By Obi Nwakanma
In the last two months, there has been a spike in brutal killings of individuals in Imo state. These deaths have been unmistakable contract killings. The manner of execution seems clearly clinical, unambiguous, calculated to create fear and exact maximum symbolic threat.
These are public executions which send unequivocal messages. They simply say, “steer clear, or face these same fate!” The killers seem intent on making examples of their victims. These deaths have been reported in the newspapers as possibly connected to politics in Imo state.
First was the killing of Mr. Sunny Ogbu in Urualla. He was a young political aspirant; ambitious, and some of his friends say, charismatic and generous. He had thrown in his hat into the race for the Federal House of Representatives to represent the Ideato North Federal Constituency on the PDP platform. He had returned to Urualla after campaigning and was murdered in his house by assassins.
Not long after Sunny Ogbu’s death came reports of the killing of Dr. Adolphus Nwachukwu, a retired Assistant Corp Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corp.
He was shot dead in Ehime Mbano. Last weekend, residents of Owerri woke to the news of the killing of a local businessman and proprietor of a major hotel in the city, Mr. Emeka Njoku, also of Ehime Mbano. These deaths seem in some curious ways profoundly connected. There have been hints of fractious political dealings leading to terrible political murders.
But it may also not be strictly political assassination. I think we can make certain allowances because if these are connected merely to politics, its intentions and its executions are crude and deleterious. If political opponents are eliminated by extra-judicial means, there can be no basis for democracy.
Democracy itself is meaningless without the rule of law. The execution of political opponents and individuals who represent alternative viewpoints is intolerable and is the single, greatest threat to this democracy and this republic.
It is the perfect excuse for military intervention, when citizens can no longer feel their safety, their political opinions, their conscience and their lives guaranteed; when opposition figures are easily and randomly executed by hired assassins and when no one is brought to justice on those grounds, it signifies the breakdown of law, and the military and security forces will be justified to assume emergency powers.
But who is doing the killings in Imo state? These are the questions that the security services, meaning all those licensed to bear arms and protect citizens from the extremes of power ought to answer. The failure to protect and secure the lives of Nigerians is one of the central failures of the current civilian government. And so we ask: what is the benefit of Nigerian citizenship if Nigerians cannot find safety and protection from the institutions mandated to protect them by law?
What is the purpose of a democratic government that cannot stem and stand down the virus of criminal violence? Nigerians did not oppose and fight military despotism only to replace it with civilian despotism and uncontrollable lust for violence. Nigerians deserve to be protected from the menace of assassinations; kidnappings, robberies, and so forth. So, finally, the Nigerian Army’s recent announcement of its plans to contain the inordinate level of insecurity in the land is well nigh.
Last week’s announcement by the Chief of Army Staff, General Onyeabo Ihejirika, of the formation of the strategic counter-terrorism strike force within 82 Division to contain the terrible violence in the South-East and South-South is welcome news indeed. All we ask, however, is that this be not an excuse to put armed men on the street who will create their own muggers, just like the police, and mug and extort money from already exhausted citizens.
It is nonetheless a timely decision to create this task force to strike at the heart of terrorism. It is in fact incumbent on the army now, since police efforts have proved absolutely insufficient.
Having decided to come to our Macedonia they must make it worth it. Soon the annual caravan of travelers into the East from across the world for Christmas will begin. There are many who already feel that they have lost their homes and that a return Eastwards is no longer possible or even necessary, and this is a great shame. To be clear, a great evil has been unleashed and these reported deaths make us beastly.
The killers must be found and brought to justice. Justice must be served, without fear. The killers must be found but the tails that wag these dogs are at the high places. They too must be brought to book. The failure of law permits men to seek measures outside the sacred temples of the courts. They succumb to the bestial and the primitive instincts that compel another to take life without care. We must put an end to this cancer.
We must reform our judicial system as well as our law enforcement systems. We must remove the immunity that protects certain classes of citizens when they commit unjustifiable crimes. We must re-establish our humanity through outrage. Frankly, Nigerians are growing tired of democracy – if democracy means political assassination, mindless violence, corruption, and unresolved deaths.
It is in the interest of the elected governments of the land to make people feel absolutely safe, because a sense of safety is the first guarantee for prosperity. Without security we strive in vain. We burrow deeper into desperation. Meanwhile, if the government institutions prove no longer capable of protecting and defending Nigerians, Nigerians may have to seek alternatives. Private, gated homes or are no longer solutions.
The real solution to our insecurity might be in collective actions: creating security cooperatives and self-defence alliances; inter-communal security pacts, all of which would establish alternatives by circumventing the state security and police services. Perhaps indeed we must ignore the constituted institutions and take our safety into our own hands?
Current developments in satellite and nano technology make it imperative for our security services to upgrade their systems. It is now easy to ascertain the identity of the assassins and their victims through satellite imaging systems and voice recognition protocols.
These tools are also increasingly available to individual users. Perhaps it may eventually come to this, but individual vengeance will result only in further breakdown in the authority of the state. It is for this reason that the gatekeepers of the system must act quickly to stem the anomie. We cannot afford the democratization of violence. But I’m afraid it is the road to which these assassinations and unresolved murders lead us.