Imoka blood-letting; why the cult-killing will continue
By Osita Okechukwu
The gruesome blood-letting that ended 2019 edition of the annual Imo Awka Festival in Awka, Anambra State capital, may not have been its end; given authoritative information that more killings from reprisal attacks are inevitable if nothing is done urgently.
It would be recalled that the 1000 years old Imo Awka Festival; a carnival and manhood test of sorts for Awka indigenes to take short pilgrimages, is one that has gained notoriety for being a season of blood-letting which elicits the notion from some quarters that the violence and killings are meant to provide human sacrifice to the gods of the festival.
Statistics reveal that since the past five years, more than 50 deaths have been recorded at the festival. However, this reporter’s investigation has revealed that the killings that occur during the festival are cult related as cultists hide under the cloak of the festival to unleash mayhem on members of rival groups and/or settle scores.
Last year, despite assurances by the joint security task force in the state headed by the then Commissioner of Police, Mr. Garba Umar, of the safety of inhabitants of the state capital which was backed by noticeable increase in number of patrol vans of the joint task force seen at the nooks and crannies of Awka. However, over fifteen deaths, attributed to cult activities were recorded before the week-long festival ended. Again, the 2019 edition was almost over and some inhabitants of the town were already drawing sighs of relief that the bloodthirsty demon did not strike this year when pictures of four young men lying dead in the pool of their blood; and reportedly murdered in cold blood at Aroma, Eke Awka market and elsewhere in Awka, filled the cyberspace.
Speaking off record, a member of one of the security outfits that investigated cult activities in the state disclosed that the Imoka onslaught was as a result of a protracted unresolved rift between two rival cults; Black Axe confraternity and Vikings.
“These boys, you will think they have resolved a problem until after some years, one of the groups would organize themselves and launch an attack on the rival group. This is exactly what played out at the Imoka festival; the security officer remarked. He added: “The boys killed were of the Vikings Confraternity and the killers came from outside the state to carry out the killings under the cover of the festival.”
The security personnel also disclosed that reprisal attacks by the Vikings Confraternity was inevitable while assuring inhabitants of the state of their safety as “the synergic effort of the joint security task force in the state is leaving no stone unturned to sniff out cult activities in the state and neutralize them.”
He also disclosed that community leaders and stakeholders in the various communities in Anambra State have an alliance with the various security outfits and have easy access to them to give them prompt information that would lead to neutralizing cult activities and arresting cult suspects in their neighborhoods.
He alleged that it is the politicians who keep the cults alive and equip them with weapons with which they slaughter one another in the battle for supremacy or revenge. “These politicians capitalize on the fact that the boys are not positively engaged, so, they give them drugs, equip them with weapons and use them to rig elections and deal with their perceived enemies.
“You will notice that when these cultists are arrested, a politician or a stakeholder would indicate that he is interested in the boy’s case and seeks that he be released. These politicians are the primary reason these boys keep killing one another because in their bid to prove that they are the superior cult, they would kill a number of members of the rival cult especially those who are their major rivals.”