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What if they caught Egwu?

By Ochereome Nnanna

LAST Friday, September 18, 2009, most Nigerian newspapers led with the bone-chilling disclosure by the State Security Services (SSS) of a plot to kidnap two ministers, collect ransom and kill one of them. The ministers were Dr. Sam Egwu (Education) and Prince Adetokunbo Kayode (Labour and Productivity). Three students of the University of Abuja and an elderly, self-styled “businessman”, Abdullahi Alfa, were paraded.

According to confessions offered reporters by Alfa and his misguided young culprits, the sum of N300 million was to be named as the ransom. The gang was also to demand that the Federal Government sign the negotiated agreement with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). With their demands met, the gang would then kill Dr. Egwu.

The boys would walk away with N4 million while Alfa, the mastermind and financier, would pocket the rest N296 million! See how criminal minds work? They only think of the gains playing on their warped imagination but little of the pains that await them in the event of failure.

How they were going to actualise this fairytale body-snatching of ministers of the Federal Republic, who are usually surrounded by armed-to-the-teeth mobile policemen, they did not say. How the SSS got the clue that led to this plot, they did not disclose either. Were they going to grab both ministers from the same venue? Were they going to take one and then the other?

There are some who will examine this SSS parading and promptly dismiss it for lack of substance and credibility. But it was unlikely that the nation’s secret police would parade people, name their names and mention their university and courses they are allegedly reading if it was untrue.

The University of Abuja could easily publicly disown the three boys if they were not bona fide members of its student community.

I am willing to assume that the plot was actually hatched by Alfa and his three young cronies. The way the security agents reacted to it could be a pointer.

I am led to this assumption by my own reading of the way the state acts when the threats that citizens live with on a daily basis eventually targets its top operatives. Dozens of people are being kidnapped in the South East and South-South everyday.

On Sunday, August 16, 2009, Nollywood star, Pete Edochie, was snatched near Onitsha in Anambra State. I have just been informed that my businessman cousin, Mr. Sunnie Okiyi Nnanna (we were born on the same day and were each other’s Best Man during our weddings) was pinched in Aba and is still with his captors because the ransom has not been mobilised. Kidnapping is no longer news in the East. But the moment ministers were allegedly targeted the SSS was instantly in the picture, apprehending the suspects even before they put their plans into action.

You will recall that throughout the 1990s and the early part of this decade, there was a rash of car snatching in and around Lagos by armed thieves from Benin Republic. Many people lost their lives in the process of their vehicles being forcibly stolen. Daily, there were reports of these crimes in the media. TELL Magazine exposed how top ranking policemen were involved in the racket. Names of some of these officers and the way the ring functioned were reported, but the authorities were not interested.

Then, some time in 2004, friends of Iyabo, the daughter of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, came visiting her at Abeokuta. At that time she was the Commissioner for Health in Ogun State. Two of the children in the vehicle belonging to the guests of the President’s daughter were gruesomely gunned down by Benin-based car thieves and died on the spot.

The criminals escaped to Cotonou. Pronto, Obasanjo sent the then Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, on an expedition to Benin, and the brain behind the vehicle robbers, Ahmani Tijani, citizen  of Niger Republic, was apprehended and brought to Nigeria for trial. For years after that event, car snatching around Lagos went down drastically.

It required the shedding of innocent blood of children of friends of the President’s daughter before the law enforcement agents could do their duty. Our law enforcement agents are primarily for the protection of members of the ruling class and their families. Did you notice the speed with which the Police handled the kidnap of Minister of Information, Dora Akunyili’s brother last year?

On a final note, I wonder what would have really happened if Egwu and Kayode were actually kidnapped. Killing Egwu or threatening to do so would not force the Federal Government to sign the document because they are hampered by the involvement of states as stakeholders in our university ownership. Alfa assumed that killing Egwu would make him a “hero” among those who heap the blame of the woes of the education on Egwu’s doorstep.

But Egwu, through his ill-advised public wine glass-clinking escapades (during his twenty fifth wedding anniversary and the entry of Professor Chukwuma Soludo into politics with full endorsement by the ruling PDP) sent the wrong signals.

They portrayed him as a Minister who is merry in the face of our comatose educational sector. Kayode is presiding over a Labour Ministry that is bedevilled by strikes with no clear agenda for arresting the problem.

The longer students stay at home, the more unsafe this nation will be for all, including those in charge but not taking charge.


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