Crime And Politics, So Intricately Interwoven By Zainab Suleiman Okino

My friend and former colleague in Trust, Garbadeen Muhammad, must have felt relieved at the news penultimate week, that the killing of worshippers at a Deeper Life Church in Okene was after all, not the handiwork of Boko Haram. His excitement was not borne out of exoneration or defence of the group. It’s because of his foresight, or should I say guts feeling that the attack couldn’t have been masterminded by Boko Haram owing to the fact that it (the attack) did not bear their imprimatur.

On August 6, 2012, in the middle of the month of Ramadan, assailants with murderous instincts, shattered the solemn peace and quiet of a church service in Otite, in Okehi LG of Kogi state (Kogi Central comprising mainly Ebira speaking ethnic group is, in generic term referred to as Okene people). At the end of the raid, about 20 people lay dead.

The following day at a Ramadan tafsir session, near Okene LG secretariat, a commando style attack was launched on the military men guarding the central mosque and secretariat area within the same precincts. Perhaps because of Boko Haram’s aversion to churches and men in uniform or the media’s lack of investigative skills, the whole thing was quickly dubbed a Boko Haram act. Curiously and more than 24 hours after, and unlike them, Boko Haram did not claim responsibility for the two coordinated attacks.

Doubts about their culpability began to emerge. And perceptive Nigerians began to ask questions. Being from that part of Kogi state, Garbadeen thought I should know, but I didn’t. The whole thing was confounding to many people, at least then.

At this stage, everything was left to conjectures and permutations. And that was when Garbadeen’s theory began to make sense. He attributed it to politics. Could it be the usual battle of supremacy between Igala and their Ebira neighbours? He sought to know. At first my answer was a categorical ‘no’ for reasons of previous altercations in the area.

When previously, military men engaged in a gun duel with alleged Boko Haram members in Obehira, within Okene LG after a raid on a supposedly Boko Haram hide-out, I dismissed it. I thought it was either a case of gun-running or a robbery attack that went awry, for which innocent people were killed mercilessly by soldiers. I also thought the security men in charge gave it a Boko Haram tag, to prove to the president that the group is spreading its tentacles beyond the North-West and North-East. Finally, I concluded that the security people probably wanted to use it to get more financial inducements from the Federal Government.

I’m still not sure about anything, and even about my own interpretation of that first unfortunate incident. But one thing is now certain: the latest church and mosque attacks were politically motivated. Garbadeen was right on that point. However, unlike his theory of Igala versus Ebira, it was Ebira people against themselves.

Like I told him in our conversation, it’s not possible that Igala people from Kogi East would initiate an attack in Ebiraland, or elsewhere in the state, when other groups (which include Ebira people) are the victims of their political domination, that’s if you consider a definition of politics as war by other means. They hold the ace in Kogi politics. Since 1999, in-between PDP and ANPP, they have been in control. So, why then will they bomb a church in Ebiraland? To prove what?

Therefore, when the news filtered in that day that the attack was masterminded by supporters of local politicians like the ex-Okene LG chairman, now in detention and his Okehi LG counterpart, also in detention, Garbadeen was the first person I called to intimate him with the new development.

Yes, the Okene church attack was all about politics with criminal dimension and it’s got nothing to do with Boko Haram. A few murderers in the garb of politicians, who had the overriding ambition of being in charge always wanting to dictate how the people are governed, did it. And in order to set the stage for more political havocs/murders, they had to first attack a church and kill soldiers (ala Boko Haram) before hitting their target.

This much has since been confirmed by the Commissioner of Police in the state, Muhammed Katsina, who said last week that the killings in the state have everything to do with politics and robbery.  How sad! If, in the name of local politics 20 people could be killed in one fell swoop, how many lives are lost daily to keep politicians in power?

The souls of the dead are now haunting them. They have murdered sleep. There is no escape route this time around. The day of reckoning is here at last.

I hear those arrested are already squealing, naming their accomplices, which include big political guns. It should not stop at that. Good enough that the governor has promised justice for the culprits/killers. He should go beyond that. Since they arrested politicians are said to be his aides, he should publicly dissociate himself from them and declare them persona non- grata in his government and the whole of Kogi state.

They should never be allowed to come back to Ebiraland. They should be tried, and if found guilty, they should be jailed or they remain banished from Ebiraland because people have always known their ugly antecedents. Now, the evidence is finally here, hoping that the police and judiciary would do a good job of it.