‘FOR THE DEAD AND THE LIVING. WE MUST BEAR WITNESS” – ELIE WIESEL
I am sure many are wondering if I made a mistake using the plural of the word massacre. It is deliberate. Some might even feel that the word massacre might be too strong, or wrong. So, I decided to share the definition of the word “massacre”, for what happened in Offa on Thursday, 5th April 2018, was mass robbery that ended up in the massacre of innocent people, minding their own business, in difficult times. Going their own way, staying in their own lanes.
So what is the definition of the word, “massacre”?
1. 1. an indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of many people.
example -“reports of massacres by government troops”
synonyms: slaughter, wholesale slaughter, mass slaughter, wholesale killing, indiscriminate killing;
1. 1. deliberately and brutally kill (many people).
example – “thousands were brutally massacred by soldiers”
synonyms: slaughter, butcher, murder, kill, annihilate, exterminate, execute, liquidate, eliminate, destroy, decimate, kill off, wipe out, mow down, cut down, cut to pieces, put to the sword, put to death, send to the gas chambers;
Five years ago, a jolly, humorous man of the people, dedicated to being part of the solution to his community’s woes, went to the bank. It was a relatively uneventful day, nothing out of the ordinary. He finished his transaction, came out and was about to get into his car, when bullets started flying from nowhere and everywhere. Gunmen, brazen gunmen had picked that day to rob banks in Offa. They blocked both ends of the roads, firing indiscriminately unto the streets, shooting at everybody and nobody. Just because they could. A massacre had just taken place.
Five years ago, we lost this jolly, humorous man with the most contagious of laughs, a natural orator, with the sweetest, funniest yet powerful words that One could ever hear. A man of God. His nickname epitomized him. A man at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Five years ago, we lost Alfa Sugar.
That incident, five years ago, was the THIRD mass bank robbery massacre in Offa. The third time when the exact same robbery, same style took place in Offa.
And now this. Again. Deja vu. Offa yet again has been hit, the FOURTH TIME.
Yesterday all the sadness, dejection, despair and disbelief that I felt five years ago, came flooding back. Yesterday, we faced the painful loss of 30 innocent lives to yet another, dastardly armed robbery incident in Offa again. A massacre. Five banks (Eco Bank, First Bank, GTBank, Union Bank and Zenith Bank) were raided by armed robbers in an operation that lasted well over two hours. Children, women, aged were shot at indiscriminately. It was as if they were used for target practice as most of the victims died from gunshots to the head. This illustrates that the wicked perpetrators came not only to steal, but also to kill innocent people. Deliberately.
In the entire Kwara South senatorial district, (the governor’s senatorial district by the way), that comprises seven local governments, due to various exposure to armed robbery and lack of security protection, all the banks had closed their branches in the other six local governments. Offa Local Government, being the second largest economy after Ilorin, the state capital, is the only place where full banking services is available.
Many breadwinners were tragically lost in this massacre; who would take care of their families? Many hardworking women and men lost their lives, please, what would happen to their dreams? Just imagine it – they left their homes, their loved ones, like they did the previous day, like they did every other day, some to go hustle and grind, others to go visit friends, families, all with their dreams, thoughts, plans for the rest of the day, rest of the week, rest of their lives. The number of policemen, bank security guards that were killed were at least 10 apparently. Sadly, all that was not to be.
My heart and prayers go out to families and friends of those who lost their lives; to his royal majesty Oba Muftau Gbadamosi Esuwoye II, the Olofa of Offa and to the people of Offa, Kwara and indeed, Nigeria that are left behind to mourn the dead and bear the unbearable burden of this loss. I pray that Allah SWT would empower us with the fortitude to bear this unfortunate loss and especially, the capacity to design measures that forestalls its reoccurrence. Let us remember those who were injured and are still in the hospital recovering and put them in our prayers and thoughts.
In a way, we are all victims too as we lost part of the fabrics of our community. Though the time will come, and come soon, this isn’t the time of finger pointing; it’s a time to stand up together not only in mourning but also in our prayers. Out of respect for those who died, we shouldn’t move too quickly away from absorbing what happened to them and respecting them as human beings, them as our brothers and sisters, putting ourselves in their shoes that day, in the shoes of their loved ones left behind. Islam prescribes three days of mourning. This is the time to mourn THEM.
Let us restrain ourselves and contain our bewilderment, our disbelief, our anger, our frustrations till after Sunday. We must block all other things out, and think of those who died, how they died, those they left behind, and PRAY for them all. It is a time to also remember those still in hospital, who managed to escape a ghastly death and PRAY for them. It is a time to also PRAY for Offa, its people, the neighbouring local governments, Kwara State and Nigeria at large.
Indeed, Thursday would remain a dark cloud in the lives of Kwarans, and this challenges us to seek answers why violent criminality is sweeping across our land. These evil people hope that we would soon forget this recent massacre, as we forgot the other three. They hope that we all return to our normal lives, until they decide to strike again. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Our responsibility is to ensure that we never forget those who lost their lives. It isn’t enough to mourn, to pray and to move on; this period demands that we seek lasting answers to our security challenges in our communities and our state, and indeed, the country.
Those images, those pictures of those who were killed will stay with me, and am sure, with many of you as well, forever. Imagine, just please imagine as we received those images on our phones like most of us did, we realise that one of those in the picture was our father, or mother, or aunt, or uncle, or sister, or brother, or child, or friend, etc… I could go on. Now imagine how we would feel. Now double that and times it by 1,000 and it STILL won’t be anywhere close to how the loved ones of these victims must have felt, are feeling.
While it’s legitimate to demand answers from the state government and the security agencies, but as a people, we must equally go a step further to search deep into our hearts and question why humanity is becoming a total stranger in our communities. Certainly these evil butchers are known to some people, they live with their families, they must have returned home with clear evidence of their crime. Someone somewhere knows something, knows at least one of these perpetrators. We hope and pray that after having seen all those gory pictures doing the social media rounds, they will also put themselves in the shoes of those innocent victims and think how it easily could have been them, or their family members, or their friends. And then, they ask themselves, was it worth it? Is the temporary gain over the permanent loss of lives worth it?
At this time, we deserve leadership to provide answers in our state and one that speaks to the reassurance of our people and that stands with victims and the community.
I pray that Allah SWT would be there for us as a people now and always.