Murder in the Cathedral at Ozubulu
In mainstream Christian eschatology, death or properly put, assassination inside the house of God is almost synonymous with salvation or entering the kingdom of God, often expressed as ‘going straight to heaven.’ For Muslims also, there is the belief that anyone who dies in the Holy Land during the hajj will go straight to paradise. Often I wonder about the people who live and work there in the ‘Holy lands! Is it an automatic ticket to the heavenly realm for them too, warts and all? I remember Hamlet the Prince in the eponymous Shakespearean play sparing the life his adulterous villain-uncle instant death because he met the latter praying.
I also remember T.S. Eliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral in which the assassins (Knights) murder Archbishop Beckett inside the cathedral in a most callous manner after he felt out with king. But in the play under reference points of principle are at play and the struggle epitomizes the eternal conflict between the Church and the State. Beckett’s death in the cathedral within the ambit of the sacred elevates him into the pantheon of martyrs for the faith.
A little foregrounding to this intervention will help. Some gunmen stormed St. Phillips Catholic Church in Ozubulu Community in Anambra State last Sunday and killed some worshippers. There are conflicting accounts on the number of the dead or the number of gunmen. The Guardian reported 47 dead while some other papers reported 11 or 8. One thing is clear. Many people lost their lives on that Sunday morning while carrying out the pious act of worshipping their Maker. It was a gruesome and dastardly act, the type we witness in movies or read about in foreign lands.
Human beings usually attribute piety to sacred places, holy sites where certain acts must NOT take place. So, there is some level of respect or awe which we have for any structure dedicated to honouring the Creator. On this premise it would be possible to argue that all the victims of the macabre Ozubulu massacre are currently with The Lord in paradise. Let me hasten to add that I do not subscribe to such a notion; no one goes to paradise immediately, good or bad. As for those who believe that one of the thieves went with Christ to paradise that day, they should remember that even Christ did not go to paradise on the day He was crucified. That is subject for another day. But within the context of this essay and our present circumstances, it would fit the narrative of the direct actors and participants in the Ozubulu tragedy to say that the dead are currently residing with God in paradise.
However, there are some challenges to this narrative as it affects the bloody assault and murders in the remote town of Ozubulu. I am sure most of us never knew there was such a place as Ozubulu in the world. Ozubulu! Somewhat onomatopoeic one could say. Sounds like a word used for incantations too. And there is a way the senseless murders in the Cathedral looks fetish. The fetish imagination feeds on this. However, if we must believe the Police version of events, this is vendetta killing, very much in the tradition of cults and gangs. The man at the centre of it all Alloysius Ikeagwuonwu ironically called ‘Bishop’ has come out in self defence, saying that he does not run a drug cartel. This is neither here nor there. We expect the Police to do its investigation thoroughly and come out with a clear statement on the incident.
And so we move on to the so-called donation of a cathedral to an organisation as reputable as the Catholic. Most of the new generation churches which hunger for seed money and all kinds of fiendish merchandise do not question source of huge donations. Indeed they are even known to help to counter the effects of reprisals after the ‘donor’ had had dinner with the devil of Fetish Wealth. But this time it would seem that the Catholic Church in Ozubulu fell into the trap of easy money.
To be sure the donor must have felt that the donation would serve as atonement for the source of the money. It would be difficult to believe that people in the community did not suspect the source of the wealth of ‘Bishop’, the alleged drug lord who donated the church. How did this intelligence escape the eyes of the Catholic high command in the State? Of course I do know that if the information got to certain persons within the hierarchy of the church they would have rejected the gift.
Now we are faced with a dilemma. Eleven or eighteen or forty-eight worshippers of God in a cathedral built with drug money got killed by an avenger who felt that the proceeds of crime were used to build the church. ‘For worshipping in a cathedral built by money which our gang member did not share with us, some people have to die’, the killers seemed to say. They go beyond the family of the offending drug lord and exterminate other innocent worshippers. Sad. Tragic.
Nearly seventy-two hours after the incident there is yet to be a definite statement from the Nigeria Police. Nigerians would like to know the number of people arrested and how the drug lords in South Africa got away with their terrible acts for so many years. Leaders of mosques and churches should learn: not all monies should be allowed into the house of God. I sympathise with the families of the bereaved and pray God to comfort them. All the culprits must be brought to book. And finally if it is established that the cathedral was built with drug money the least the Catholic hierarchy can do is to reject and return the bloody cathedral without much ado to the bloody donor whose faraway actions have brought sadness, tragedy and trauma to an otherwise pristine, peacefully backward community.