BULLETS DON’T KILL US —Spokesman of Ombatse (militants that killed about 100 policemen in Nasarawa)

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People have been wondering why warriors of  Ombatse traditional religion were able to ambush and successfully kill  about a hundred policemen and State Security Service (SSS) operatives  answering a distress call on Wednesday, May 13, without even a single  member of Ombatse being killed. In an interview he granted Nigeria’s  oldest newspaper, Tribune, the National President, Eggon  Cultural and Development Association (ECDA), Mr. Chris Mamman, seemed to give an insight when he claimed that Ombatse devotees are immune to  bullets. Ombatse is an Eggon group, so Mr. Mamman (shown in photo) is  well qualified to speak on the group. Below are excerpts of the  interview which centred on the killing of the security operatives at  Alakyo village in Lafia East Development Area of Nasarawa State,  North-Central Nigeria.

Question: What is the origin of Ombatse group?
Mamman: The Ombatse is a spiritual tradition which was handed down to the Eggon people 100 years ago. We have not been hearing of the group because of  the advent of Christianity and Islam, but the decadence in our society  prompted this generation to go back to the hills to cry to our ancestors for the resurrection of the Ombatse. This movement started in 2002 and  by 2006, the group had positioned itself and had members.


How did the killing of security operatives happen?
I was not there, but I will tell you the truth. This is a community whose only road is about five metres wide, which cannot be passed at the same time by two vehicles. The community lacks government presence: no  water; no electricity and many other things. There are about five  villages before Alakyo and they are all Eggons. 70 per cent of the  population have never seen mobile policemen before, so, to see  vicious-looking people with guns entering the village, jumping down from vehicles and shooting tear-gas sporadically shocked them and that was  what led to the crisis.
If you go to an unknown territory, even if  you have a gun, for how long are you going to keep killing? We don’t  know how many rounds of ammunition they fired before these people  rebuffed. I will advice the government of Nasarawa State and Nigeria to  allow the truth to prevail, instead of looking for scapegoats. Don’t let us personalise what happened. Let us use what happened to learn from  our mistakes.

Who actually killed the security operatives?
The Eggon nation has always been truthful. We are loyal and peace-loving  citizens of Nasarawa State and Nigeria. We have never started a fight.  Although we have been involved in a series of crises in the past, we  never at any point fought anywhere. Every tribe in the country has its  culture and tradition. The Ombatse leadership is structured such that  its high priest is Lega Agu, popularly known as Baba-Alakyo.
I have  started it clearly that the fact that a pastor or reverend was molested  by some miscreants does not mean they did it on behalf of Ombatse.
This group is a spiritual movement which you cannot force anybody to join.  Even if you want to join, you have to undergo a three-hour education on  the rules and regulations before you can take the oath of membership. It is easy for people to use diversionary tactics to take the minds of  Nigerians away from the source of the problem by linking a peaceful  group to the incident of May 7. If Ombatse was involved in the crisis,  the members would have either been sick or dead by now because it is not in their character to engage in violence.
Unfortunately, no  journalist reported that some members of Alakyo community were killed.  After the invasion of Alakyo, I got distress calls that three people had been killed. So, if you are concerned about the death of the security  men who are constituted to protect us, what about the villagers, because the casualty figure would be higher on the part of villagers? They were going there to arrest a 76-year-old man, as they claimed. Does it mean  the Eggons don’t have a traditional ruler or constituted authorities? By this attitude, the Nasarawa State government has no respect for its own traditional ruler. If the government says, ‘bring this man,’ I would  bring Baba-Alakyo within 24 hours. Our paramount ruler, who has been  contacted or the local Eggon chief in that community to bring this man  for interrogation as to the concoction he is giving the people. This  should have been done. I sent delegate to Baba–Alakyo that some boys are forcing people on your behalf and he said those boys are not acting on  his order and he wants these boys to be arrested and prosecuted.

What are the practices and ideology of the group?
The main practice of Ombatse is based on the laws in the Bible. Thou shall  not kill; thou shall not convert your brothers’ property; thou shall not join secret society or witchcraft, and thou shall not sleep with your  brother’s wife or engage in actions that are detrimental to the greater  goal of a community.’ These are the basic tenets of the Ombatse. Anybody who knows the Eggon nation very well would know that for some years  now, secret societies were so prevalent and people had to go back to  their ancestors and cry unto God, asking what to do to eliminate these  social vices.

Who started it and what led to its creation?
The Ombatse’s structure is not hidden. The leader of Ombatse is called  Zachariah Kigbu. The leadership has posted several advertorials in some  daily newspapers, stating the position of the group. Their legal adviser is Mr. Zachariah Alumaga. They have gone round, stating the aim of  Ombatse because it is not responsible for violence. It is not everybody  at Alago community that belongs to Ombatse. Ombatse is everywhere. They  have places of worship. They go and sit like churches and mosques where  the worshipers are taught to abhor violence. They don’t carry guns, but  when the need arises, they use cutlasses or knives to defend themselves.
I heard that a good number of weapons were returned. This is to tell you  that Eggon people are not interested in violence. If they could get guns free and return them, then, that shows that they are not violent. There was another report of a large number of weapons in Baba-Alakyo’s house. For God’s sake, if that man fires a gun, he would certainly fall down.  This man cannot walk 200 metres without stopping to breathe. Somebody  who hardly gets a three-square meal has a large number of weapons? This  is unthinkable! He had sent word that he was coming to the palace on  Thursday before the incident happened on Tuesday.

