Ozubulu to Barcelona: A tale of two cities

A driver deliberately rammed a van into a crowd on Barcelona’s most popular street on August 17, 2017 killing at least 13 people before fleeing to a nearby bar, police said. Officers in Spain’s second-largest city said the ramming on Las Ramblas was a “terrorist attack”. The driver of a van that mowed into a packed street in Barcelona is still on the run, Spanish police said. Josep LAGO / AFP

Most people who read Ifeoma Orji’s 1997 book titled Ozubulu: The history and wonders within may not connect its content with the sleepy town in the Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State in Nigeria. This is because the town is less conspicuous on the map of the world than its neighbouring towns of Nnewi and Orafite. However, its sudden emergence in the news penultimate week, though, for negative considerations is similar to that of its sibling Okija, a town that became very popular some years ago, as a result of the discovery of human carcasses in one of its shrines.

Apart from the loud mention in the media, the slaughtering of worshippers in a church in Ozubulu has become a subject of debate in the nooks and crannies of our country. This heart-wrenching incident happened almost at the same time that a driver consciously and deliberately rammed his car into a crowd in Barcelona where he snuffed life out of a number of unsuspecting pedestrians.

These two terrible and diabolical incidents did not only leave the nerves agitating but also the mind pondering on the real reasons why man has turned out to become man’s greatest enemy.

Despite the depth and profundity of these crimes and the need for the mind to quickly forget the graphic details, yet the reaction of those who share boundaries with these incidents require some analysis.

In London and Paris two cities that were earlier vandalised by terrorists, the Londoners and Parisienne sent clear signals to the attackers that the callous violation of the sanctity of their environment will not be sufficient to affect their love and loyalty to their communities. As far as the residents were concerned, no amount of intimidation can wrench their grips and hold from the gates of their beloved cities. The reaction in Barcelona, a city whose quiet was equally shattered by terrorism was not different. Hundreds of bunches of flowers of different modes and colours were placed at the venue of the murder and candles were lite to mourn the dead. The communities stuck together in the face of adversity while reminding their detractors that they would remain resolute and un-daunting despite discharge of heavy instruments of oppression. The leadership and the follower-ship remained committed to resolving the issues and refused to give in to pettiness or blame games that would give the aggressors any form of advantage.

In another incident in the United States of America, the mother of Heather Heyer, the woman killed when a car rammed into a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, said, “They tried to kill my child to shut her up — well, guess what — you just magnified her.” She continued,  “I’d rather have my child, but by golly, if I have to give her up, we’re going to make it count,” The mother’s composure despite the grief and sorrow attending the colossal loss is a lesson in patriotism and faithfulness to the nation its values.

In Nigeria, it is traditional to look for who to blame when disaster strikes. Even, in the case of obvious natural death, the funeral ceremonies would be incomplete if the burden of blame is not hung on someone’s neck. For catastrophic events, the government is usually the victim of such a blame game. This makes it pretty difficult for decision makers and other operators of societal machineries to operate because of the need to manage sundry but delicate issues emanating from the confusion created by rumour mongering and unnecessary blames that are capable of causing more harm than the primary problems.

In Ozubulu, like in every such situation in Nigeria, the people focused less on the perpetrators of the evil that befell the community and concentrated on the mistakes or errors of commission or omission from the leadership. Victims and their relations look for every flimsy excuse to heap blame on the doorstep of those whose job it was to provide succour for the victims of the dastardly act. The eye witnesses tell stories that are easily faulted due to absence of coordination and consistency. In one such instance, a man, who claimed to be inside the church posted on the Facebook that those who attacked the church were not Igbo because it is not in the character of the Igbo to attack people in churches. You would have thought that this senseless submission was limited to the ‘not so educationally endowed’ until you hear the same shallow argument from the highly educated.

You begin to wonder what has befallen the psyche of our nation when there is no thick line drawn between the uninformed and those who have spent huge volume of tax payers money to go to school. You are compelled to ponder on how this position could be sustained, particularly in a country where there are glaring evidence that anybody is capable of the most unspeakable in the glare of the public.

The most challenging of this unnecessary digression is the query on “how the police could attribute the incident to drug war’’ before investigation. Your endeavour to remind them that a worthy police must necessarily have prior information on the incident met with rebuff and indignation. Unfortunately, while the blame game is going-on, the criminals are given a breathing space that could make them alter the cause of justice.

It is most unfortunate that in this country, everybody seems to know more than those who possess the technicalities to manipulate the contending variables. Like in a football game involving Nigeria, everybody is a Coach and all are football players. However, there is a serious danger in unnecessary insinuation in the Ozubulu case. One harmless looking false information is capable of pitching one ethnic nationality against the other with unimaginable consequences.

The spate of killing in Nigeria and the world in its quantum and intensity would leave even Simo Hayha, nicknamed the “ White Death” and the most prolific killer and the deadliest soldier of modern war speechless. In all its ramifications, no race, tribe or nationality can be exonerated or given a clean bill of health. Therefore, the naïve and myopic amongst us who felt that the Ozubulu killing cannot be traced to the Igbo certainly need basic schooling on human psychology. The truth is that these killers are a common enemy of mankind and it is only unity of purpose and support for the constitutional establishment that can mitigate the scourge. Defending a killer on the identity of a tribe amounts to extreme ignorance, sheer mischief and sometimes idiocy.

After all, terrorists and murderers rarely ask people to line up for identification on the basis of sociological-demographic characteristics before killing. They just kill.

Ojikutu teaches at University of Lagos.

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Barcelona attackOzubulu


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