Opinion: Anambra church stampede – When NOT to seize the moment

by Frank Onuoha


It is sad and gives everyone a clue of the character of these candidates. An African proverb says “the beak of the bird is what tells us the things it eats.” They will do anything including exploit the grief of the people of Anambra.

It is time people – particularly leaders, are told that every moment out there is not for you to seize. People should draw the line between principle and insensitivity or risk losing life’s true essence which is to care for other people. Last week politicians in Anambra forgot – or didn’t know where, to draw that line.

A stampede occurred in a place of worship where about a 100, 000 were present. A lot of congregants – over 30, died and several were injured as a result. Immediately after the incident Governor Obi set the tone of what is turning into a national embarrassment.

“When I was called upon by the presiding priest after the Holy Mass to speak at about 12.15am, a group of people located in 3 different spots started shouting the name of a gubernatorial candidate, Chris Ngige and waving the brooms of All Progressive Congress and pictures of the same candidate in the November 16 election. It took up to minutes for the presiding priest to calm them down. I was surprised that some people would turn a prayer ground into a campaign venue.” He then promised to set up a committee to investigate the incident.

The APC gamely replied to Obi’s plan to set up the committee, “Setting up a panel to investigate the cause of the stampede will amount to seeking to be a judge in your own case. The only cause of the stampede is the Governor’s ill-advised visit to the vigil. Information at our disposal has it that the stampede was triggered by the Governor’s overzealous details who manhandled congregants as their principal was exiting the venue of the vigil.”

The battle ground soon shifted to the social media starting with the photograph which showed the leaders of the ruling APGA dressed in the party’s campaign uniforms. It was posted on Ngige’s facebook and twitter accounts. The picture was followed with messages. Sure enough he got a reply from APGA’s candidate Willie Obiano.

It is sad and gives everyone a clue of the character of these candidates. An African proverb says “the beak of the bird is what tells us the things it eats.” They will do anything including exploit the grief of the people of Anambra. The Holy book makes it clear, “there is time for everything” including “time to mourn in peace.” This is a time of mourning for many in Anambra and anyone that claims to care will mourn with them in quietness. But when their leaders are seeing opportunities something is fundamentally wrong with our system! The thought alone is appalling and points to deep-seated executive callousness.

I remember that two hurricanes took place during the first term of President Barack Obama which coincided with the period of campaigns but the two candidates never took advantage of people’s misfortune to advance their political ambitions. It would have been easy for Romney to blame Obama for not doing enough for the hurricane victims but he didn’t. It was an opportunity but they both knew that if you truly care for the people as you claim you have to be sensitive enough to stir you political battle away from issues like that. Besides they knew that Americans will never forgive anyone who did.

To be fair, Ngige and Obi are not the first politicians in Nigeria to “cease the moment”, I remember when the 1st October bomb of 2010 happened, and the opposition and the ruling party kept throwing dirt at each other that in the end no one knew what actually transpired or how the story ended. Leaders are like shepherds, the flock is their utmost priority. That means whatever affects the sheep affects the shepherd. In fact, a good shepherd assumes responsibility and does everything in his power to ensure there is no repeat occurrence. For instance, one may like to know how a church facility that was said to be made for about 5, 000 people allowed to host 100,000. Leaders have a responsibility to make the lives of sheep more comfortable.

Political leaders in Nigeria must learn where to put the RED LINE. Families of the victims in the stampede are not being helped when their issues are so selfishly exploited in the public domain and in the end no solution is provided.


Frank Onuoha , a historian and public affairs analyst tweets from  @iamfrankelean


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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