As the Hope Uzodimma administration continues to fight insecurity to a standstill in Imo, there is a compelling need for each one of us to ask himself this critical question: where does my loyalty lie?
In biblical times, there were occasions that necessitated asking questions of this nature. “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD”, Joshua 24:15. In verse 16, Joshua added: “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods!” In 1Kings 18:21, it was also recorded: “Then Elijah approached all the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him. But if Baal is God, follow him”.
On Tuesday, August 2, the sad news broke about killing of seven innocent people in Orogwe Community, Owerri West LGA, for no justifiable reason. We watched to see whether this heinous crime could recieve the kind of media coverage or social media buzz like we saw over the Otulu killing, or the reported killing of a youth in Oguta Amaeshi, Oguta LGA, about a fortnight ago. Largely, the Orogwe killing has seen scanty reportage and no social media buzz. But a certain report by Punch newspaper and a press release from Uche Onyeagucha, Owerri Zone Senate Candidate for the minority PDP, epitomize the reasons hoodlums continue on the offensive, and the need to probe ourselves.
Titled, “Gunmen kill seven during shooting spree in Imo”, the Punch report said: “There was panic in Orogwe Community in the Owerri Local Government Area of Imo State after seven people were shot dead after gunmen invaded the Community on Monday night”. Why did the gunmen invade the Community? “According to [community] sources, trouble started after security operatives suspected to be members of Ebubeagu Security Outfit came to the village and whisked a youth away…Some gunmen in retaliation stormed the Community and began shooting”.
It baffles many people how Punch elevated hearsay to the realm of factual reportage. How the report tried to justify the invasion of the Community by gunmen, by saying that the gunmen “retaliated” the arrest remains unresolved puzzle. The word “retaliated” further highlights something more sinister. It creates a link between the person supposedly arrested by Ebubeagu and the gunmen. Ironically, the report did not think that the link was enough justification for the arrest. The word also shows bias against security officials as it connotes that the security agents who arrested someone in Orogwe wronged the gunmen, or that the gunmen were right to claim wrongdoing against them. This is the reason the invasion of the community and the killing of seven innocent persons was justified as “retaliation”. Covert suggestions of loyalty to non-state actors like this pass the wrong message that security operations, including arrest, interrogation and detention of suspects have become aberrations.
There is another thing that throws up bias in the report. The reporter identified those who arrested someone as Ebubeagu but did not identify the invaders who killed seven persons and left others injured. He said: “Ebubeagu people came and took away a youth from the community. On Monday night, some men with guns came to the community and stormed a building site and opened fire. Seven persons died while others wounded were rushed to the FMC Owerri”. As heinous as the crime was, the report masked the identity of the invaders by calling them gunmen. We are almost certain that community sources who identified the group that arrested the individual must have identified the invaders as well.
Furthermore, the report did not even say that Ebubeagu “arrested” someone, but said they “took” or “whisked” him away, suggesting illegal action or kidnap. The report was not interested in the identity of the person who was arrested, nor was it interested in the offence he might have committed. It tried to create the false impression that arresting a suspect was wrongdoing. If the medium did not believe so, why did it not query the invasion of a community just because someone was arrested, (not killed)? The report did not mention one person who condemned the invasion, shooting spree, killing and injuring of people, but was interested in the attendant panic in the community.
In the haste to break the news, the reporter did not have the patience for police report. To him he was justified for allegedly calling the police without result. He did not report that it was the police that rescued the injured and took them to the Federal Medical Center (FMC), Owerri, and what the police was doing to restore normalcy. If he had waited for police report he would have got the identity of the invaders, because the police unmasked them after all. The police identified the invaders to be “armed bandits suspected to be members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and it’s arm affiliate, Eastern Security Network (ESN), [who] came in a black Lexus Jeep and three motorcycles carrying two persons each, shooting sporadically at the occupants in a building at Orogwe”, said CSP Michael Abattam, Police Public Relations Officer for Imo State Command, in a statement on Wednesday.
Media reports such as the one under reference do more harm to the ongoing efforts against insecurity in Imo. Glamourising insecurity, lending covert support to non-state actors by either justifying their actions – as in the instant case – or lending them platforms to canvass their nefarious views, making them invincible or pummelling government for taking legitimate action against hoodlums, demonstrates where our loyalty lies.
For his part, Onyeagucha, chose to play politics with insecurity once more. This portrays him as someone whose loyalty does not lie with the institution of Government but seemingly with non-state actors. His game has been to pummel the Uzodinma administration for no justifiable reason. And in so doing he portrays himself as one promoting insecurity in the State.