When someone comes back to Nigeria after spending some time overseas, it is expected; an expectation that’s almost a mandate, that the returnee brings back goodies to share with his people back home. If the returnee is a middle-class white collar worker who’s just been on vacation, and, as is often the case, resides in Lagos or Abuja, then his or her colleagues generally settle for chocolate bars. However, if he or she lives and works abroad, and is only returning home for a bit, then a lot more is expected. This is especially true in Igboland, Southeast Nigeria, where the August visitor, and there are thousands of them every year, is expected to share the goodies of his exploits abroad in the form of philanthropic activities and via gift items, such as phones and clothing. However, in a tragic exception to the rule, an August visitor in Anambra, on Sunday, August 6, 2017, allegedly brought back a heart filled with hate and by the time he was done pouring it out, from the barrel of a gun in a church filled with innocent people, more than half a dozen people lay dead and double that number injured.
“At about 6.30 a.m. today, Aug. 6, I got a distress call that gunmen had invaded and shot at worshippers at St. Philips Catholic Church, Umuezekwe, Ofufe, Amakwa Village in Ozubulu, Ekwusigo Local Government Area,” said Garba Umar, the Commissioner of Police in Anambra State, according to a report on Premiumtimesng. He added, in a separate statement posted on the Facebook page of the Anambra State Police Command that “The hospital authority has confirmed 11 persons dead (that number has now risen to 12, and 18 injured,” and that preliminary investigation proved that the carnage was as a result of a fight between two individuals of the community living outside Nigeria, one of who built the church which the incident happened.
What is widely believed in the streets is that the fight was connected to the nefarious business activities of the individuals abroad. “This is not just some fight between two individuals, it’s a drug war,” an indigene of the community and a worshipper in the attacked church told me in confidence. “Whatever it is they have been doing abroad, they have finally brought it home.” The police agree; “This (attack) is not unconnected to a kind of a ‘gang war’ between indigenes of the state – the children of the same village – who are engaged in a warfare outside Nigeria, precisely in South Africa; there were killings earlier and this is a reprisal attack,” Channels TV quoted CP Umar as saying.
The scale of the tragedy in Anambra and the potential of the incident to escalate much further into a cycle of revenge bloodletting (Michoacán anyone?) calls for a more active conversation on what our people do abroad. Nigerians, and particularly Igbos, have a huge presence across the globe and most of them are hardworking honest people toiling daily through legal endeavours to earn a living and support families back home. However, there is a strand of our brothers and sisters whose dealings abroad are shady and nefarious. This minority group not only tends to tarnish the image of the country and millions of good citizens abroad, they are also very likely to bring back the most goodies to their loved ones at home.
Per police statements, the target of Sunday’s attack, who had already left the country at the time of the attack, built the church and has other churches that he has built as part of his philanthropic activities. The extent to which he is actively involved in gang crime is not clear yet, but it is very unlikely that a totally innocent person would have such a revenge hit on his head. Unfortunately, people back home, for various reasons–socioeconomic and cultural–are not always as critical of the activities of their people as they are grateful recipients of the goodies they bring back home. That indifference to our people’s activities abroad has sadly come home to roost.
“The most important thing is to get those (people) who committed the offence and we are working on that,” CP Umar said in his conversation with Channels TV, yesterday. Today, reports have it that the police have apprehended the assailants. As the investigations continue, and the affected in Ozubulu try to recover from the bloody Sunday, communities in Igbo land and across the country must see this as a wakeup call to become much more conscious about the activities of our loved ones abroad, lest they bring back more tragedies.