PROLOGUE: The Enemy Within

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By Jide Ajani

May it never happen; but it could! Imagine some Boko Haram terrorists threatening President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to meet a particular demand.  Then imagine Mr. President trying to call the telephone line, possible to track them and make arrests only for the call to ring from the telephone in the pocket of his orderly.  What should he do?   How would he feel?

Well, this was exactly the fate which befell High Court Judge Flora Azinge in Delta State – of the Otor-Udu High Court, Otor-Udu. She was asked to pay N20 million ransom by a kidnap gang.The demand was made via a threat letter delivered en-ville to her at her residence.

She neither believed nor took the contents of the letter serious until the expiration of the 48hour ultimatum attached to the threat. If you think Azinge is alone in this, you are mistaken.  She is not.

In fact, when the kidnappers discovered she wouldn’t budge, they still had the audacity to ask what her problem was; that some other judges had paid and some were paying.

It was in the process of responding to one of their threat phone calls when they narrated to her the exact thing she was doing at home, that she called them back only for the phone to start ringing in the pocket of her police orderly.  He was promptly arrested.

Now, when your orderly becomes an accessory before the fact, then the enemy is much closer than you’d thought.  Interestingly, some of the processes leading to the kidnap of prominent persons almost always have hands of insiders.  So, what do you do?
Investigations are still on-going.

Yet in the same Delta State, the people are torn between instituting the death penalty for kidnapping and just metting out other grueling forms of punishment for the crime.
The state house of assembly has a bill ready for the State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, to sign into law.

Whereas the bill is seeking the death penalty, the governor is refusing to sign it because of his view that death penalty has never been known to solve any problem.  Some even argue that you do not take a life that you never gave in the first instance.

In this melange, kidnapping and the threat of it continue to be a lucrative, very lucrative engagement in Delta State.

Just a forth night ago, a Vanguard journalist had his wife kidnapped in the same state and only the payment of a handsome ransom led to the release of the woman.

Still, we keep saying some things can never happen in Nigeria.  That, for now, may be in the realm of anachronism.  Things are happening now.

Sometime in the late 1980s, in a French-speaking West African country, the story was told of how some people, the equivalent of Nigeria’s own area boys, stormed the presidential palace, laid siege and insisted that the then sitting president needed to ‘settle’ them or else they would not let him be.  The president did. He splashed money at them; and they left the presidential palace.  Call that extortion by other means.  But worse things happen in Nigeria now – like when President Jonathan openly disclosed that members of Boko Haram were in his government.
Today in Nigeria, money-seeking citizens continue to device various methods of extorting money from members of the public.

There is the ONE CHANCE syndrome in Lagos, whereby thieves charter a commercial bus, pretend to be seeking passengers and then whisk unsuspecting and unlucky members of the public who are unfortunate to board such buses to unknown destinations.  If just stealing from them and dropping them off in the bush would be the fate of the passengers, that would be paradise; but some have been known to become victims of ritual murder, with some body parts cut off.  Nigerians today celebrate if you are kidnapped and returned at the expense of huge sums of money, consoling one another wryly, “let us thank God for life; if they had killed him nko?”

It was Professor Bolaji Akinyemi who disclosed that when he was to resume college education in Lagos some six decades ago, his mother would merely hand him over to a bus driver from Ilesha to Ibadan who would in turn hand him over to another driver from Ibadan to Lagos until he arrived safely at school without fear of being sold off.

Today, any parent who does that may have decided to abandon the child for good or may just be stupidly wicked or wickedly stupid or both.

While some parts of the story you are about to read would make you laugh – like the telephone of Judge Azinge’s orderly ringing in his pocket while she tried to reach her would-be kidnappers and the orderly refusing to answer the call – some other parts would make you shudder in fear – as in the near-kidnap of another judge.

Read the full report entitled: KIDNAP THREAT SAGA GOES AWRY: The entrapment of a High Court judge’s orderly

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