Last week Sunday, in Anambra, unidentified gunmen invaded St Philip’s Catholic Church, Amakwa Ozubulu in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of the state, reportedly killing no fewer than 13 worshippers and injuring scores.

The gunmen had come for Chief Aloysius Ikegwuonu, an alleged drug dealer whose father Pa Ikegwuonu was shot in the right arm when they met Aloysius’ absence.

It is despicable that innocent people should lose their lives in an incident that didn’t involve them directly, but let us ask ourselves, is anyone really innocent in this?

We have been courting and frolicking with this enemy for so long now, especially, but not limited to folks from the eastern part of the country. It didn’t start today.

Different stories have surfaced as to the cause of the shooting, but the most popular is the story of a drug deal gone sour. That may or may not be the exact cause, but I’m sticking to it for the purpose of this piece.

For context, Aloysius, aka Bishop, a notorious drug kingpin named Bishop allegedly cheated his partners from a deal made abroad and ran to his hometown to avoid retribution from his aggrieved partners for betraying them. Reports claim the whole community were aware of the source of the money—drug money, to be exact—yet they said nothing. And that is where the problem lies. That is where we should begin to question our own innocence in this matter.

Is there anyone in that town who was unaware of “Bishop’s” reputation or the source of his wealth? Didn’t the priests accept his blood money to build their church? Didn’t the villagers attend the church knowing where the funds came from? Didn’t they treat the donor and his father with deference because of his ill-gotten wealth? What other outcome could we then expect? How then can we claim to have been innocent?

It is not an uncommon sight at large functions or occasions to see a select (wealthy) few called out for the purpose of recognising them or beseeching them to make donations (usually to building the church or town hall).

They will be thanked for being there and shamelessly badgered for funds to carry out one project or the other. Every other person present will be irrelevant or not important. The focus is always on the wealthy, regardless of how this wealth was acquired.

I was at a funeral at Effurun some years back, during the proceedings, several men, clearly of questionable character strolled in, accompanied by armed policemen to emphasise their importance. They exuded an aura of affluence. Upon inquiring from one of the locals sitting beside me who they were, he replied “They are big boys.” I pried further, and no one could clearly state what kind of business these “big boys” were into. It was clear they were involved in one shady deal or another, the least of which could be fraud.

Yet they were treated with reverence, ushered to a reserved area and all attention shifted to their direction. Soon enough the band began singing accolades to them. The children present looked on in admiration and awe. These were their heroes and role models, approved by us the adults.

Why then are we shocked by the tragedy that befell Ozubulu?

For years, young men with little or no education and no visible means of income have come home and built grandiose houses for their parents. How many parents refused to live in those houses?

What message does that send to the youth? The same people come to the villages and install boreholes and build roads. Soon enough the villagers ‘beg’ them to run for office and before you know it, they are installed in the State or National Assembly or even run for the governor’s office. No questions asked about the source of their wealth. Why then should we be shocked?

Instead of exhibiting all this shock and sorrow, we should resolve today to end this cycle of greed and worshipping criminals. It’s been going on for so long and we are all guilty. The lesson learnt from Ozubulu is that we are all potential victims so we can no longer pretend that it doesn’t involve us.

Anyone of us could have been sitting in that church on Sunday. It was not an incident that just occurred; it was a disaster waiting to happen and it can happen again if we do not take steps to prevent it!

May the souls of all those lost in the incident at Ozubulu rest in peace!

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