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Something Strange Is Happening In The Southwest – Azuka Onwuka

The killing of the early morning street evangelist, Mrs Eunice Olawale Elisha, in Kubwa, Abuja two weekends ago was the final point that made me conclude that something strange and inexplicable has happened to the Yoruba in the past one year.

Two Saturdays ago, The Punch broke the news that Mrs Elisha, wife of Pastor Olawale Elisha of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, left her home around 5.30 a.m. with a megaphone to preach in the neighbourhood as she did every morning. But she never returned. At first the report was that she was butchered, her head cut off and placed on top of her Bible. But later the story from the police was that she was killed but was not decapitated.

It was a shock to the nation, especially coming a month after a woman in Kano State and a man in Niger State were killed for religious reasons.

Before Elisha’s killing, similar things had happened that surprised me. First was the 22nd anniversary of the June 12 election last year. I was in the Southeast and Port Harcourt that period. So I could not certainly gauge the way June 12 anniversary was marked in the Southwest. But I read the papers, watched the TV and monitored the online media. It was clear to me that there was a lull in the remembrance. But coming about two weeks after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari, I felt maybe the Southwest was still engulfed in the euphoria of being instrumental to the emergence of the new government.

But when June 12 came this year and went by without any fanfare in the Southwest, I was puzzled. Since 1999 when democracy returned in Nigeria, there had been an argument, championed by the Southwest, that June 12 rather than May 29 should be observed as Democracy Day, because it was the day in 1993 when “true democracy” was instituted in Nigeria. All Southwest states declared June 12 a public holiday and held elaborate parades and rallies, and made memorable speeches about June 12, democracy and the sacrifice of Chief MKO Abiola. That was not all.

In March there was an ethnic clash between the Yoruba and Northerners at the Mile 12 market in Lagos. It got the same treatment of silence.

In May there was a report that some herdsmen invaded a village in Ekiti State and killed two people. It was also all silence in the Southwest. The Southwest, however, found its voice when a day later the governor of Ekiti, Mr Ayo Fayose, in his exuberant and dramatic fashion, addressed the hunters in the state and urged them to shoot anybody who tried to attack the state again. Many Southwest people descended on Fayose: the same people who kept quiet when a Southwest state was invaded and some fellow Yoruba people killed!

The same scenario has played out on the lopsided appointments made by Buhari. In private discussions, you could hear the anger of Southwest people over the skewed appointments, but there seems to be an unwritten code not to raise it in public discussions.

But then came May 29, 2015 and Buhari and Osinbajo were sworn in as President and Vice President, with Fashola and Fayemi as minsters, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila as Majority Leader at the House of Representatives and Aregbesola and others as governors. The issue of restructuring has been met with silence from the Southwest leaders and followers, especially in the ruling All Progressives Congress. Only the voices of members of the Afenifere like Mr Yinka Odumakin, Senator Femi Okurounmu, Chief Ayo Adebanjo are still heard consistently asking for restructuring of the federation or implementation of the decisions of the 2014 national conference.

What is difficult to understand is what led to this new belief in the Southwest that complaining about the killing of a fellow Southwest person is tantamount to opposing the government led by Buhari and Osinbajo. Definitely, there is no connection between the two. It is said that it is only a very close person that can tell you that you have mouth odour. It does not mean hate or opposition.

Nigeria has been ruled from independence by people with hearing problem. You need to shout for them to hear. When about 500 were killed in Agatu, Benue State in February, the government said nothing. But when Ukpabi-Nimbo in Enugu was invaded April, there was an uproar. And for the first time, the presidency commented on the menace of the Fulani herdsmen.

Similarly in late May, four people were killed in Niger State for alleged blasphemy against Islam. Not much was said about it. A few days later an Igbo woman was killed in Kano over the same blasphemy against Islam. Hell was raised. The presidency, Kano State government and the police reacted, announcing that the perpetrators had been arrested.

In addition, many girls had been reported to be abducted and forcefully converted to Islam. It was when Ese Oruru’s case was raised to a high pitch in March that she was released to her parents. Other girls in the same condition were also released.

Some Southwest people may get indignant and call for my hide. But I have bought myself a body armour and helmet from Hephaestus, stronger than the one he made for Achilles for the Trojan War. If I could write that the Yoruba are the No 1 in the world in religious tolerance and write other similar positive analyses about the southwest and they sounded good in the ear of every Southwest person, it should also not be out of place for me to raise questions when something strange is happening in the Southwest.

The Yoruba are not known to keep quiet in the face of injustice or aberration. I don’t know what has happened in the Southwest. If anybody knows, please let him enlighten me.

Written by Azuka Onwuka for Punch Newspaper

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