IMO STATE: Now that Boko Haram is here with us – By Henry Ekpe

 3D Character and Question Mark
The world is an irony. While good men plan and think how the society will get better and more pleasurable to live in, bad men also plan evil on the same equal measure.

When we were growing up in Owerri in the seventies, we heard then with shock and disbelief of one “Onyenusi” said to be a dare devil armed robber who operated with guns. Guns! We shouted. Today, technocrats, respected educated elites steal billions of Public Funds with just Biro pens, and still move around flaunting the ill-gotten wealths. That is development and dynamics of nature. Such were unheard of when we were growing up.

As kids we drank Dr Pepper, Tango, Royal Crown, Green Sand shandy as soft drinks. Today we have Ferouz, Fanta, 7up etc. For Beer there was Dubic, Golden Guinea, Champion, etc. Today our kids hear of Star, Gulder etc. That is also development and dynamics of nature and life. Smokers had Flight, Three Rings, Gold Leaf, Target etc. Today it is Benson and Hedges, St Morris etc. That is development also.

In the seventies when we felt we were in the “Bush”, youths who indulged in sexual escapades ended up with “dangerous” diseases like Gonorrhea. The worse then was called syphilis. However, at that time these diseases can easily be cured with Ampicilline and just a drink of a cup of water spiced with two spoons of salt, and the system washed clean.

Today, there is the grand father of all venereal diseases, the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome AIDS/HIV. This one defies all drugs, until you go down bellow.
In the seventies too we happily watched our Black and while Televisions, until “coloured” came. There were no Telephones, but in the houses of a few. Later Handsets came out, with computers. These gadgets made life easy, but have also sent a lot of people to their early graves. Remember Cynthia and face book? That is development and its consequences.

Until recently, there was no time I thought that in my life time I will witness in Nigeria a human being stealing follow being. What is kidnapping? Is it not stealing of human beings by fellow human beings? This is against the rapid development science has unleashed on earth. Despite good roads, tall buildings, massive education and enlightenment among the masses, things are getting worse. As the world develops, so also do evil and atrocities grow in bonds along side.

Today in the midst high fences and personal police escorts, “Big Men” hardly sleep with both eyes closed. But in the days of yore when commissioners in Imo state lived at the Shell Camp, Owerri, there was no fence covering their quarters, no police or soldiers, yet you will see Chief Isaac Uzoigwe, the then Deputy Governor, Chief Agom Eze, Rev Ifeanyi Anozie, Bar KK Ogba, Chief Henry Okwusa, and later Loveday Ememe, Mrs Victoria Akanwa, Sir Egbesa Ihute, The Press Secretary to Governor, etc playing Draught, squash or tennis in the open, interacting with “ordinary people”. Yet they were safe and happy.

Unfortunately in Nigeria, years ago, Bombs exploded in Abuja during Independence Day Celebration, and it was like a dream; tale from Afganistan, Pakistan, Iraq; countries far flung where I thought these explosions are rife, not in our own Nigeria.
After that was the United Nations Bombing also in Abuja. That particular one, the perpetrators did not place the Bombs to set them up with devices or throw the bombs from afar, but instead they wore the explosives themselves with which they blew them selves up. In that incident where I lost an old colleague and friend in the University, Chike, who just got married with the wife pregnant, I began to wonder when Nigeria degenerated to a level where individuals could get so frustrated with life to the extent of taking their own lives along that of others.

Since then, the activities of these Boko Haram insurgents escalated, mostly in Borno State axis, and some parts of North Eastern Nigeria. The climax was the kidnapping of over 200 School Girls in Chibok which attracted global attention putting Nigeria on the spot till date. But lest we forget: there was the nefarious and cruel action of the Boko Haram sect in a Male Secondary School where children were called out one by one and their throats slit like Christmas goats.

All these news had remained like a moon light tale from North (Ala Hausa) and one had been sympathizing with our compatriots there, wondering how they have been coping. The feeling was that before these Blood suckers could contemplate to pass the states in the entire North and reach the South East, they would have been extinguished in their remote enclave at Sambisa Forest.

And again, I had thought that even if they try to reach the South East, they would be caught before carrying out their deadly acts. And even if they tried to plant Bomb in any part of the South East state, it will not be Imo, where the presence of Northerners, usually accused of being majority members of the sect, are not in great number.

My mind went to Abakpa in Enugu state, Onitsha Head Bridge in Anambra state, Lokpanta and Umuahia all in Abia state, even Aba, where they have Mosque Street.
Assuming they even get into Imo state, I had thought, it could be Okigwe where they have expanse of land. Not Owerri, where they are consigned to a small spot at Douglas road, called Ama Hausa.

