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Owo Massacre: Ondo Governor Akeredolu Weeps at Burial, Laments Failure to Protect Citizens

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State in Nigeria’s southwest on Friday blamed himself and government at all levels for failing to defend the victims of June 5 attack on St

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State in Nigeria’s southwest on Friday blamed himself and government at all levels for failing to defend the victims of June 5 attack on St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, which claimed 40 lives.

Akeredolu made the declaration during the funeral Mass for 18 of the victims, held at the Mydas Resort and Hotel, Owo.

Akeredolu, who was at the event alongside his wife, Betty; former governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko; Chairman of the state’s chapter of the All Progressives Congress, Ade Adetimehin; and a chieftain of the APC, Chief Olusola Oke (SAN), stressed that evil will not triumph forever.

Akeredolu, who wept during his speech, said the government failed to protect the victims of the terror attack.
The governor said: “We have failed to defend these people. Not because we have not tried, but because these forces on the other side are evil and they have support.”

He noted that something must be done about security in the country, adding that the security architecture of the nation needs rejigging.
“When I see the sea of heads that are here, it speaks volumes. What has happened to us in Owo is indescribable. A lot of words are used to qualify it – dastardly, horrendous. But I still believe there are words to describe it but I am still short of those words.

“We have just 22 deceased in this hall. A few of them have been buried, because the relatives couldn’t wait till today. But as at the last count, these animals came to the church and murdered 40 people.” governor Akeredolu said.
Responding, the Bishop of Ondo Catholic Diocese, Dr. Jude Arogundade declared that Akeredolu had not failed in protecting his people.

Bishop Arogundade said: “You didn’t fail. You are a strong soldier. Your determination to protect those who voted you into power is unquestionable. This was done by cowards. You have tried your best.”
Bishop Arogundade wondered why the people of the country need to beg for state police, despite the endless attack and killings, while thanking the governor for accepting to designate a memorial park in honour of the victims.

He stressed that those who created the situation that made the incident happen have blood on their hands.
Earlier in his funeral Mass message, Catholic Bishop of Oyo Diocese, Most Rev Emmanuel Badejo called on relatives of the victims to allow God to fight their battle.

Bishop Badejo said: “It will not be an exaggeration at all to begin this funeral Mass with Psalm 22 where David said ‘my God, my God, why have you forsaken me.’ This is not a homily, I am not happy to preach at all, and it is not an occasion which any of you ever pray to witness in this side of the world or our country.
“No doubt we all gather today in deep sorrow and mourning, for this funeral Mass for over 40 of our departed people who were brutally murdered, mindlessly massacred while at worship at St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, on Pentecost Sunday.

“Indeed, the event catapulted Ondo State, the Catholic Diocese of Ondo and Nigeria into the limelight of world attention, unfortunately, for the wrong reason. Since then, the world has condemned the crime perpetrated against humanity and against God in this state.”
Meanwhile, there was no mass burial for the victims of the attack, as relatives individually took possession of the corpses and were seen taking them to their home of origin.
Some of those who spoke with THISDAY said it was a taboo for an adult to be buried outside his or her home of origin.

A mourner, Nwani Christopher Chudi said since the death of his brother who was the breadwinner of the family, had been a battle for survival.
He said: “I lost somebody who was very dear to me, a senior brother, with the daughter; a promising child that we were hoping will be a person the family will depend on tomorrow. It was a tragic event on June 5 that somebody went to church and never came back.

“It has been a trauma because he is the breadwinner of the family. In my nuclear family, I’m the only surviving son. I have only five girls that are my younger ones to attend to. He used to support us, although he was married. You know Igbo tradition, once you are married, you have a wife, your siblings, are on their own. He will face his own immediate family, even the son that survived, that they call Victor, he just miraculously survived. It was God’s grace because he was inside the church while the shooting was going on but he survived. We thank God.”

According to him, “the wife’s BP had already risen above normal; her BP was already 180/170, which is very abnormal. You know she visited the hospital the other day. On two occasions, we took her to the hospital, since then she’s not eating well, she’s not sleeping, the trauma is so much.
“I was born and brought up in Owo, I don’t have a father, I don’t have a mother.My daddy has died likewise my mother. My late brother has been my pillar. I’m a graduate; I graduated from University of Jos in 1996, no white-collar job.”

Tears flowed freely from relatives of the victims and sympathizers who thronged the venue of the funeral Mass.

Fidelis David in Akure

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