On Sunday, August 6th, 2017, a hooded gun man swooped in on worshippers attending the early morning Mass at St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Anambra State. By the time his murderous mission was concluded, he had left over 13 worshippers dead and several more injured in what is certainly an audacious violation of not only the sacred but also the sanctity of human life. Several stories and analyses have been done on this harrowing and gory tragedy to bear repetition here. Several angles have been given of what led to this murderous siege and investigations are being conducted on the heinous act. The tears and pangs of pain unleashed by the senseless massacre still endures, especially amongst the direct victims of this incident. But the several narratives of the Ozubulu massacre open an inquest into the defenestration of the sacred values that determine the rules of engagement in any society.
Whatever caused the Ozubulu tragedy is embedded in the corroding value system that undergirds the Nigerian, nay Igbo, society today. The gory incident opens a new vista of interrogation into the factors responsible for the near-total elimination of the precocious values that guide the paths of a sane society. The incident pulls strenuously on the moral undergirds a functional and sane society is built on. The Ozubulu killings underscore the tragedy writ large on a society that has traded its values to the quicksand of temporary pecuniary trappings. It advertises the potent dangers starring all of us in the society for exchanging our values for monetary and worldly considerations. It shows a scary picture of the frightening dangers that we face for the simple fact that we have demoted the importance of values in preference for mundane things. It is as frightening as it is threatening and Ozubulu paints a good picture of the gory harvest we stand to gain from this state of anomie.
The most important message embedded in the Ozubulu tragedy is the warning that our society must rediscover its trampled values or perish. How best can a society perish than insane vendors of death barging into a sacred place of worship on a sacred day and splattering bullets and death on innocent worshippers that are ignorant of the reasons for such deadly expedition? How best can a society die than when mere anarchy is loosed upon it? Which road is closer to hell than when citizens of any society have no knowledge of where death lies in wait for them? The Ozubulu case shows that a society that loses its soul to the inordinate lust for money is threading on the paths of death. Its ultimate annihilation is a matter of time and for citizens living therein, nothing, not even life, is assured.
The truth is that the Nigerian society, especially Igbo society, is endangered. The society is pathetically hanging on dangerous tenterhooks when it allows its cherished values to be trampled and marched upon on the very altars of mammon. A society that no longer respects the sanctity of truth, hard work, diligence, honesty, trust and rectitude is bound to harvest such frightening results as we saw in Ozubulu on August 6. A society that has traded its soul to mammon and willingly desecrated its core values and mores is bound to get the same kind of man-eat-man symptoms that ravaged Ozubulu. Any society that submits to the allure of money and wealth far above the sacred values is bound to pay with the blood of citizens of such society. Perhaps, Igboland has been living in denial of the appropriate comeuppance of its fatal craze for money above the core values that hitherto reigned in the land. The tragedy in Ozubulu serves a rude awakening of the fact that we can’t give our souls to mammon and expect a result contrary to what we saw in Ozubulu.
One must state that what happened in Ozubulu is waiting to happen in every Igbo or Nigerian society if no urgent step is taken to take the society back from the ghouls that have bought it off with illicit money. The scary tragedy in Ozubulu is waiting to be replicated in other Igbo societies if we don’t see the need to rescue the soul of the Igbo society from the grips of illicit craving for wealth. What we saw in Ozubulu would be child’s play to what will still happen to every other Igbo or Nigerian community if we do not make deft moves to restore the debased values that hold the society in check. Ozubulu is waiting to happen in every other Igbo society if we cannot quickly mobilize the guts to quench the present hallow Igbo place on wealth; far above the priceless virtues that should guide a society aright. Ozubulu merely paints the doomsday picture of what is to come should we continue to sell off our moral values in exchange for blood money. There is no running away from this tragic prospect unless we arrest the penchant to worship and idolize money in the Igbo society.
The truth is that we can’t eat our cake and have it; we can’t sow tares and expect a rich harvest of corns. It is paradoxical as well as impossible. In a society where the end justifies the means, it has become very difficult to play by the rules. It has become very hard to walk on the straight and narrow way. It has become almost impossible to remain on the righteous paths since what awaits one from such adventure is persecution and scorn. In a society where the lofty values that should guide and lead the way have been hacked down and replaced with base and transient values that deify inordinate quest for illicit wealth and money, what we saw in Ozubulu is merely a preamble to the bizarre carnage that will happen if no brake is applied to the deification of money in Igboland today. The tragedy in Ozubulu is waiting to happen in any other community. In a situation where the traditional and religious leaders that should lead a moral rebirth have capitulated to the influence of questionable wealth and money, what we saw in Ozubulu is the only assured result a society will harvest for its perfidy.
For some time now, we have witnessed as money, oftentimes illicit money, has overran the Igbo society. Nothing is ever considered sacred in a society built on high values and etiquettes ever since the lure for money became so passionate in Igboland. Because money has become the standard measuring rod in Igbo society, the society has surrendered its priced values. Means of acquiring money have been liberalized such that no questions are asked of how one gets the money he splashes on the society. This deeply contrasts with what obtained in the Igbo society of yore where deep scrutiny is carried out on any wealth any member of the society flaunts. Ostracism was a ready weapon the Igbo society of old used to curtail the acquisition of wealth by immoral means. Then, it was unheard of that any Igbo man should adopt illicit means to acquire wealth.
But all this has changed as the worship of money and illicit wealth has swept these moral values away and has taken a pride of place in the Igbo society of today. The image of the new kid in town with loads of cash to spend has collapsed the entire society into the grips of the illicitly rich. Even when the source of such wealth is questionable or unknown, the Igbo society has been overwhelmed and ran over such that its youth are now focused on acquiring wealth, no matter how such wealth is gotten. Because with these illicit wealth, one takes commanding control of all facets of the society, it is all too evident that no one takes that long and honest road to success but cuts corners to make money and claim a top spot in the society. This cancerous virus has virtually permeated political, religious, business, traditional spheres of the Igbo society today. It has stricken these sectors and ensured that the society reaps a basketful of anomies that threaten not only the foundation of the society but the entire society today. If you want to live in denial or in doubt, visit Ozubulu. This is tragic and portends a fearful scenario for the future of the Igbo race. What happens to that age old saying that ezi aha ka ego (good name is better than riches)?
The Ozubulu tragedy should serve as a wakeup call for the Igbo nation that there is indeed fire on the mountain. It is a reminder that our society is in dire need for redemption, which can only come from returning to the ancient values that reward truth, honesty, discipline, hard work and integrity and shun the negative and corrosive effects of illicitly-acquired money. The Ozubulu massacre ignites a take-action-or-perish urgency all Igbo must adhere to or prepare for a generalization of such bloody theaters all over Igboland.
The tragedy is not more of an Ozubulu problem as it is an Igbo problem. Igbo must return to that golden era of placing the values on the zenith of the Igbo society. We must take strategic steps to end this bizarre culture of money-worship if we don’t want to end up reducing Igboland to a theater for such gory spectacles as we saw in Ozubulu. In recommending this ethical rebirth, all facets of the society must be brought to work in parts or in whole to arrest this madness. The Igbo race needs to start work immediately and act fast before the Ozubulu tragedy repeats in other Igbo communities. We must realize that indeed, it is an act-or-perish mandate and the consequences of not acting are dire.
Peter Claver Oparah writes from Ikeja, Lagos.