Recently, a Nigerian went “off the edge” and made headlines around the world. I will not repeat the gory details of how the former Appalachian Law School student gunned down three people, including L. Anthony Sutin, dean of the school and former Clinton administration official. How this man played “Rambo” is already common knowledge.
What is interesting about the case, however, is the way in which it vividly brought media attention to a new phenomenon growing among immigrants that can no longer cope with the frustration that can be an offshoot of the American life and system.
Perhaps prior to the Odighizuwa case, only a few people bothered about the thousands of immigrants that end up in the different inner cities in America; in county, state and federal jails; in mental hospitals and in the gutters as a result of trying to escape the harsh realities of American life via the use of drugs.
These people were just numbers and statistical data called up by the various American agencies to back up actions on immigration and sundry purposes. Now that Odighizuwa has decided to add another twist to the expression of “frustrations” that other immigrants from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean sometimes also experience, Americans, again, like during the event of September 11 2001, are shocked.
Odighizuwa is a “killer”. You cannot deny that or use the suggestion that he killed those people because he got frustrated by the system to remove or lessen the seriousness of his crime. Even if this may hold true somehow, there is the need to put this in proper perspective.
My intention in writing this short article, therefore, is to make an attempt to give answers to questions like: Who is he? Where was he coming from? What made him snap? And could others snap this way?
Peter Odighizuwa, checks reveal, has a history of violent behavior. Court documents show that in August 2001, Odighizuwa was arraigned on charges of wife assault and battery. The woman, Abieyuwa, was granted a protective order against her husband. The charges were later suspended for a year, pending review. As a matter of fact, another hearing in the matter is scheduled for August 6 this year.
It is not clear when he came to the United States and under what circumstances, but Odighizuwa became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1989. He spent the past 13 years in Chicago driving a taxi to save money to attend Law School, a dream that finally became real in 1999.
Officials of the Law School say Odighizuwa lost his mind that fateful Wednesday after being told he would not be allowed to resume his studies after a year’s wait because of poor grades. He would not be allowed to fulfill his life-long ambition.
The school is mourning all those that died, especially its dean, Sutin, a 1984 graduate of Harvard Law School who left the District five years ago to help establish the Law School with the goal of bringing more lawyers to the Southwest region of Kentucky. To Odighizuwa, Sutin was the “enemy”.
Investigations, however, reveal Odighizuwa was not a brilliant student and the dean was not a devil interested in “killing” his dreams either. To be sure, while in the District, Sutin had worked for the Hogan and Hartson law firm, the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton Presidential Campaign in 1992. He served as acting assistant attorney general to the Office of Legal Affairs at the Department of Justice.
Today, Sutin is dead. He became the sacrificial lamb in a system that pays little attention to the mental and other well-being of those classified as immigrants, even when they have remained law-abiding for as long as ten years to get the blue American Passport and the privileges they see original citizens enjoy.
Odighizuwa has been rushed into the Buchanan County General District Court and some are beginning to heave a sigh of relief that the killer is taken out. The fact is that there is an increasing number of people like him in every city in America. Hopefully, they will not lose control the way Odighizuwa did.
Hiding his face behind a green arrest warrant in court, Odighizuwa wailed “I was supposed to see my doctor. He was supposed to help me out. I don’t have my medication”. He has been charged with three counts of capital murder and three counts of use of a firearm in a capital murder. He is also charged with three counts of attempted murder and three counts of attempted capital murder with a firearm.
Nobody was there to give him the medication. His attorney could not be reached. His wife allegedly left her him three months ago. She is currently working at Buchanan General Hospital as a nurse’s aide to take care of their four sons. Abieyuwa escaped the violence her husband subjected her to, violence that should have warned the system that Odighizuwa was frustrated. For her, it is a no-win situation. What will happen to her four children who will grow up with the stigma of being the sons of a killer?
The Nigerian embassy in Washington, D.C., expectedly has no comment. That is the sad tale of another Nigerian immigrant who came to America to study and seek greener pastures. It may also be the story of how the neglect of the social and mental well being of immigrants in America could take a new but dangerous twist.