But as it is with the irony of life and nature, the first place a Bomb would be planted in the South East was Owerri, one of the elite towns in the South East, where the inhabitants are peaceful jolly fellows made up of Civil Servants, indigenous Owerri people and other Imolites from other political zones.

Beyond every imagination, I could not believe it when a message came to me on Sunday 15, that a bomb was found inside the Auditorium of the Winners Chapel, with another planted at the Car Park near the gate. Curriousity took over me; could this be true? Just a few calls to the security hierarchy confirmed the “dream”. How come! How could terrorists in Maiduguri, thousands of kilometers from Imo state evade all the security checks and landed Imo state to plant Bombs?
But how come among all the states in the South East, infact, Southern Nigeria, it was only in Owerri, Imo State, they found a church to plant a Bomb?
Why did these terrorists single out Winners Chapel among the Churches in Imo state? Is it the must vulnerable or is it because the perpetrators wanted to record huge casualties? But is Winners Chapel the most populous church in Owerri City?
Now, let us forget these multitude of questions and face the most serious matter, which is that it has downed on us with the Winners Chapel incident that the dreaded Boko Haram has arrived not only South East, but our beloved Owerri.

If there is any doubt that the sect is in the South East, the interception in Abia of about (thirty three) 33 Hiace Buses carrying over 486 sect members is a dangerous omen.
The issue is that now that they are here, what do we do? There is no need stretching the argument on how they found their way here. What is important now is how to flush them out since they are already here.

God showed why he is God. Because, had the Owerri Bomb exploded, no body knows what would have followed. The reason being that many people would have perished, and the high and mighty would have been hit more, because Winners Chapel has more members among the bourgeois class in Owerri.

There could have also been a spontaneous reaction from Imo Populace, which may have led to another Otokoto saga. Under panic measure by both Government and the populace, there would have been pointing of fingers at different directions as the perpetrators.

Either massive arrests would have taken place or Imo masses would have trooped to the streets for a tumultuous demonstration that may even have shaken the foundation of Nigeria. As a Federation, a serious incident in a particular state may affect the rest. And for Imo people living their quiet lives to be shattered by Bombs planted by Northerners? And this is when Imolites are peacefully residing in their ancestral abodes and somebody comes to attack them?

If that Bomb had exploded as planned by the evil men, where would the living haven taken the injured and the dead to? Remember the Specialist Hospital at Umuguma is now over grown with weeds. FMC Owerri is on strike. How many private hospitals in Owerri would have accommodated over hundred wounded victims?

When my sister died some time ago, I had to plead before a mortuary in Owerri could accept her body. A friend who lost the wife and son along Avu road accident the other day could not find a space in any mortuary in Owerri until he found a place at Atta in Ikeduru LGA.

Therefore, in a case of such a calamity as plotted by these Evil men does Imo state have such facilities to cope? How many Government hospitals are functioning in the state now?However, with the situation as it is the security of Imo should be devoid of partisan politics. Security is a responsibility of all, and should not be left alone in the hands of our state Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and his administration.
Imo citizens must be vigilant wherever they live. Boko Haram does not target only the cities because they operate even in the remotest of villages. They do not differentiate from Christians, Animists, Muslims, Hindus etc. Therefore, we in Imo state must not allow any of these Boko Haram Bombs to explode here.
However, the Imo state government should also purge itself of those acts that may not help the situation at hand.

There were various frivolous celebrations in the state that opened Imo to all manner of miscreants to enter the state. Some of these fellows were even quartered in Government facilities in Owerri.

Government may have meant well. After all what is wrong in throwing open the doors of Imo state for all Nigerians to pour in? But unfortunately, the times are bad. Therefore every body must be cautions in the type of visitors they allow into their homes, including Imo state government.

We should for now limit the level of our celebrations that necessitate influx of strange fellows into Imo state. I doff my hat for the Police Commissioner, the Commander of the 34 Field Attilary Brigade Obinze. But most importantly, the Department of State Security SSS in Imo state. These guys have been doing a lot covertly to avert dangers in the state without making noise about it. Even Trumpeta Newspaper had continued to raise alarm on the activities of Boko Haram sects in the state but many dubbed it a propaganda. Today the Newspaper has been vindicated.
Thank God the gun could not boom. This is the time to be alert, because the second time, it may not be too rosy a story because these criminals are dangerous and may change strategy and try again.

God used the Winners Chapel incident to sound a note of warning to Imo citizens. It was too close. Churches, Markets, Viewing Centres, Beer Palours, Stadia, Schools, etc in Imo should not take any chances. Vigilance is the word. Do you know your neighbor? Find out now.

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