Forty-two-year-old Oguchi Unachukwu, a father of two: nine-year-old boy and four-month-old girl, was hale and hearty on May 31, 2021. Bubbling with zeal and zest, he had hit the road on the fateful day from his residence in Owerri, Imo State, South East Nigeria in his vehicle.
Other occupants of his vehicle were his wife, Ijeoma, their two kids and his cousin, Nnamdi. Thirty-two-year-old Ijeoma and her children were to see her husband and their daddy off at the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport while Oguchi’s cousin was to drive the car back to their residence in Owerri.
May 31 was an unusual day in the annals of the South Easterners. A separatist organization, Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, had declared a sit-at-home to commemorate the massacre of about three million of their compatriots during the 30-month civil war declared by the rest of Nigeria against the Igbo between 1967 and 1970.
The sit-at-home has become a yearly ritual. It essentially holds on May 30 but owing to this year’s May 30 falling on a Sunday, the worship day of Christians, it had to be deferred to the next day being Monday.
Oguchi was billed to catch a flight at the Sam Mbakwe Airport on the fateful day preparatory to traveling in a connecting flight same day at Lagos to Hamsburg Germany. His flight ticket read May 31. He was also to resume work on June 1.
He took off early at about 7:00am from his residence in Owerri. The roads were devoid of much vehicular and human traffic. It was a smooth ride though interrupted intermittently by security operatives who kept sentry at different checkpoints. His morale was bolstered by the directive by the state government that law-abiding citizens should ignore IPOB and go about their lawful businesses.
His wife, Ijeoma disclosed they were flagged down at three of such checkpoints along the Owerri-Aba expressway. Unlike Noel Chigbu, a businessman who was killed by a soldier on April 25 in Owerri for allegedly violating military checkpoint rule, Oguchi observed checkpoint rules. Upon introducing himself and mission including showing his travel luggage to buttress his point, Oguchi’s vehicle was passed on at the first three checkpoints. He even displayed his kind-hearted nature to the security operatives as he doled out some tips to them to acknowledge and assuage their sacrifices to the nation.
On being cleared at the third checkpoint at the Airport junction along Owerri-Aba expressway, Oguchi and others were perhaps elated that finally they have made it to the airport for they were just a shouting distance to the airport. It never occurred to them that death was lurking around the corner.
According to Ijeoma, like the three checkpoints they passed, they were also flagged down at the Airport checkpoint manned by personnel of the 211 Regiment of the Nigeria Airforce. She said Oguchi stopped for checks but instead of the check, he got a lethal bullet shot from the nozzle of the gun of one of the Airforce officers. The shot which was at point blank range hit Oguchi on the head. It pierced through his head. The devastation and destruction the bullet caused was deadly, it was fatal.
Blood began oozing like a river from the plump, chubby-faced Oguchi. The security personnel coming to the reality of the devastation and havoc which one of them had caused brought their van and ferried a bleeding Oguchi first to the Naval Hospital located along the Owerri-Aba expressway before conveying him to the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri.
The FMC medics and staffers insisted on following all processes before medical care could be given to the bleeding Oguchi. Come to think of it, this is a country where due process is hardly observed but in this case, the FMC insisted.
The Airforce personnel, according to Ijeoma zoomed off after dumping Oguchi at the FMC. At about 7:00pm, Oguchi gave up the ghost. He died. He breathed his last. He bade farewell to this world, unplanned, unprepared and in such a gruesome manner.
The journey to Lagos enroute to Germany has been cut short. It has ended as Oguchi’s body had to be wheeled to the morgue. He has been lying cold in the morgue since May 31.
A hale and hearty Oguchi is gone. The wife wept profusely and still wails till date. So are Oguchi’s aged mother, Mrs. Helen Unachukwu, brothers and sisters including friends and associates. They have wept a bucket. Tears have not stopped dripping on their cheeks.
The funeral day is another moment of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Will the Airforce personnel that unleashed the fatal shot be punished? Has he even been identified? Or is he still an unknown officer?
How does the widow cope? How does she cater for the two kids Oguchi left behind? How about their schooling? Who picks the bills? Will the family get justice from Nigeria? Not likely. Not in Nigeria!
In Nigeria, try all you could to remain alive. Don’t allow anyone to kill you. For if anyone does, the state looks at the other side while the killer roams the streets a free person. Human life is cheap, almost meaningless in this clime.
May Oguchi’s soul find a perfect repose in the bosom of the Lord. May God grant his 70-year-old mother the fortitude to bear performing the dust-to-dust ritual of his son, a ritual which every parent prays is the other way round.