• Dami Afam Ade-Odiachi

A Requiem for Owo.

I have seen a video. In it there are bodies, dead, lying side by side. The camera pans quickly. There’s a woman in pink kneeling. Her hands are clutching the pews, the long seats typically found in churches. There is a pool of blood around her. Someone gestures to her as if to help her up. She raises her hands in exasperation and returns them to the pews. She looks calm. Her face is almost blank. There are no tears. There is no anger. The look is one of resignation. I understand it.

The BBC says armed men entered St. Francis Catholic Church in a town called Owo in Ondo, a state in South West Nigeria. The Punch reports that the gunmen shot the worshippers and threw explosives- dynamite, inside the church. Reverend Father Andrew Abayomi, a priest at the church told BBC Yoruba that the attack happened towards the end of the service:

“We were about to round off service. I had even asked people to start leaving, that was how we started hearing gunshots from different angles.”

“We hid inside the church but some people had left when the attack happened. We locked ourselves in the church for 20 minutes. When we heard that they had left, we opened the church and rushed victims to the hospital.”

How many bodies is it now? How many people has Nigeria sacrificed on the altar of inaction? How many more will it take for something to change?

In 2015, on the 6th of January, President Muhammadu Buhari said, “Let me make you this promise today: We will protect your children. We will protect your wealth. We will make this country work again.” He was running for president then. He told us what we wanted to hear. We believed him. He won the election and proceeded to do the opposite of what he promised. In a way, he’s an Antichrist. A deceiver of serpentine proportions. It would have been one thing if life had stayed the same. Things weren’t particularly great in 2015, but they weren’t this bad. I still had energy then to care, to tweet, to demand change. Since he’s been in power the Nigerian quality of life and standard of living have regressed so aggressively that I can no longer attribute it to ineptitude. The problems the country faces are entirely by design. They must be.

I have seen a picture. It’s a terrible picture. A grandmother is clutching her grand daughter. The pain on her face is palpable. It’s physical. It’s tangible. It’ll lance the heart of anyone who sees it. Her grand daughter is no longer hers. Blood has stained her dress like an inkblot on wet paper. She’s dead. What was once a girl with a future, 60 years of life ahead of her at least, is now a corpse destined for a child sized coffin with 6 feet of earth atop it. It will likely happen within the week. Nigerians do not tend to dawdle when children die.

As the country’s fortunes have faded, I’ve become jaded. I don’t like this. No one should ever hear that as many as 50 people have been killed by terrorists, bandits, or gunmen and feel nothing. I know what my feelings should be. I should be sad, should be angry. I shouldn’t be thinking about supper or sex or work. I should be in church praying for the dead with tears trickling down my face. I think in some ways I envy them. They are free. It is we the living I am terrified for.

Our leaders have spoken. Fake condolences, chatting bullshit about anger, promising consequences, but we’ve heard this before. They will do nothing. The outcome will be nothing. Cheap words that don’t do anything in the way of consolation or resolution. Useless words meant only to sustain the illusion of imagined progress. If there was anything good about the End SARS protests it is that we saw how quickly the country could move if it wanted. We saw how effectively the country’s resources could be deployed. Here, there is only talk unbacked by action. They are deceivers, liars, villains of the highest order.

I have a friend whose aunt lives in Owo, the town where this massacre happened. She goes to that church. She didn’t go on that day though. There was a to do at another parish nearby. Her neighbour was not as lucky. The neighbour didn’t go to that church either. It would have been better if she had. Three of her children went, all of them were shot. Their mother, the neighbour, fainted when she heard. Three hours after she remained like that, in suspended animation, a gift for those broken by grief. When she wakes up she will do the impossible work of healing. On my end though, a resolution.

I am already 3 parts jaded. If you shot a man in front of me, I might giggle, step over his body, and go on about my day as if nothing had happened. I do not like this. I must protect what remains. I cannot sit and do nothing. At the very least I must speak, must write. I will write what I know to be true. In Nigeria, our leaders have conspired to drive us mad and then kill us dead, please help.

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