How were you able to get followers because Baba-Alakyo was said to be forcing people to join the group?
This is a misrepresentation of fact. Baba-Alakyo has been contacted several  times and he said anybody caught using his name to force anybody to join the group should be taken to the police station.

What risks has the group posed to the society since it started its crusade?
The group is more peaceful than any other in the world because they don’t  promote violence, but preach against it. It is only miscreants that tell people that they are members of Ombatse. Because you steal, you must be Ombatse!
But some rifles and other ammunition belonging to the dead  officers were found in his possession three days after the massacre…
If he is an armed robber, he should be prosecuted. If you stole as a member of Ombatse, you are lucky if you are alive.

How do you mean?
That is part of the ritual and you would be made to understand it before you take the oath. I heard that some people went to the market and claimed  to be members of the Ombatse so that people could be afraid. Ombatse has strict rules and regulations. The group is not about violence, but  spiritual power that can be beneficial to the generality of the Eggon  people in the state and the country at large. The time is coming when  Nigerians will look for healing through the Ombatse. If Pastor Adeboye  preaches, people come from different places across the country to  receive blessings. Ombaste is coming to that.

Are you considering apologising for the killing of the security operatives, bearing in mind that they were obeying order?
It is not a question of apology, but condoling with the president and the  entire people of Nigeria for the loss of valuable lives because the  Federal Government spent so much to train them. It is not in the  character of the Eggon nation to kill people. We have sent a letter of  condolence out. It is convenient to hide under Ombatse because the group is spreading like wild fire. This is a spiritual movement, not for  violence. It is about healing and providing succour to the people.

How do you worship?
You sit down, raise your hands and pray to your god. There is no idol  anywhere that we are worshipping. You go on your knees or sit down and  raise your hands to pray.

Is it true that group’s devotees cannot be killed by bullets?
For those who abide by the tenets of the law, there is the mystic  protection in times of violence. It is not that they would bring special concoction and later, you go and steal, only one bullet will take you  down. But if you meet a child who keeps to the rules, you can shoot all  you want; the bullets would not get him, because God is the One fighting for Eggon.

People are now comparing Ombatse with Boko  Haram because of the recent gruesome killing of the security personnel.  What is your take on this?
To be a militia group, you must  have the mind of carrying out violence. This means you are visiting  people in their own domains; you are visiting police stations; you are  going into banks; you are breaking down doors and killing people. Can  you give one instance in which Eggon people visited another community to kill them? No. Have they visited banks? Have they gone to churches to  beat them up? Have they presented any demand? No. This is a spiritual  movement asking you to convert to their way of thinking; to worship God  the way they do.
The assertion by the press or certain persons in  high positions that Ombatse is a cult or militant group is the biggest  fallacy this year, reason being that Boko-Haram has demands, follow  people to their homes, follow security men to their stations, but  Ombatse members have never followed anybody to his house, his place of  worship or his office and say, ‘I am a member of Ombatse and I have come to arrest you,’ let alone to engage anybody in a fight. Cultists deal  in human blood. They kill people for sacrifice and these are things  Ombatse stands against. If you have any Eggon friend that decides to  join Ombatse, let him go and practise witchcraft or steal somebody  else’s goat or steal N1,000 and let him come back and tell you the story after three days!

What are the objectives of the group for the 2015 general election?
The group has no political objective. If Eggon people, at any given point,  decide to participate in politics, it is up to them, not Ombatse. We  voted for Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura. He has not spent two years and he has come out to say he has broken his accord with Eggons. What is  the problem? Eggons do not have any problem with Al-Makura but the cabal has problem with Eggon people.
The problem is because we voted  Al-Makura to become the governor, they want to punish us. The cabal  wants to demonize us. The Eggon people have been paying taxes here.  There is even tax document from London from 1918 which other tribes can  prove as well. We had Eggon councillor here when democracy started in  1950. We have Eggon people who were governors before independence and  some cabal would just wake up today because they are losing out; because the smaller tribes like the koros and Agatus are waking up now. The  Eggon people are now saying they can no longer have who goes to the  state House of Assembly chosen on their behalf.
This cabal is to  decide who becomes governor, who goes to House of Representatives. But  we demystified them when we voted for Tanko Al-Mukura. Anybody that says we are fighting Al-Makura is just misleading the press. No one can  finish the Eggon race because we are God’s chosen. He has blessed us,  educated us, and we are industrious, not beggars. In 1999, what  happened? Solomon Ewuga won the primaries of the Peoples Democratic  Party (PDP), but they came and told our chief so that he could step down and accept the deputy governor slot. In 2003 when Eggons wanted to  present a candidate, Obasanjo came here and pleaded for Abdullahi Adamu  and we agreed. In 2007 and 2011, the same thing happened. We voted  Al-Makura and he has not reneged on his promise with the Eggons, either  publicly or secretly.

Source: Tribune

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