The traditional ruler of Ozubulu community where gunmen massacred worshippers says he did not know the alleged drug baron before he came back from SA.
The monarch said in an interview with Sun Newspaper that it was until he returned from South Africa as a very rich man that he knew the man popularly called Bishop and had to give him chieftaincy titles due to his philanthropic works in the community.
HRH Oruche said it was when Bishop took it upon himself to give succor and help to the downtrodden that he became impressed with him and his kind gestures.
In the interview, the traditional ruler, however, debunked rumours that Bishop was a drug baron, adding that a man with such a large heart could not possibly be a criminal.
Read excerpts from the interview here:
"I didn’t know Aloysius Ikegwuonu until he returned from South Africa as a rich person. The truth is that everybody in Ozubulu is my subject.
So, I will say that Chief Aloysius Ikegwuonu is my brother. He is a well-known philanthropist in this town and beyond.
He had started helping the downtrodden, the less privileged and paying hospital bills of people before I met him. He had also started building projects like churches before we met.
In all honesty, I will say that he is a very good person. He is not a bad man at all. He has a good heart and he is always ready to help people."
On whether he knew what Bishop did for a living in South Africa, the Igwe said:
"How can I know what he does when he is based abroad? He does not live in Ozubulu. He told us that he does some business abroad. He is not the only person from Ozubulu who lives abroad.
We have many sons and children of the community who live overseas especially in South Africa.
I was not in the church when the incident occurred. Somebody called me on the phone to tell me about it. St Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu, where the incident occurred, is a bit far from the palace.
I was told that gunmen invaded the church and opened fire on people who had left their various houses to worship God. I was told that lifeless bodies littered everywhere.
I was saddened by the report because those who died were all my subjects, my brothers, and sisters. I quickly called my council head and informed him of the horrifying development.
I don’t know of any drug deal as being reported. But I know that about three years ago, the Ozubulu Development Union in South Africa, was having serious leadership tussle.
Our children who are living there were having a disagreement over who becomes the chairman of the union.
They didn’t agree and couldn’t resolve the issue among themselves. Mind you that we have the Ozubulu Development Union all over the world. The union is for peace and development of our community.
So, when they couldn’t resolve the issue among themselves, all of them, numbering hundreds returned to the country from South Africa.
The issue was brought before the President General of Ozubulu Development Union, Chief Nobert Anigbogu. Anigbogu tried his best but couldn’t solve the contentious issue.
The factions insisted that the matter must be brought before me as the traditional ruler of the community. Before then, some people disagreed that they would take a peace covenant in any shrine.
The day the matter was scheduled to be heard in my palace, the crowd was overwhelming. I cannot recall the number, but we took minutes of the meeting including names of the attendees.
The meeting was a heated one but it wasn’t anything except a disagreement between brothers over who occupies the position of Ozubulu Development Union in South Africa.
After ensuring peace, we invited the bishop of the Catholic Church diocese and a reverend father who came and prayed for us.
The Blessed Sacrament was used as a covenant oath for everybody. The crowd was over two thousand people. We admonished them to be peaceful and live in harmony.
All I know is that the disagreement was over the leadership of the Union and not a drug war as people are saying."
However, HRH Oruche admitted that the August 6, 2017, massacre was not the first time such killing had taken place in the community as about four young men were murdered in 2007 by unknown gunmen and that the murder was also linked to a gang war.