The main target of the attack on worshippers at St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu, during a 6am Mass on August 6, was a 36-year-old man named Aloysius Nnamdi Ikegwuonu, a South Africa-based businessman who single-handedly built the church.
The true account of what happened has been given by Ikegwuonu’s stepmother from her hospital bed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, Nnewi.
About 6.15am, some gunmen went to Mr Ikegwuonu’s home [he returned to the village some weeks ago] but failed to see him. They seized his stepmother and asked her Ikegwuonu’s whereabouts. She told them he had gone to church. But she knew that her stepson had left the village on Saturday evening without telling his family his whereabouts.
The gunmen dragged his stepmother to the church. Not finding Ikegwuonu, they asked her where his father was in the church. She pointed in the direction he usually sat.
One of the gunmen, with his face covered, shot the stepmother’s hand and then entered the church and shot sporadically in the direction Ikegwuonu’s father was actually sitting. Many were killed instantly, including Ikegwuonu’s father. More than 20 others including Ikegwuonu’s stepmother were wounded.
As later confirmed by Governor Willie Obiano in a broadcast, at least 12 worshippers got killed. He blamed the tragedy on a drug war between two brothers from Ozubulu. They had, he said, transferred their feud in a foreign country to their home village.
Since the tragedy happened, many have criticised the collapse of moral values in south-east Nigeria. Christian churches and their pastors have also come under attack for requesting money from people of doubtful character.
Ikegwuonu is said to be generous with cash. He has received a chieftaincy title and addressed as “High Chief” and also called “Ebubechukwuzo”, “Akuchinyere Nwata 1”, “Uzochukwu kwalu 1 of Umueje”, and “The Bishop”.
Among several other projects, Ikegwuonu has constructed a road/linking bridges to his hometown and got Governor Obiano to commission it. He has donated money to widows and offered seed capital to jobseekers wishing to start business. He has begun building a modern market.
On Saturday, July 22, 2017, High Chief Ikegwuonu handed over three cars to newly ordained priests of Ozubulu. Those present at the ceremony were several Catholic priests of St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Umuezekwe Ofufe Amakwa, Ozubulu.
On May 1, 2017, he celebrated his 36th birthday in style with numerous priests, friends and well-wishers in attendance.
The police in Anambra State have, meanwhile, arrested several suspects.