Thoughts on the Killings at Owo
By: Deji Yesufu
My weekend began on a rather odd note. After returning from work on Friday, I ate a late lunch and decided to catch a quick nap. As I was drifting into sleep, I caught the time on my phone as 6:09pm. I thought that I would not sleep for more than an hour and then get up to do some reading. Alas, I slept all through the night and was not fully awake until 6am Saturday morning. As I went about my business that Saturday morning, I kept wondering why I slept that long – I cannot remember when I slept almost twelve hours stretch. I concluded that last week might have been stressful and my body needed the rest. We all need some rest. Just before going to sleep, I had received a text message from Edmund Obilo to be his guest at his radio broadcast on Splash FM for 10am Saturday. I concluded my cores for the morning and headed to Felele, Ibadan, where I joined Moruf Smith and Obilo to debate the candidacy of Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the forthcoming elections.
At the close of the broadcast, Edmund gave me a book titled “Emeka”. Emeka is the biography of the late Biafran warlord, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu written by Frederick Forsyth and published in 1982. It has become apparent to me that I need to write a second edition to my book “Victor Banjo”, so any book on Biafra that mentions Banjo is important to me. Emeka is a 130-page book and I was done reading it by Sunday evening. There is a story in that book that I think is relevant for us today in solving the matter of insurgency in our land; particularly in stemming the kind of killings we saw yesterday at Owo, Ondo State.
Sir Louis Odumegwu-Ojukwu was the father of Chukwuemeka Ojukwu. Louis was a particularly gifted business man who keyed into the transportation inadequacies that World War 2 brought to Nigeria, as the British scurried around the country to gather raw material needed for the high production rate that the war with Germany demanded. By the close of the war, Louis, although sparsely educated, was already a millionaire. He had Emeka in 1933 when he was only 25 years old. By the time the war ended and Emeka was in his early teens, his father was the youngest millionaire in Africa. But Sir Louis grew up with a certain debilitating experience that might have hunted him all of his life. When he was just five years old, he was taken to the village square and he watched as a detachment of British soldiers round up all the men in the village, stripping them all of their local guns. Louis watched as the leader of British soldier, a major, commanded that the guns be set on fire and destroyed. He did not understand much then but he could see the humiliation written all over his father’s face – who among the men that day.
That was in 1913. In 1962, when his son Emeka joined the army and had risen to the position of a Major, Louis put an end to a three-year malice that he had been having with his first son over Emeka’s decision to join the army. He drove to Emeka’s house and brought wine to celebrate with his son. When Emeka asked his father why he was visiting him that day, Louis told him the story of how a Major in the British army had humiliated his own father. Now that Emeka was a Major himself in the Nigerian army, he had every reason to be thankful. My deduction from that story is this: there is a close relation between the security of a people and the arms they are allowed to own. The first step towards subduing a people is to rid them of their guns.
The killings in Owo, Ondo State, yesterday Sunday, 5th June, 2022, is no longer news but for those who may have missed it: reports have it that unknown gun men approached St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, just about the time the service was ending. These men opened fire on innocent worshippers and by the end of the mayhem, no less than fifty people had been killed – including women and children. The killings have received widespread condemnation. President Buhari described the killings as heinous and has instructed security officials to fish the perpetrators. The governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, and other politicians in the state have equally condemned the incidents, promising the people of Owo that the killers will be found.
In recent times, I have been paying some attention to the narratives of the white American evangelical and why they keep their guns. This narrative has taken up new steam after the recent school shootings in the United States of America. After such killings, the Democrats and those who share their ideologies begin to push the gun control narratives. Gun controls covers the whole gamut of curbing the use of automatic rifles up to completely banning the use of fire arms. The white evangelical explains that the reason why he or she keeps her gun is because they do not trust their government – completely. First, they do not trust their government to provide them all the security that they need. Second, they do not trust government to have complete control of the use of fire arms in the country. In the latter case, it means that when government owns all weapons, then government has complete control of a people’s actions. Government, at any time, can compel you do not whatever they wish. The white evangelical understands that Almighty God is the ruler of the nations and that government is led by ordinary men with corrupt hearts. The difference between the USA and China is that Americans have not relinquished control of their nation completely to government’s monopoly. The white evangelical understands that the first step to subduing a people is to take away their fire arms from them.
This leads me to what I sincerely think about the violence meted out on the people of Owo: every one of us will have to begin to think more clearly about the wisdom of the white American evangelical and why he still keeps his gun. The first step towards this is to keep the campaign on for state or regional policing. The whole idea of the whole state security apparatus entrusted in the hands of the federal government must end. The second step is that communities should begin to think straight about owning their own security outfits. This will include neighborhood communities, schools and churches. We cannot sit back and allow the violence of the north to come and meet us; we must be prepared for it. Finally, the Nigerian government might wish to rescind on her ban of citizens owning personal weapons. When the ordinary people own their weapons, they take control of their own security and the dastard acts that we saw in Owo will be reduced considerably.
A few years ago, a young man entered an evangelical church somewhere in the United States. The first person he encountered at the church was the usher and promptly he gunned him down. At that moment, the people in the church realized that they were under attack and they did the natural thing they had been trained to do: they ducked behind the pews. At the same time, the gun man began to head to the pulpit aiming at the pastor. Unfortunately for him this church was well prepared. There were some four or five men in that church with firearms. They immediately pulled out their guns and shot down the assailant.
When the British invaded Africa, the first thing they also did was to rid the locals of their guns. They understood that it will be sheer impossible for them to colonize those countries they did as long as the locals owned guns. In fact, the reason why the Americans revolt against England in the 18th century succeeded was because the Americans insisted on keeping their firearms. And it is because of the dangers of such tyranny that America still has the possession of personal firearms as a constitutional right for her citizens till today. And, of course, the reason why the British do not have such freedom. The freedom of a people is only preserved by a willingness to counter violence with violence. The only way a people can dwell peacefully is their willingness to preserve their peace with weapons of violence. It is the reason nations have their own contingent of soldiers.
Owo tells us clearly that the Nigerian government is unable to protect all her citizens. It also reminds us that the violence of northern Nigeria has come to our shores in South-West Nigeria. It also tells us that we all have a responsibility to ensure our security and the men in our families must demonstrate a willingness to own firearms so as to protect their families and people in their communities. If we fail to do this, we will sit back and watch nonentities take over our streets with their weapons. In 1913, it was the white man that used his gun to overcome a community in Eastern Nigeria and took over his land from him. Today, it could be Islamic Jihadists.