By Owei Lakemfa
My attention in the last fortnight has not been on the ministerial list or the passage of the 2010 Budget. As important as these and other national matters may seem, I was more preoccupied with the whirlwind of violence that is sweepingÂ the country and threatening its very existence.
I was alarmed at the harvest of violence, kidnapping and murders within the 10 â€“ day period straddling March 13 to 23. And these are the ones, apart from Jos ,that caught national attention and made it into national media.
Two oil workers were kidnapped in Benin on March 13. There was hope that those holding DanjumaÂ Bashir andÂ Malabu Ahmad would make the usual demand for ransom. At least that was the pattern in the pre- amnesty days. But the kidnappers simply executed them. So to be anÂ oil workerÂ is to be liable to the death penalty.
Two days later, I was seated in the Government House Annex, Warri with a large audience of who is who in the Niger Delta. From Niger Delta activists like TonyÂ Uranta to ex- Generals like Andrew Azazi; first class traditional rulers to intellectuals such asÂ Professors G G Darah and Pat Utomi, former ministers like Sam Oyobvaire to retired Permanent Secretaries like Dr Koripamo-Agary. The gathering had political heavy weights, including serving governors, leading journalists and publishers like Ray EkpuÂ and men of God like Ayo Oritsejafor. You are unlikely toÂ get a more solid gathering in the Niger Delta to discuss the restoration of hope and the future of the region. The magnet that attracted these dignitaries is Mr Sam Amuka, a moral power house with an unparalleled commitment to the cause of the Niger Delta.
It was this gathering for a worthy cause, that a group in the Movement For the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) chose to bomb out of the hall. It was an immoral act that doubtlessly lost the Niger Delta struggle some supporters.
On Sunday March 21, Dr JuliusÂ Iyasele of the University of Benin was kidnapped. His freedom was reported to have come with a N1.5 million price tag. Almost simultaneously, Prof Victor Datonye Dapper, Dean, Medical Sciences, UNIPORT was kidnapped and later freed by the police. Three gunmen next went after Dr Clara Obiagwu, Dean, Faculty of Education, Anambra State College ofÂ Education and abducted her in front of her home in Awka. A few weeks before, two professors of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka had been kidnapped. Violence was not done with academics as a Senior Lecturer at the Tai Solarin University, Ogun State, Mr Tade Adufe was kidnapped and executed. He was one of seven persons killedÂ within one week in the state by suspected campus cultists.
Then came news that a riot policeman had shot dead five butchers on the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway because the driver of the bus conveying them had insisted on paying a bribe of N20 rather than N50. He did not shoot to demobilize the vehicle, but to murder its occupants.
However, for me, the bloodiest day in the 10 days under review was TuesdayÂ March 23. At about 9.35 am, some 30 armed robbers were reported to have taken over the Ekiadolor area of Benin and robbed mainly passenger buses for over two hours unchallenged! The police arrived after the robbers had finished their operation. In Ibadan, six gunmen went to the home of Senator Lekan Balogun and put it under sustained gunfire. His security men repelled the attack. He claimed would-be assassins had trailed him earlier in the day.
That day, another oil worker, Anthony Abiagomuwa Nwanze was successfully kidnapped, this time in Ibusa, Delta State. That evening, the residence of Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim in Damaturu, Yobe State was attacked by three gunmen. They were not afraid of the crowd coming out of a mosque in the house nor the fact that Ibrahim was a former governor of the state. Constable Idriss attached to the house was killed in the attack.
That day, the long drawn â€˜communalâ€™ war between the Ezillo and Ezza communitiesÂ in Ebonyi State claimed eight new lives. As usual, the victims were not from the communities. They were passengers heading to Abakaliki. The week before, four persons from Cross Rivers State, including a director in the Federal Civil Service who were on their way to Ogoja were roasted on the road by the warring communities.
One of the most worrying incidents to me in those 10 days occurred in Azare, Bauchi State. It was Saturday March 20. A 25-year old man, Dahiru of Masagu Quarters,Â was caught hiding in the Government Girlsâ€™ Secondary School dormitory toilet at 2am. Some of the youngsters who went to ease themselves found him and raised an alarm. Other students turned out, caught him, and rather than hand him over to the school authorities or the police, lynched Dahiru and threw his corpse outside the school gate.
The reaction of the police was to hand the corpse over to Dahiruâ€™s parents for burial while the Divisional Police Officer, Peter Wataba assured the kids that there would be increased police patrol in the area. It did not occur to either the police or the school principal, Hajiya Balarabe Abdulkadir to let the kids realise that they were wrong in taking the law into their hands by killing the suspect. The children need to be taught that the mob culture is not acceptable.Â Â Having collectively committed murder, the students need group therapy. To treat them as heroines, is to teach these leaders and followers of tomorrow, the wrong lessons.
A society in which violence is so liberally deregulated, is tottering towards a failed state. The culture of impunity, the negation of the ballot box, the failure of intelligence, the abhorrence of dialogue in the community,Â lack of motivation of the police, mass unemployment and the dominant culture of greed, corruption and the alienation of the populace would spell doom for us.