By Comfort Obi
Dr Chike Akunyili was killed on Tuesday, September 28, 2021. I have a prayer for those who murdered him, and their sponsors.
May they never die. May they roam the streets of Anambra State and the rest of the South-east forever. May they have no place to call home. May violence and brutality follow them all their lives. And may they have nobody to mourn them at the end of their miserable lives.
The news of Dr Akunyili’s brutal end stunned Nigerians. I was frozen. And dazed. For minutes on end, I read and re-read the story. Hardly taking it in. Hardly understanding it. Thinking I was having a nightmare.
It is unbelievable, but that has become our lives in the South-east. A loooooong nightmare. We have seen what we thought was not possible to see in our life time. Or imagine. Life has become short and brutish. Young men suddenly pop out, guns in hand, and without any provocation, or human feelings, start shooting at people, their own people, possibly their own blood.
People have become shock absorbers. Beheaded bodies are flaunted. Cut off heads of human beings are displayed like trophies. In one of the most eerie, blood- cuddling viral videos ever seen, young men were seen, allegedly, in Anambra, playing football with a human head.
Businesses have been destroyed. Properties have been destroyed. Homes have been set ablaze. South-easterners, literally, have no place to call home anymore. They are afraid of home. They live in fear. Nightmare has become the new normal.
In Dr Akunyili’s case, I prayed the nightmare would end. But as has become the new normal, it was a reality. He was killed.
As I watched the video where he lay on the road, struggling, courageously trying to get up, his face shattered, everything in me literally died. And I cursed whoever recorded that scene and posted it. That was inhuman. The video would forever haunt his family. And friends.
But again, that is our new normal. Akunyili was looking for help. He did not get it. Instead, people, those who could have helped, and/or restored his dignity a little, were focussed on taking photographs of him, making videos, posting same, and running commentaries.
Everybody has become a journalist, a reporter. A photographer. A videographer. No video is too gory, too chilling, too eerie to post.
In the South-east, we are living the lives of the degraded Al Queda, ISWAP, ISIS, Boko Haram and the lot. They are the groups which show blood-cuddling videos of people being beheaded. What have we become? Or, what has become of us?
am proudly Igbo. Will always be. But, South-east people should be ashamed of themselves. A hard working, independent, dogged, intelligent people, but see what we have reduced ourselves to. See what we have reduced our once peaceful zone to. We used to brag, boast about, dream of, and blossom in the thoughts of going home during Easter, New Yam Festivals, Christmas and New Year. We looked forward to it. Those are periods our kindred and community spirit are at their peak. We embark on community projects. We watch our masquerades. We go visiting. We eat and wine. Just enjoying ourselves.
Nobody wants to go home. We are frozen with fear in our own zone. Our people prefer other regions to coming home. They are afraid of today, and afraid of tomorrow. They see no future in the Zone. The future they see is bleak.
As tragic as the Nigerian Civil War was, it made the Igbo look homeward. The abandoned property issue taught them a bitter lesson.
They lost their property. Not their dignity. It taught them how to build solid houses at home. Now, they are abandoning their homes again, and running off. And worse, losing their dignity.
And we live in self denial.
The Igbo blame everybody, but themselves, for their fate. They say they are persecuted and marginalized and hated in Nigeria. And yet, they treat themselves worse than Nigeria is treating them.
Tell me, is there any other place in Southern Nigeria where what is happening in Igboland is happening? Are beheadings going on anywhere else in Southern Nigeria except in Igboland? Are they laying ambush for their people and killing them so heartlessly, and without reasons or any provocation?
What is happening in parts of the North is not quite the same. There, they are dealing with terrorists. Are the Igbo also dealing with terrorists?
Check the number of high profile killings, and not so high profile killings, in the South-east. The other day, it was a retired High Court Judge who was dragged out of his car in Enugu, and shot dead in broad day light. The other day, it was the DG of a Federal Government Agency, located in Enugu, that was killed along with his Police Orderly and driver along the road, in broad day light. I understand the problems were the vehicle had an FG number plate, and he had a Policeman in front of his car. If a Fulani man is appointed as his replacement, the Igbo will shout marginalization. But their brother was killed in their territory, along with his driver and Police Orderly both of whom were Igbo.
The other day, it was a brilliant Anglican Cleric who was butchered in Imo because he, allegedly, dared protect students taking their external examination from being chased away by hoodlums.. And there are scores more. Which people survive like this?
We blame unknown gunmen each time. Unknown gunmen? When did this era start? Who are they? Who imported them? Where are they from? Who gives them the room to come in? Who waters the ground for them by words and deeds?
