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Abia: How easy we forget

ABIA State is a case study.’ The statement came from no lesser authority than the number one crime buster of Nigeria , Alhaji M D Abubakar- the Acting Inspector General of Nigeria Police during his recent visit to Abia as he was received at the hallowed Executive Chamber, Government House Umuahia.

According to the Chambers dictionary, a case study is ‘a study based on the analysis of one or more cases or case histories’.

The Wikipedia further elucidates that ‘in a case study, nearly every aspect of the subject’s life and history is analyzed to seek patterns, and causes for the behavior. The hope is that learning gained from studying one case could be generalised to others’.

Abia is certainly a case study having gone through the throes of a harrowing criminal experience, forcing the Governor, Dr. T. A. Orji and his spin masters to dance where Angels refused to tread.

We are all aware and living witnesses of what happened in Abia generally and Aba and its environs particularly.

It came to a point when kidnapping was chronicled on daily basis. People were heartlessly kidnapped, school children were abducted without sympathy, clergymen and their worshippers picked up like puppies and the congregation popeyed, cried to high heavens, forcing people to ask if God was aware of all these. To add insult to injury, the unimaginable ransom demanded and paid was no guarantee that the captives will walk home freely and in record time too. They did not spare anybody as frail grandmothers and fathers were viciously forced into the boots of vehicles and others tossed like coins off speeding cars.

The press did not make things easy as they made exceptional reportage of Abia cases as if they were paid to publicise kidnapping or write other gruesome and scintillating details of crimes in Abia.

As this went on, it became personal as all blames were heaped on the Abia government which worked relentlessly in all intents and purposes to arrest the kidnap epidemic. The number of Police personnel was reinforced and equipment doubled to stave off the midday horrors. Big cash was doled out to recruit informants all to no avail as new cases took the headlines. To worsen a bad situation, a fierce detachment of police in Aba was ambushed, and the police armoured personnel carrier set ablaze. The Abia vigilante group which at inception foiled so many cases became overwhelmed and cajoled by the kidnappers who saw their criminal profile rising by the hour.

Chief T. A. Orji resorted to prayers, asking God to give him the wisdom to overcome the great trial and tribulations. Help actually came but not too soon. As it is said, for every hard condition there is equally a harsh solution. When the going gets tough the tough keeps going.

It is not as if His Excellency was totally ignorant of the area from which the hottest salvos were fired because he constantly said it that there is a political undertone as some people in Abia were buying into the crime situation to overheat the polity, make government the scapegoat and Ochendo the fall guy. The criminals who abducted the journalists at the boarders of Akwa Ibom and Abia revealed their intent when they alleged that the Governor was their problem but many scarcely knew how.

Having spent millions in purchasing hundreds of vehicles, communication equipment and other security gadgets for the police, legal means were equally employed as an Executive bill was sent to the Assembly which had easy passage, making kidnapping a capital offence. Rather than abating, kidnapping increased, the kidnappers dared the Governor to take his best shot.

Governor Orji, the diplomat, while avoiding carnage, still went ahead to scheme Abia into the Federal Government amnesty to Niger-Delta militants, causing a camp to be set up at Asa High School in Ukwa West Local Government Area.

A few accepted, came out of the bush and laid down their arms. But the hardened ones who could not forgo the high profit netting of kidnapping and allied crimes, and convinced by their patrons refused to drop arms but rather sacked some villages in Ugwuati and built their camp where they lived like mafia bosses, Columbian drug barons like Pablo Escobar and Latin-American potentates all put together. As the saying goes, ‘every day for the thief, and one day for the owner of the house’.

Ochendo having been pushed to the wall pushed his presidential button and soldiers came, and in a rare show of courage, he,  living up to most of his chieftaincy titles like Ahwakwuru, Ebekuo Dike, accompanied the soldiers in an operation that dislodged Osisikankwu, the notorious kidnapper and his followers from  their camps.

This story is a well-known one to Abians but as humans, we forget too soon. We have forgotten that Aba , despite the people’s show of bravado, was deserted. We forget that churches went into a non-denominational aggregation and embarked on joint fasting and prayers for help from above. We forget that banks in Aba closed, and bankers wore sackcloth in protest.

We have forgotten that most law-abiding citizens in Aba, out fear, negotiated deals with men of the underworld and gave payoffs in advance. Others who couldn’t stand these criminal elements, parked their cars in their neighbour’s garage and disguised as grandfathers, rode on bicycles and ferried on cranky motorcycles to their villages.

Abia is and will continue to be a case study to criminologists and crime busters and it took the IG of the police to remind us.

Mr. EDDIE ONUZURUIKE, a public affairs analyst, wrote from  Umuahia, Abia State.


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