Degenerate deed

How could a man be buried alive over alleged land dispute?

It could sound like a spiritualised deduction, but it is difficult to escape the thought that infernal demons were probably on the loose in Imo State, in the light of reports that a community leader in Eziali village, Mgbidi, Orlu West Local Government Area, Chief Oliver Ononaku, was buried alive over a land dispute. He was reportedly seized last December by a five-man gang allegedly hired by his antagonist, and interred in Ozara, a neighbouring village, after which his abductors demanded a N30 million ransom from his family, ostensibly for his release.

It may not be a bit far-fetched to think of demons at work, if the remark of another community leader, Chief Iroku Nduka, on the happening, is anything to go by. He was quoted as saying, “The community will begin a cleansing ritual to avert the wrath of the gods.”

The claim that Ononaku was buried alive, if true, presents a heartrending picture of abysmal bestiality. The very thought of this possibility is nauseating. If, on the other hand, he was killed before burial, it does nothing to redeem his murderers. What foul fury sanctioned his elimination? Or did he just suddenly expire in captivity, and was entombed afterwards? From whatever perspective, it was a degenerate deed that must not go unpunished.

Indeed, that Ononaku’s corpse has been located and exhumed by the police, and the inhuman gang members and their alleged sponsor arrested, is cold comfort. However, this seems the best that could be expected under the circumstances. At least, proper funeral rites for Ononaku can now be performed, and those allegedly responsible for his death can get their comeuppance.

The apprehension of the suspects was not without moments of drama, and stretched the ingenuity of the police. It is laudable that creative policing was not only employed in this incident, but also brought about the desired result. According to the narrative, following the victim’s disappearance and his kidnappers’ demand for money from his family, the police force reinvented itself in this particular case. A police source narrated: “The money was made available and the suspects told them where to put it. But a plain-clothes policeman, who pretended to be a mad man, was planted where the ransom was dropped. When one of the suspects came out of the bush to collect the money, he was shot and arrested by the supposed mad man. The suspect confessed to committing the crime. It was his confession that led to the arrest of the man who hired them and other members of the gang.

They led the police to where Ononaku was buried. The body was exhumed and deposited in a mortuary.”

Beyond the man’s tragic death, the police approach had elements of risk taking and the comic. It does require mental elasticity to picture a policeman disguised as a lunatic, and getting away with the pretence. Here was life imitating art, and the mimetic capacity of the policeman that effectively played the mad man’s role deserves applause. It is commendable that the police went to such great lengths to crack the case.

Against the background of criticisms of the police for alleged inefficiency, this is one instance in which the force has impressively demonstrated that it can live up to its billing as a crucial crime-fighting outfit. With the suspects in the net, the police must carry out a thorough investigation to get to the root of the matter for justice to be delivered. It is bad enough that Ononaku was abducted. Even worse, it is unacceptable that he lost his life in such repulsive circumstances. In the final analysis, the trial and punishment of the culprits must be pursued expeditiously to send a clear message to would-be kidnappers and killers that they will not be accommodated by the society.