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Fear and Safety

By Donu Kogbara

Last month, I was abducted from my residence in Port Harcourt and held for two weeks by a gang of kidnappers. It was, of course, a profoundly terrifying experience and as soon as I was released, I packed my bags and fled to Abuja, then London, vowing that I would not return to my home town for the forseeable future.  

My captors had told me that there were over 30 kidnapping gangs in Rivers State; and while they also said that it is unusual for the same person to be abducted twice, it has been known to happen; and I wasn’t willing to take any chances.

 All of my friends and family members understood my fears and desire to quickly put as much distance between myself and the scene of the crime as possible.

Some (especially my son who has a mortal dread of losing his Mum and pals from other countries or other parts of Nigeria) have urged me to NEVER set foot in Port Harcourt again, while others (especially fellow Rivers indigenes) have a more philosophical attitude and have expressed the opinion that I’ll eventually get over the trauma and shouldn’t totally abandon my roots and become a permanent exile.
 On reflection, the latter viewpoint makes more sense because, let’s face it, when God decides that you should die, you will definitely die, wherever you may be.

 I recently remembered a mythical tale I read when I was young. It was about a man who refused to embark on a journey to a particular destination because he’d had a dream in which it had been revealed that Death was waiting for him there.

 So, fearing Death, the man stayed in the village where he lived. But guess what? When Death got wind of the man’s refusal to travel, Death left the place the man was avoiding and went to meet him in his village. And that was the end of him!

 In other words, no matter how cautious you are, you cannot cheat Death when your time is up. And it’s not as if there is anywhere on earth that is 100% safe!

 Abuja is undoubtedly safer than Port Harcourt, but shortly after I left Abuja for London on September 20th, Islamic terrorists – suicide bombers – inflicted murder and mayhem on our capital city. If I’d stuck around for a few more days, I could (having escaped from the kidnap intact) have been a victim of this Abuja tragedy.

 The UK is undoubtedly safer than Port Harcourt; but since I arrived in the UK three weeks ago, several people have lost their lives in a series of accidents (car crashes and so on) or been killed by homicidal maniacs. If I’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time, I would have been one of these sad UK statistics.

 Meanwhile, millions who are based in Port Harcourt – and in even more dangerous locations such as Iraq, the Central African Republic, Libya, and Syria – will survive to ripe old ages and never be taken hostage or directly exposed to violence.

 So, my dear readers, while we can all, to some extent, be the architects of our own destinies and at least try to minimise risk, the human condition is extremely unpredictable and the Bottom Line is that how long we live – and how and where we finally shuffle this mortal coil – ultimately boils down to Fate and Luck.

The Nigerian Police Force

MANY Nigerians (and foreign inhabitants of Nigeria) have completely lost faith in our police force, thanks to a widespread belief that most police officers are shamelessly corrupt, in cahoots with crooks of all descriptions, downright incompetent and absolutely lousy at detecting, preventing and solving crimes.

I myself have had some very annoying encounters with dodgy Nigerian policemen over the years, but I’ve also met a sizeable number of pleasant, intelligent and seemingly conscientious officers (junior as well as senior) and think that it’s immensely unfair to contemptuously write off the entire force as useless.

Police officers in Nigeria suffer from a chronic lack of resources. Often, their outlaw adversaries are better-armed than they are; and they don’t (like their counterparts in the Western World) have access to sophisticated tools like the Electronic Facial Identification Technique, a computer-based method of producing facial composites of wanted criminals, based on eyewitness descriptions.

But many of them still toil night and day and display enormous courage and try their best to be effective, despite the obstacles they have to contend with.  When I was released, Musa Kimo, the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, took the trouble to visit me and assure me that he and his men would not rest in their bid to apprehend my tormentors. And I can’t say much now because discretion is necessary. But, trust me, Kimo is taking this assignment very seriously indeed.


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