Few among the slew of experts and commentators on Nigeria’s ever evolving contradictions believe that the military option being currently employed against the Boko Haram menace in the north east is not the solution to the problem. Even the few would throw their hands up in fake or confused animation if asked: ‘what is the problem with the solution?’
However, everybody agrees that these are delicate times for Nigeria and her democracy, and the earlier the country did something to stem the campaign of horror by the terror merchants, the better for the country’s continued corporate existence. But that ‘something’ must not be limited to coercion but should, of necessity, include the use of a very potent power of persuasion to talk with and convince those with the twisted mentality that terror is the best weapon to push their cause.
While we continue to agree and disagree on the state of emergency in the troubled region, the tragedy that occurred, on May 7, on the hills of Alakyo, a village near Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, continues to unravel. Before that day, not many Nigerians could confidently pinpoint where Alakyo is on the map. But on that day, the small community made global headlines when Ombatse, a cult, which the Eggon people in the state tout as a cultural and spiritual group, became deadly and turned their land to Golgotha for 56 security agents.
The tragic 56, comprising 46 policemen and 10 officers from the Department of State Security, DSS, were part of the about 120 deployed to the area that black Tuesday to quell a fledging insurrection. The men and their officers were gruesomely murdered in an ambush apparently facilitated by some moles. Since then, that astounding brutality has been a big talking point in the news.
Talking to TheNEWS magazine, Chris E. Mamman, national president of the Eggon Cultural and Development Association, ECDA, roundly rejected the dubbing of the group as a deadly cult that coerces people into fetish initiation, irrespective of their faith. Describing the group as a movement that binds the Eggon people, he said: “Ombatse means it is time to liberate our people and it is exclusively for Eggon males. Our forefathers lived longer without the use of modern medicine because of Ombatse. It is not a new movement. Ombatse has been the Eggon people’s way of life before the advent of Christianity and Islam.” And unlike Christianity and Islam that reward iniquities with hell after death, Mamman informed that Ombatse punishes instantly. It strikes the sinner dead with the force and fury of Sango, the highly temperamental Yoruba god of thunder and lightning. Therefore, no sinner dares monkey around with anything that could trigger the anger of Ombatse.
On Wednesday, the story moved some notches up when the chief priest of Ombatse, Ala Agu, 76, told the world, during a visit by Senator Solomon Ewuga (representing Nasarawa North in the Senate), that the tragic security agents were coming to kill him on the orders of the State Governor, Tanko Al-Makura, but that his god took the fight to them.
“It is the governor that asked the people (the unfortunate officers) to come here and arrest me, cut my head and take my head to him,” Agu charged. “When they came, because they were themselves drunk, my god did not allow them to come to me and they died on the way.”
End of story? Not quite. That statement by the grand old man and the savage nature of the crime have thrown up some questions demanding urgent answers: How did the cops die? Who murdered them so brutally? Did the god of Ombatse slay the cops, using its super natural powers, to prevent them from beheading the chief priest, as the 76-year-old claimed on Wednesday? Or, as a survivor revealed, were the tragic 56 ambushed and slaughtered like rams after having been betrayed by some moles among them? Who are these traitors? What does Governor Tanko Al-Makura know about the tragedy? What is the level of his involvement in the whole palaver? Could the tragedy be a byproduct of a political chess game playing out over who occupies Government House, Lafia, in 2015?
That last question is relevant because of the ongoing political currents in the state. Senator Solomon Ewuga, an Eggon representing Nasarawa North Senatorial District in the Senate, is widely believed to be coveting Al-Makura’s job. This is no crime in a democracy. It is his legitimate right. The incumbent governor, who persistently looks over his shoulders concerning his job, has consistently maintained that Ombatse was formed with the sole aim of installing an Eggon as governor in 2015. But during the press briefing, Chris Mamman and Comrade Daniel Y Anyuabaga, national president of Eggon Youth Movement, rubbished such suggestion as product of the fertile imagination of Governor Al-Makura. With the ding-dong gathering momentum virtually everyday, the fault lines exacerbate.
But should these be enough to send the young officers to untimely graves for faithfully serving their fatherland?
Even in notable hells like Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, no singular terror attack has yielded as high fatalities as the May 7 massacre of the cops. With the ignoble record set by the Alakyo mayhem, Nigeria has reinforced her rating as an emerging hell. The Alakyo tragedy has further diminished us as a nation. Tragedies like this tar our humanity and demean us.
To redeem our faltering image before the rest of the world, therefore, ongoing investigations into the massacre must be comprehensive, open and thorough. It must provide answers to the aforementioned questions and unearth what actually happened on that black day in May. The chief priest, Pa Aka Agu, must tell the authorities all that he knows about the massacre. Governor Al-Makura must be investigated to determine his involvement and culpability. There must be no cover up. Whoever had a hand in the murder of the 56 security agents must be brought to account. They must be made to face the full wrath of the law. Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to have been done.
That is the only way the slain cops would rest in peace.
One more thing:
To avoid a recurrence of the disaster that befell the police at Alakyo, and the bigger tragedy that would have befallen the nation had the Defence Headquarters not intercepted messages being passed to Boko Haram insurgents by some unpatriotic soldiers in the ongoing war against terror, the Defence Headquarters must make regular screening of officers and men in the armed forces mandatory. This has become absolutely necessary in order to confirm and double-check the loyalty of our officers and men; and more importantly, identify and flush out moles before they put the lives of our soldiers in jeopardy.
God help Nigeria.