So much has been said and written about the security situation in Abia and other south-east states.  For some, it has provided an unpopular platform to heap unprintable insults on the governor of Abia State, Chief T.A,. Orji. Political opponents have also attempted, without success, in using it as a medium to fire irrelevant criticisms at the governor. 

Interestingly too, we have had those who toed the line of objective analysis bearing in mind that Abia and other states in the south east cannot be discussed in isolation of Nigeria’s myriad of social and economic problems.

My findings show that Orji has been most viciously criticised in this kidnapping saga when you juxtapose same with the rate at which the menace is affecting other south east states.  And the reason is not farfetched: Orji is administering a state in opposition which is naturally bound to generate very strong political undercurrents and complete absence of political sportsmanship.  So, concerted efforts necessary for fighting what should have been a common enemy is jettisoned. Regrettably, kidnapping thrived in Abia and other states of the south east.

Not only that we were not very vocal in resisting the strange alien called kidnapping when all the creeks in Rivers and Bayelsa States were turned into theatres of war.  I had advocated the resignation of Governors Rotimi Amaechi and Timipre Sylva of Rivers and Bayelsa states respectively  until the intervention of the Federal Government  through the amnesty programme.

The current mischievous kite of suggesting that a state of emergency be declared in the case of Abia State did not rear its ugly head in those two states, and neither was it bandied when the Federal Government was battling to deal with it.

It is blindly wrong to heap any kidnap blame on Orji in view of the obvious truth that he has tirelessly worked and still working to abate it. Besides, the police and its control is not within the jurisdiction of state governors but the Federal Government.

There is a saying in the South East that “igwe bu ike” meaning that unity is strength. Derivable from this is that kidnapping is thriving because our people refused to rise up to the occasion.  What has happened to the never say die spirit of the Igbo which motivated the formation of “Bakkasi Boys”by Aba traders?  How can we stop trading blames and fight kidnapping when some communities in Abia Central and Abia South have embraced it as a business venture and a man connives  with kidnappers so as to kidnap his rich brother and share the booties.

The recent misplaced vituperation from civil society groups calling for the resignation of Orji is to say the least distracting.  One would have expected the civil society groups to condemn  the men and women who engage in kidnapping and armed robber. If they are oblivious of the governor’s numerous efforts at combating kidnapping, the appropriate thing would have been to suggest a joker that will deal a permanent blow to it. Kidnapping in the South-East (even though it is now a national malady) is one nightmare none of the governors bargained for.

But making it look like the governors are not concerned is only being unfair to them.  In Abia State, for instance, what has Orji not done to arrest the situation, except we are suggesting that he should carry arms and take to the bush in hot pursuit of kidnappers who are hibernating there?

In a well thought out strategy, the governor got the Federal Government to institute amnesty programme in the state, since Abia was omitted in the initial exercise.  Abians applauded this rare initiative and, soon thereafter, some of these repentant kidnappers started heading for the designated rehabilitation camps in Abala and two other camps, to surrender their weapons and be enlisted in the amnesty rehabilitation package.

Relative calm returned to the state and in practical demonstration of their desire to leave the bush and return to normal life, some Chinese expatriates, working in Aba and who have been in the kidnappers den, were unconditionally released.  The kidnappers went further to delegate an emissary accompanied by a lawyer, with the mandate of ascertaining the veracity and sincerity of the programme before total acceptance.

In fact, the emissary (kidnappers second in command) assured that nobody would  be kidnapped throughout the duration of government’s deadline of the initial two weeks. But the  amnesty programme suffered a devastating set back.

The police derailed the genuine effort at dealing a final blow to kidnapping in Abia State.  They had kicked against the inclusion of Security and Civil Defence Corps in the amnesty exercise, forgetting that it also falls within their purview especially with the fact that the corps do not carry arms, which is necessary to give the repentant kidnappers an air of confidence.

The much awaited opportunity desperately needed to rock the amnesty boat present itself  when one of the kidnappers’ kingpins embraced the amnesty programme.  As he was heading to one of the designated camps, police ambushed and killed him.

The generality of Abians know that the police claim that the kidnappers’ kingpin was killed after the expiration of the amnesty grace period is a deceptive way of covering up for their complicity in a social misnomer that has held the people by the jugular.

Orji, to the best of my knowledge,  has done well in waging war against crime in Abia State.  Just recently, Abia celebrated the deployment of over 1000 soldiers to complement the efforts of those already on ground. Penultimate week, Federal Government also approved the deployment to Anambra State of over 10,000 mobile police men, and soldiers, with a mandate to combat kidnapping and armed robbery.

Orji and other South-East governors should be encouraged to step up the war against kidnapping and armed robbery, even as suggestions are made on further strategies that could be introduced. Heaping blames on the governors, especially as they were recently directed at Orji,  is nothing short of misplaced aggression also suggesting that his accusers are myopic and a deliberate disregard to the governor’s numerous efforts at addressing and combating kidnapping in Abia State.

By IYKE OGBONNAYA lives in Umuahia, Abia State capital.


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