by Nwachukwu Egbunike
The sheer scale and audacity of this attack was staggering. Ibadan, the once serene city is now a ghost of its former self as it was held hostage by armed robbers who had gone amok. Official reports state that four police men were killed, five people dead and twenty hospitalised. What started as a shock is now spreading into a reign of terror.
Many of us on hearing the gun shots thought it was fireworks. Lo, what a mistake, as robbers in the middle of the day have laid siege on Ibadan. They came in a group of 13 with jeeps and power bikes, attacking banks in Iwo Road, Are and Old Bodija. That was only the beginning, since then it has been a tale of attacks or scares which made most banks to close their doors on the public. For the past two weeks, it has been a continuous litany of terror. From Dugbe to Bashorun, Ijokodo to Sango, Are to Agbowo, Bodija to Oju Nri, the city is unsafe.
Terror reigns in Ibadan, its neither safe in the day nor at night. While the madness rages, I nearly missed an encounter when the boys visited my neighbourhood. The stampede caused by the gun fire was amazing, people not only ran, they flew! A lady abandoned her car and took cover in a near by house, a friend imposed a house arrest on himself while the shot out lasted, not daring to step out. These days we no longer fear the shadows, but also the sun.
The one I find rather painfull is the tale of a Dutch family that came to help a local church in my neighbourhood. On the day they arrived Ibadan – with their host – they were waylaid and stripped of all they had – their personal effects as well as the money they had on them. In typical Rambo style, their captives abducted them, drove them to the outskirts of the town and there they were given the beating of their lives. As they were still licking their wounds, the incident of the bank robbery took place and before their eyes they saw a car covered with the blood of the wounded. The woman among them is almost spooky.
While the terror grips on, many theories are being propounded. Some think that this fresh wave of attacks is from neighbouring states. Others are of the opinion that the formerly engaged soldiers of the deceased Garrison Commander are now on rampage. Since the death of their benefactor they have been rendered orphans and none of the big boys of the city has adopted them.
It’s almost Christmas and I suppose these boys and girls also need hampers. They certainly want to impress their people with new cars and its like. Though it is usual for these incidents to rise during this season but that of this year is unprecedented. The society is also to be blamed as we are the very ones who will recognise some as ‘illustrious’ sons or daughters and accord them chieftaincy titles. The others will be just waved off as ‘never do wells’ who after many years of work cannot boast of anything. The eternal problem of ‘having’ been elated above ‘being’ continues to the detriment of all. If only we will learn.
This of course does not justify professionalizing armed robbery, but it’s certainly not far fetched as a cause. The sooner we re-orientate our priorities the better. If the anniversary of the birth of the Prince of Peace has been negated and is now the cause of terror, then we have ourselves to blame. It means that a re-Christianisation of society is absolutely essential. Not the continual echoing of the prosperity doctrine, which unfortunately is in vogue. Even miscreants are also interested in possessing their possessions and enjoying from the bounty of their heavenly father in hard currency!
It remains the duty of the government to protect her citizens. Despite the fact that each household in this country has metamorphosed into a local government area, the government has a duty to the common good. One of which is to secure the lives of innocent people, to alley their fears and to ensure that people walk no longer in perpetual fear. Government have to take this responsibility seriously and this is not the time to pass the bulk, from the governor to the police commissioner.
All night long the fear of darkness keeps me awake, the events of the past week has almost wreaked my nerves. Will tomorrow be any better? Ibadan is under attack and armed robbers have shattered our peace. One thing is certain: something has to be done and very fast too!