the less than one hour operation, while abducting two men, who were said to have been unable to answer questions about the self-determination struggle of the IPOB.”
The week before the murders at Oko and Ebenebe, the Chairman/CEO of Ofoma Associates Limited, Chief Gab Ofoma, was shot and killed around the Ukpor-Lilu-Orsumoghu-Azia-Mbosi road (which connects Anambra and Imo State) on his way back to Port-Harcourt from his ancestral home in Nnewi. Per an eyewitness’s report on Olisa TV, he was killed probably because “he was riding in an SUV and looked like a ‘big man.”
This week has started with the report of two high profile kidnappings in Ozubulu, and the theft of a car. There is an accompanying video of a man whose singlet has turned red from blood being carried onto an okada, presumably to a hospital for treatment. A Tweeter user in Uyo claims that when his friends from Anambra State visit the state, they forgo their fancy cars for public transport for fear of being victims of kidnappers or car snatchers. There are rumour of students at girls’ school sexually assaulted by some unknown hoodlums. How has this become our new normal? How do we go on like this?
Anambra’s self-designated motto of Light of the nation feels very much like an irony at this point because whatever light Anambra has, is shrouded in darkness. Insecurity all over Nigeria is a problem, but Anambra State seems to be in some sort of scary free fall where unknown gunmen, cultists, hoodlums, gangsters, agitators etc. etc. are operating with brazen impunity, wasting lives at will simply because they can.
The incoming administration of Prof. Soludo will have its hand full if we are to reverse the trend and have some light break through the dark, evil cloud enveloping the state.
Ndi Igbo say that an elder cannot be at home and watch a goat give birth while tethered. Recently, the Anambra State Elders Council met and per an extract of their communique published in the Daily Post: “The Council after an in-depth deliberation of the current security challenges decided that to address the increasing security crisis in the state, advice (sic) that traditional rulers of various communities and president’s-general, as well as religious leader (sic) and all the stakeholders to ensure that the youth imbibe the right values in order (sic) avoid destructive vices like violence and drug abuse.”
With all due respect to the elders, and without access to the entire communique, the time for advising is gone, and now is the time for action. You cannot advise away wanton killing of anyone who “looks like a big man.” Or the desecration of a corpse. Or the invasion of a funeral to kill more people. Or the abduction of those who disagree with your politics.
Anambra has to show that it is serious about security. If not in this present administration under which the evil is expanding, then in the eagerly awaited incoming one. Prof. Soludo has his work cut out for him. He has promised to be a transformational leader, so we are looking to him to bring sanity back to our beloved state. How to do this? A friend whose opinion I respect suggests that once he takes over, Soludo should ask for the deployment of all security forces. If that’s not enough to reverse the trend, then he must introduce vigilante groups.
This is certain: Prof. Soludo will be inheriting huge challenges. I wish him the wisdom, the capability and the willingness to drag Anambra State into the path of sustained healing.