Usually, in some quarters, accusing fingers are pointed at the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, and its affiliate, the Eastern Security Network, ESN. But the leadership of IPOB/ESN is, also, usually quick to distance itself from the atrocities. They say they are a non-violent group. They say their job is cut out for them – to protect the Igbo and their interests. They say they are focused on achieving freedom for Biafra land. They say they are in the forests chasing Fulani Herdsmen who are destroying farmlands and defiling our girls and women. They insist those that are killing our people and destroying everything “destroyable” are not Igbo. Who are they? Why are our people not arresting them?
The Igbo are warriors and fearless and courageous. So, why are they allowing “strangers” to invade Igboland, wreak blood and tears and sorrow on their people – all the time – and go free, just like that? If they cannot arrest them, what is the use of ESN and Ebubeagu? Are these strangers those killing politicians and telling us there will be no elections?
Why are these happening in Igboland? If the Igbo don’t arrest the situation, who will do that for them? People are laughing and having a good time watching the Igbo destroy Igboland by words and deed.
I knew both Dr Chike Akunyili and his beloved wife, Professor Dora Akunyili, closely. I consciously gave Dr Akunyili space after Professor Akunyili’s death because each time I saw him, I dissolved into tears, just remembering his wife.
Dr Akunyili’s death tugs at my heartstrings. That I am devasted is obvious. That I am diminished as a human being by the manner of his death is putting it mildly.
A great surgeon, he lived his life saving lives. Yet, when it was his turn to be saved, nobody cared. Nobody cared for his dignity. Instead, they were busy videoing him as he lay in pains. So, one is forced to ask: what is the worth of doing good? What is the worth of caring for people? How much are kindness and compassion worth? Where has sympathy gone to?
Dr Akunyili had his own distinct identity. He was a Medical Doctor, a great Surgeon, worked in the best hospital in the South-east, had his own private hospital, yet, we all knew him as Professor Dora Akunyili’s husband. He did not mind it. He loved it. He was not one of those men whose wives’ high profile intimidated. His wife was his joy. Her numerous successes were his pride.
He flaunted and glowed in them. It is an uncanny coincidence that his last duty on mother-earth was a duty to, and for his wife.
I shared a number of beautiful, and hilarious moments with them. As I write this, I remember a couple of those moments. As high profile, and high flying as Professor Akunyili was, she was a jelly, a baby before her husband. On more than one occasion, I had met her kneeling down and begging him to allow her attend a meeting. Ever protective of his wife, if Dr Akunyili suspected the meeting was going to be controversial, and knowing his wife’s blunt nature, he would put his feet down and stop her from attending. “I know you my wife. Call them and make excuses for your absence. She obeyed.
At the wedding of their daughter, Ijeoma, in Cote d’Ivoire, Dora had dressed up with the assistance of one celebrity lady for one of the functions. We were together. We felt she looked cute. But when Chike entered the room, he thought otherwise. He casually asked her to change the dress. “My wife is prettier than this”, he insisted. Without a word, Dora looked for something else to wear.
Like in most of these high profile murder cases, everybody is distancing themselves from Dr Akunyili’s brutal murder. Accusations and counter accusations are coming down like claps of thunder.
I don’t believe Dr Akunyili was ambushed. I believe he was in the right place at the wrong time. He became a target because of the brand of vehicle he was using, and especially, because he had his Police Orderly in front of the car. In Igboland, that has become a taboo. It is not the best of place to have a Police Orderly, or a good car. You become a suspect – either being a politician or a Government man. Dr Akunyili was neither.
For the records, he and his Police Orderly and driver were not the only fatalities. There were others. The questions are: Which group was on a killing spree at that point in time? Which group did not want to see any congregation anywhere? Which group has been attacking Politicians and just about everybody?
Dr Akunyili’s younger brother, Cyril, had pointedly accused IPOB of killing his brother. On a second thought, he said he was no longer sure of the group that killed him.
IPOB, in a strongly-worded reaction, denied complicity. It put the blame literally on Government and the “Fulani.” And alleged that those who killed Dr Akunyili were same people who poisoned his wife.
Again, for the records, Professor Akunyili was not poisoned to death. She died of a misdiagnosed cancer. It was misdiagnosed outside Nigeria, long before she became the DG of NAFDAC. By the time it was properly diagnosed, it was late. Even then, a great fighter, she beat the dateline given to her to pass on by more than one year.
It is heart-warming that all the alleged “suspects” have sworn to go after the killers – Security Agencies, IPOB, the lot. They should. That is the spirit. That is the only way they can regain our trust, if ever.. Nigerians cannot wait to know the real killers. Perhaps, this would, at the end, give the South-east a breathing space. Let us shame the devils.
Dr Chike and Professor Dora Akunyili will be happy to be together again, wherever. But they could not have planned it that Dr Akunyili would pass on in this brutal manner, and leave their children multiply broken-hearted. It’s such a shame. Such a big shame.