One year ago, in the wee hours of Saturday, July 9, 2016, Deaconess Eunice Olawale was gruesomely murdered in Gbazango-West area of Kubwa, a satellite town in Abuja, by unknown assailants. She had been preaching Jesus during her early morning evangelical routine, Morning Cry, when she was attacked and stabbed to death.
As the day got brighter, news began to spread of the awful incident. Eunice’s body lay lifeless in a pool of blood, with her Bible, megaphone and cellphone at her side. The news soon reached Pastor Elisha Olawale, and immediately he headed frantically to the scene. But the corpse had been taken away by the police, so he made his way to the police station, where he discovered that the victim was indeed his wife. It was said that he passed out right there, and he had to be resuscitated.
The deceased, who was a vibrant member of the popular Redeemed Christian Church of God (Divine Touch Parish), left behind seven children.
While lamenting her demise, some residents of the area said Mrs Olawale was a humble, caring and industrious woman, well-known for her early-morning preaching.
It was reported at the time that the police arrested a number of suspects in the course of their investigation. However, one year later, the murderers of the late preacher are yet to be identified, despite the strict call by members of the House of Representatives to the Inspector General of Police for a detailed and conclusive investigation.
Apart from the public outcry on social media following the tragic event, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) had issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Nigerian Police to bring the perpetrators of the crime to book, but all to no avail.
There is a consensus that the horrific act was inspired by nothing else than religious intolerance. This public perception cannot be overlooked as it was disclosed that the deceased had been threatened few weeks before her death by some persons in a mosque along where she preached. Following the threat, late Eunice had lain low for about a week before resuming her preaching.
The Islam-Christianity dichotomy in Nigeria is a socio-religious situation that is severally exploited by different interests within the country. Over the years, many lives have been lost to violence fuelled by religious intolerance and extremism, the latest and deadliest in recent history being the Boko Haram scourge, remnants of which we still with. These fundamentalists, who clearly have no value for human life, or regard for the constitution, are taking advantage of the idle manpower and illiterate population of an economy in distress. Extremist doctrines are easily propagated in a society where there is a vast majority of uneducated and unemployed youth. The supremacist theology espoused by Boko Haram and other similar, but less-vociferous, groups is responsible for grooming such detestable characters that murdered Eunice.
It’s also unfortunate that some elements within the political elite often stoke the fire of division between the two major religions, mainly in their pursuit of power. No doubt, Nigeria’s religious dichotomy remains a major determinant of election results. Desperate seekers of elective positions go as far as leveraging religion to climb the echelons of power. Political leaders must understand the consequences of adopting such ploys in their quest for office. It does not foster harmony and peaceful coexistence in the long run. There’s no gainsaying the fact that many of the religious clashes that have occurred in Nigeria have serious political underpinnings. But if politicians would stop in their tracks to consider the cost of religious strife and upheavals in human lives and properties lost, perhaps they’d be more cautious in their gambits and power play.
The murder of Eunice is one among several unresolved cases of homicide. Ritual killings and kidnappings are also rampant today. Presently, six pupils of Lagos State Model College, Igbonla are in kidnappers’ den. We hear that the IGP has his best men investigating the case, some of whom helped to apprehend the notorious billionaire kidnapper, Evans. But it’s been over a month since those boys were kidnapped and one can only imagine their misery, and their parent’s plight.
The security situation in our country is plainly volatile. It’s a known fact that the population is under-policed. When assessed according to international standards, the Nigeria Police Force lacks sufficient manpower and equipment to effectively confront the challenges before it. The United Nations stipulates a ratio of one policeman to 400 people, but Nigeria falls greatly below that standard. For us to bridge the gap, the NPF needs to recruit 155,000 additional men and officers to police the Nigerian population of approximately 182 million citizens. This means recruiting not less than 31,000 men yearly from now for period of at least five years.
The inadequacy of the police is especially pronounced in the area of crime detection. I believe crime fighting will be taken a notch further if our security agencies are well-equipped to nib crimes in the bud before they ever occur. Thus, it was indeed a highly commendable report that operatives of the Department of State Security recently foiled bomb attacks targeted at four northern states during the Eid-el-Fitr celebrations.
This short piece is a reminder to all those at the helm of affairs in the executive, legislature and judiciary arms that all is not well as long as justice is denied Eunice Olawale and all other victims of barbaric killings. The onus, indeed, is on all of us to make sure justice is served them. As the renowned playwright Wole Soyinka said, “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.” If the government feigns ignorance, it is our duty to demand action, logical and timely action. The Nigeria Police needs to get to the bottom of this issue if truly they exist to serve and to protect. The state should get involved in providing some welfare for the seven children Eunice left behind. CAN and PFN should not relent in their demand for justice until it is given.
As a secular state, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria makes clear provision for the freedom of religion. This proviso must be well emphasised. Any individual or religious sect that found guilty of bigotry through dogma or terrorism must be duly prosecuted.
Our leaders must also grow up and evolve better political strategies for winning elections. Such strategies should promote inclusiveness and discourage religious divisions at all levels.
Finally, an important lesson for Christians particularly is the need for them to be watchful and proactive in the propagation of their faith. It was Jesus Himself who said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16). We must take special precautions for our safety and allow the angels do the rest.