AWKA The genesis For sometime now, Anambra State has been a theatre of terror activities and violent crimes. Among all the atrocious indignities brought upon the state by certain yet-to-be-identified hoodlums, nothing has shaken and unnerved the state like the abominable killing of an Hausa mother and her children. When the news broke last month, how a ‘Muslim’ mother and her children were slain in cold blood by unknown assailants at Umunze in Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra State, the ugly incident unsettled the area and indeed the state in general.
The killing was mutually condemned by all men of good will regardless of religion, tribe or creed. In some quarters, the incident rekindled the old flame of Christian- Muslim religious feud and in others, the North- South faceoff, that is as old as the Nigerian independence.
Deborah Samuel’s murder
The ugly incident followed so closely in tow, the dastardly killing of Citizen Deborah Samuel in Sokoto State by religious fundamentalists who alleged that she blasphemed their religion. While the killings and reprisal killings raged on, Anambra state once again was set on edge as there was heightened apprehension that the security situation in the area may further be worsened.
It was later discovered however, that the woman in question was not even a Muslim and that the gunmen were the same gang that beheaded the Anambra State House of Assembly lawmaker, Hon. Okey Okoye and carried out the attack in Umunze as a diversion. Despite these findings, apprehensions refused to abate and it therefore needed the intervention of the state Police Commissioner Echeng Echeng to interface with the Northern community in the state in a far-reaching mutually beneficial interaction.
Apparently, to drive home the message of social harmony among the indigenes and their Northern settlers, Governor Charles Soludo had a parley with the Hausa community which appears to have assuaged frayed nerves. At the peak of these fears, apprehension and uncertainty, Soludo made it clear that there are no religious or ethnic killings in the state. According to his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Christian Aburime, in a recent statement, he said: “While it is true that there is general insecurity across the country, there is no targeted ethnic or religious killings in Anambra State.
“As a matter of fact, Anambra indigenes have suffered more casualties as a result of the unfortunate killings. “The Government of Anambra State hereby states that reports suggesting ethno-religious killings is not only sensational but misleading and should be immediately retracted to reflect the real situation on ground.
“It is on record that Ndi Anambra and people of other parts of the country, particularly those from the North, who live and do business in the State, not only share common values, but have always lived in peace with each other in the State. “Governor Soludo’s Administration has not only demonstrated commitment in tackling insecurity, but has continuously reassured both indigenes and non-indigenes in the State of their protection and safety. This, he will continue do for the good and progress of all and sundry in Anambra State.”
Similarly, at the meeting with the Northern community in the state, Soludo reiterated his government’s commitment towards ensuring peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims in the state. He added that every non-indigene in the state should feel free to go about their lawful businesses without fear as his administration would continue to guarantee a business and socioeconomic friendly haven for all and sundry. Soludo had said: “Anambra state is a peaceful state and we welcome anyone that can contribute to the growth of the state and this would in turn grow his or her business and that is why this meeting has become instructive at this point.” Also speaking at the parley, the leader of the Northern community, Alhaji Abdulrahim Suberu expressed his happiness over the meeting with the governor, adding that they have always co-existed with the host community even before the creation of the state and cannot change now.
He said: “Anambra people are business people and the Igbo people are the highest number of tourists in Nigeria and they are known to develop wherever they find themselves. “So, we pledge our support to the government of Prof. Charles Soludo in ensuring peace in Anambra state and we the Northern and Muslim community would assist his administration in the drive to maintain peace in the state.” Soludo’s move indeed appears to be having positive multiplier effects in the state as was typified in reactions of the leader of the Cattle Dealers Association in the area, Sadiq Gidado, who said: “We are peace-loving Nigerians and we have been doing business in the South-East for more than 20 years now and we have lived peacefully with our host community all these years.
“We urge Governor Soludo to sustain this peace move and ensure that the settlers in the state would continue to do business in Anambra State while contributing their quota to ensuring that the peace of the state is maintained to the benefit of all stakeholders.
“We also urge him to make efforts to protect our cattle and our men that are the dealers for us to have that peaceful coexistence that we so desire at this point.” Similarly the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Rt. Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, while speaking with reporters recently noted that the issue of religious and ethnic crisis has remained an evil wind that blows nobody any good. He commended Soludo for taking the bold step to ensure that public safety, peace and harmonious co-existence between indigenes and non-indigenes are restored. At the Northern settlement along Ziks Avenue in Awka those that spoke with this reporter noted that most of them were born in Anambra state. “All our children were born here and some of them are even married to Igbo people, so we do not regard ourselves as Northerners so to speak,” one of the Hausa leaders, said. Kassim Abdulahi, a 58-year-old cattle dealer noted that he came to Anambra state at the age of eight and has been in Anambra state since then, doing the same business.
He said: “We know Igbo people as those that have respect and regards for human lives and they believe in team spirit irrespective of where you come from and most of ours people here have followed this style and it is paying off for us.”
Just like Soludo extended a hand of peace to the unknown gunmen before deploying force, it has been said that the heart-warming response of the Muslim community to his approach should also stem the spare of killings by hoodlums suspected to be Fulani herdsmen in most communities in the area. Observers also advise that the Northern community should as a matter of necessity use their leadership to checkmate and monitor the activities of those miscreants who claim to be members of the Myetti Allah when they are indeed arsonists.
Consequently it is also being canvassed that the President-Generals and Traditional Rulers of respective communities should also set up committees in their communities to work with the leaders of the Muslim or Northern communities in order to ensure and guarantee the much needed peace in the state. According to a Human Rights Lawyer based in the United Kingdom, Barr. Paul Onuachalla: “We cannot wish away the fact that Governor Charles Soludo has this desire to institutionalize peace in Anambra state and it is worthy of commendation by all that mean well for the state and Igbo land in general. “However It is my view that this should be sustained and also, the governor should link up with sister governors in the North and get them to extend the same olive branch to Southerners in their respective states.