By Izunna Okafor, Awka
Youths of Umueze Village in Uga, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, on Sunday, threatened to attack and harm this reporter, Izunna Okafor, for attempting to investigate the recent agonizing and dehumanizing treatments they meted out to a poor widow whom they accused of killing her daughter.
Recall that some videos started trending on the social media on Thursday last week showing a large number of villagers as they gathered at the Ozoemena (also known as Emena) Family in Umueze Uga to behold what may be described as one of the most shocking dramas of the year.
A young girl, Miss Ogochukwu Ozoemena, who should be in her mid 20s, had died the night before, and was said to have some gory wounds all over her body, which made the youths of the village insist that she would not be buried, until they unravel the true cause of her ‘mysterious’ death.
After a few more dramatic incidents that led to exhuming of charms purportedly buried at different locations in the compound, the villagers ended up accusing the mother of the deceased of being responsible for her daughter’s death. The locations of the charms were said to have been revealed by one Mr. Nonso Ozoemena, a brother to the deceased, who was said to be a prophet. It was during the said revelation and exhuming of the charms that the villagers started accusing the mother of having hands in her daughter’s death, based on the fact that she was said not to be in good terms with the deceased and her brother, Nonso. They also accused her of burying the said exhumed charms.
Consequent upon these accusations and allegations, the widow was subjected to all manner of agonizing treatments by the villagers, to the extent that she was compelled to hug, carry, lap, and almost kiss the corpse of her daughter, among other forms of jest they made of her.
On seeing the videos online, this reporter, however, could not rely wholly on the social media content; hence, he was moved to dig deeper and get further details on the incident, as well as the contact details of the accused and the members of bereaved family, for subsequent follow up. To satisfy this curiosity, he defied all odds and set for Uga, on Sunday.
Upon arriving the village at about 5:23pm, it was observed that everywhere was unconventionally calm, signifying that the village was held moody by the demise of the promising young girl.
The Ozoemena Family has two opposite compounds divided by road, with one belonging to Nonso (the brother of the deceased), while the other was the residence of the accused widow. At Nonso’s compound, about 15 persons were seen eating yam porridge, while a sword was stuck at the center of the compound, with a bowel of water near it, as well as white chalk powder that gave it a shrinlike look. Upon enquiry, it was gathered that Nonso was not around, but might be in the other side of the family (the widow’s compound).
There at the other compound, a group of youths, numbering about 26 or more, were seen, uprooting a tall Irvingia gabonensis tree (Ugiri/bush mango tree) in front of the compound. Bottles of assorted alcoholic drinks and substances suspected to be Indian hemp were also sighted at the corner, which motivated the home boys, and from which they caught their cruise and tapped their muse to carry on with their work.
When asked about the widow, some of the villagers who were around said they did not know her whereabouts, while some said she was not around. They also denied having her phone number or any information that could lead to locating her.
Same was also the case when they were asked about Nonso, who was also not seen in the compound. While some eventually said he might be at the other compound, some others said he might be at the backyard, which made this reporter to go behind the house in search of him, accompanied by one of the villagers. At the backyard, it was observed that all the trees therein had been uprooted and fractured by the youths, while work was also ongoing on the remaining one at the front of the compound. No fewer than 12 haphazardly dug holes were also seen at various locations in the compound, purported to be the place from where the said charms were exhumed by the youths. Recall that Nonso had ordered the uprooting of some trees in the compound, as he said charms were buried beneath them.
There was, however, sign of recent grave sighted anywhere at the compound, which implied that the deceased was still in the mortuary, and had not been buried.
When neither Nonso nor his mother was found at the backyard as was directed by the villagers, this reporter made his way back to the front of the compound, where the youths then began to question him abashedly and ferociously. After enquiring and getting satisfactory answer and proof about his identity; they started questioning his reason for searching for Nonso and his mother and their contact details —a question he had earlier responded to.
When they could no longer think of any further question to ask him, nor see any further reason to withhold the contact details of the bereaved as were requested by this reporter; they resorted to questioning why he has his interest in investigating the story. Before he could give an explanation, they had already labelled him a spy and threatened to treat him as such.
“So, you mean you came here all the way from Awka to look for Nonso and his mother, and to hunt for news? You resemble person wey dey like gossip oo,” one of them said.
“And if we harm you here now, they will say we are wicked, abe?,” another one rhetorically questioned, with smoke oozing out from his mouth.
“Bros, before I close my eyes and open them now, you have disappeared from this place, or else…,” one of them roared from a corner, as he made to pick up the axe with which they were uprooting the tree; while this reporter cautiously hurried out of the scene.
“I degburu onwe gị na news!” he vituperated (in Igbo language). They also threatened the journalist never to come anywhere around the village again, else, he would lose his life in the course of the investigation. Before they could finish issuing the threat, the reporter was already at the next junction, for the fear of the unknown. His plan to visit the Traditional Ruler of the community did not materialize, as the monarch’s palace was just the adjacent to the compound of the deceased, where the home boys were and where they had threatened him never to come near again.
Through enquires from some of the villagers met at the next junction in the village, it was gathered that the youths had already banished the widow from the community the following day after the day of the incident (on Friday). A villager who did not want his name in print, revealed that the villagers ostracized the widow on Friday evening, to a certain area along the boundary between Uga and Nkpologwu community, which is a neighbouring community in the area.
The source also hinted that the widow was a native of Ekwulobia (in the same Aguata Local Government Area), but got married in Uga. She was also said to be in tears and crying out for help and justice when she was being banished by the youths, who were said to have made jest of her and taken videos and photos of her, with palm fronds tied around her waist and neck, as if she committed an abomination.
However, all efforts made by this reporter to get the contact details of the widow and her son, Nonso, or that of the Traditional Ruler or the President-General of the community, proved abortive, as the villagers he met denied having their contacts. Be it as it may, upon consistent persuasion, one of the villagers eventually requested a token of one thousand naira (₦1000) to release Nonso’s phone number. Surprisingly, the number has never rung since then, till now.
This reporter left Uga for Ekwulobia where the widow was said to hail from. He toured some of the villages, in all attempt to get the exact address of the widow’s father’s house in Ekwulobia, which did not yield any positive fruit as he could not locate it, even till nightfall when he eventually made his way back to his base in Awka.
However, through sustained efforts, he was eventually able to get the contact details of both the President-General of Uga and the Village Chairman of Umueze; whom, when he contacted, both claimed to be hearing about the incident for the first time, given that they just returned from trips. They also utterly condemned the actions of the youths, which they described as unlawful. Furthermore, the duo promised to make further enquiry to get more details about the incident, as well as the contact and address of the victim, as were requested by the journalist.
Be it as it may, further enquiry from a villager who pleaded anonymity revealed that the youths of Umueze village also threatened the President-General of Uga community and nearly launched an attack on him when he visited the deceased’s family on Monday to make more enquiry on the incident. He was said to have been given a hot chase by the youths.
The source also revealed that, consequent upon the mob action, the President-General decided to embark on a journey to the hometown of the widow (with some members of his Executives) to utterly dissociate the leadership of the town from everything the people did to the widow, as well as to make it clear to them that the banishment of their daughter was never a unanimous decision of the people of Uga, but that of those who are involved in it.
As at the time of filing this report, efforts are still on top gear to get the contact details and address of the widow.