Within the last week, the social media had exploded with pictures, videos and reports of the beating of a self-styled evangelist in Onitsha, Anambra State, popularly known as Odumeje. The furore was triggered by the pulling down of part of the structures at the church premises of Odumeje which were deemed to have been built on top of a water way and therefore classified as illegal structures.
According to what we learnt, Odumeje and others whose structures blocked the water way were served last April but some of them took no action until the Anambra State Government went into action to execute the demolition of such structures. It was while they were demolishing the ones owned by Odumeje that he reportedly drove into the scene despite shouts for him to stop. In the process he was said to have knocked down one of the enforcers of the demolition while he jumped onto the bulldozer to wrestle with the driver for the wheels.
It was after he was brought down that a video of how he was molested by some security operatives was shown. Expectedly, many condemned the action of the security personnel, especially the slap given him by someone who looked like a vigilante. People saw no reason for such high handedness and condemned it.
We also join in condemning that action which we see as yet another manifestation of the lack of respect given to the civilian population in the country by members of the armed forces. But we are gratified that the governor himself apologized for the behaviour of the security personnel while promising to subject the culprit who delivered the slap to disciplinary action.
But beyond the recriminations trailing the rough handling of Odumeje, is the broader issue of government business and the need to get it going.
If government had given warning of what it intended to carry out to those whose property were involved, we see no reason why any of such people should interfere with government work which the ongoing exercise to clean up Onitsha is all about. Anyone who had reservations about the planned demolition of illegal structures was expected to have explored the right channels in dialoguing with the government between the time they were served notice of that and the time the demolitions began. Turning round to accost government officials who have come to do their work is what we consider as mere theatrics aimed at distracting the government. It is something that could easily lead to mischievous narratives about the demolition being targeted at certain people. We are aware that the property of two Catholic parishes have also been earmarked for demolition.
Unfortunate as what the demolition of Odumeje’s property led to, we have to note that governance is serious business which requires a strong political will to do. We are behind the government in doing whatever it will take to change the face of Onitsha and other places, so long as due process is adopted. The beginning of great things is often slow and difficult but we believe strongly that the end will bring forth smiles to everyone’s face.
It is however hoped that the actions of the security personnel against Odumeje would not be repeated, as such has become the order of the day in our society. Members of the armed forces and other security personnel should always act with restraint when dealing with members of the public whose taxes are used in paying them their salaries.
In the interim, the business of government must go on and we all have to cooperate.