Oh Lord, bring back our Imo – By Deacon Chike Okafor

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There are not many places like our dear state Imo, signposted by its capital, Owerri.

Owerri is an awesome city, with its peace-loving and hospitable people; enchanting nightlife and boisterous weekends.

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But the past weeks have cast us in very bad light and sold a dreadful story to the world, about who we are not.

We have occupied conspicuous spaces in the news, all for the wrong reasons.

And this should be a matter of concern to anyone and everyone who calls Imo state home, irrespective of Political Party affiliation.

Businesses are suffering, pupils are on forced vacation, even day-workers are jumpy and begin to shut down by 3pm to scurry off home for fear of their lives.

Sadly, no day passes without stories that touch the heart. Before you react to one, another happens and the chain continues in quick successions.

Either Police formations are being attacked and policemen killed, or security infrastructures are being burnt down alongside public/government facilities.

Government functionaries and security personnel are targeted for the kill and nobody expects the security forces to just seat back and watch the decimation of their ranks.

But the counter-actions of the security forces must show they are different, humane and more professional than the rampaging hoodlums that have besieged our state.

Nothing can justify the increasing outrage over mounting body counts of victims of extrajudicial killings across the state.

No innocent man deserves to die for the crimes of these faceless hoodlums. It is a global norm that instead of an innocent man to suffer or be unjustly punished, let the criminal go free.

Every single death of an innocent man in Imo today – Police, Army or civilian – diminishes our collective humanity!

Just today,June,3 the heart-rending shooting and killing around the Orji flyover broke again. And I ask, for how long are we going to keep living like this?

This gory pattern of cold-blooded killings by strange elements that have infiltrated our civic space and the multiple incidents of stray bullets from security forces, leave so much to be desired.

The brazen attacks on the State Police Headquarters, the Owerri Correctional Centre, the country home of our dear Governor and even some private homes, are precedent we must put in check.

We must begin to talk to ourselves – from the community to the state level, from the home-front to the city-front – we must begin to tell ourselves some hard truth!

Most importantly, we must all close ranks, rally round and take back our state.

We must de-escalate the tension, violent attacks and arbitrary shooting of citizens, by owning our state and resolving to take it back from the brink.

There are neither miles to be gained nor political capital to be made from the death of citizens and guests to Imo.

Ultimately, no interest can be sustainably advanced through insecurity as everyone suffers under its weighty challenges.

As condemnable and reprehensible as these attacks and violent exchanges are to our state and psyche, if allowed to take firm root and fester, we shall all be the losers and possibly, the victims.

Nobody takes a fire to his bossom and not be burnt!

We must seat up and take notice of what is happening in our state – the political and apolitical, leaders and followers, men, women, boys and girls – we must own this struggle to redeem our dear state.

Inspite of our religious leanings, political inclinations and ideological biases, one thing that binds us all together is Imo, our homeland!

So, no matter where we stand as individuals, we must cut our losses and rally round our Governor, His Excellency Senator Hope Uzodinma and support him with ideas and counsel to help restore sanity and security to our dear state.

No matter who is involved in the carnage, the problem should be seen primarily as an Imo problem and also should awaken the Imo spirit in all of us – leaders and stakeholders.

It needs no saying that, we cannot afford to fiddle while Imo burns!

Our resolves and actions should transcend the usual political rhetoric, to an actionable blueprint, because human lives are involved.

Let us for once suspend our political rivalries, fold our sleeves and tackle this situation collectively.

With all our politics, if we seat back and allow this raging storm to consume Imo, just to score a political point, there may be no political trophy to win by 2023 and apparently, no state to govern!

And when the dust settles, may posterity be kind to us.

*Hon Deacon Chike  Okafor is a Member of the House of Representatives, Ehime Mbano/Ihitte Uboma/Obowo Federal Constituency .

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