August 28, 2021

Owerri and Kabul: Prisons walls should never be broken

By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo

A week ago, the Taliban approached Kabul. At the gate of the city, they broke the prisons. Perhaps that was their way of announcing triumph. Or they could have been saying that infidels had no moral authority to jail people.

Students in Nigeria sometimes take their protests against bad governance to prisons to free criminals. The prison is a symbol of governmental power. So when people get angry with a government, they sometimes, thoughtlessly, break prisons. 

In Kabul, the Holy Taliban broke the prisons and terrorists, rapists, murderers heaved sighs and jumped into the streets. By the time the euphoria dissipated and sobriety returned, the soldiers of God began looking for the children of satan. But they had slipped back into the communities. There are reports that the Taliban retrieved a few of them who belong to ISIS-K and executed them. But it was too little too late

Now, ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for the twin suicide bombing at the Kabul airport. Many innocent people running from the brutality of the Holy Taliban died there at the hands of criminals set free by the Taliban. It’s a complex world. Many were injured. The Taliban will not take any responsibility. Not even for folly.

In April 2021, suspected members of the IPOB military wing visited the Owerri prisons at midnight. They said the prisoners deserved an Easter amnesty. They said the Lord has risen. They questioned why a corrupt government would keep people incarcerated. They asked why the bandits in Zamfara had not all been rounded up.

After a round of choruses, they broke the prison walls as if they were the walls of Jericho. Murderers, rapists, kidnappers, armed robbers sang their way home. Two days later, a freed kidnapper went after his victim. The community in Mbieri was alert. They passed judgment on the escapee. But since April, Imo hasn’t slept.

The secessionists, self-appointed freedom fighters, went around destroying the police and destroying police stations. That seemed their way of challenging the authority of the state. Or getting back at the president in Abuja. But all they achieved was the enthronement of gangsterism and routine criminality in their own areas.

In the once peaceful Imo, kidnapping and armed robbery have become ordinary. They happen, and nobody is stunned. And no consequences follow. 

In Ezioha, Okporo, Orlu LGA in Imo state, some youths masquerading as unknown gunmen, the fond name the media created for the ESN, have been roving that village with Ak 47 rifles destroying solar-powered street lightning, damaging homes and extorting people.

The street lamps they destroyed were the generosity of an illustrious son of the village. The police in Imo no longer attend to distress calls. And who can fault them? Nobody can tell when a cry is a trap.  Those who said they came to fight killer herders have abandoned poor citizens of the state to Kidnappers and armed robbers whom they released drunkenly from the prisons. 

In Orodo and many other rural communities in Imo, kidnapping has returned. Everybody lives in fear. The former local government chairman of Mbaitoli was kidnapped near a busy Nkwo-orodo market a few days ago. Eyewitnesses ran for safety. Commercial kidnapping and assassinations have left the once burgeoning hospitality industry in Imo in freezing cold.

The brunt would be borne by the poor through massive investment flight and job losses. The IPOB won’t take responsibility. Neither for criminality nor for naivety, naked folly. They are happy to blame the state government for inviting the military to help restore law and order in Imo. The very folks who promised heaven on earth have let hell loose on Imo and are unmoved. They have set their house on fire to show the world that the fire service is inept. 

When the suicide bomber detonated himself at Kabul airport, some Taliban soldiers were affected. That is the problem with fanning violence. 

During the last Endsars protests, an irate throng in Benin besieged the Benin prisons. They broke the walls and cheered themselves. Prisoners fled into the town. Days after setting prisoners, armed robbers began a siege on Benin. They visited hotels and went room after room like health inspectors. Those who wanted to end police brutality had in their exuberance fostered violent crimes, sparked a surge in violent criminality. The police, hamstrung, psychologically and physically, by the protests, couldn’t help the people remove the wasp they had collected with their own heads. 

I pray for Imo. During the Oba funeral, everybody avoided Owerri. Imo had always served as the soft nest for such activities.   Owerri, the eastern honey pot. When people had funerals in Oba or Ihiala, they lodged their guests in hotels in Owerri. Owerri was where serenity married fun. But some messiahs have come and littered seeds of violence on Imo.   

I pray that the people of Imo realize when they are egged on to slash their nose to spite their face.  When the bandits in Zamfara are pampered, poor parents and school children in Zamafara bear the brunt. When prisoners are set free in Imo, Imo and Igbo land will suffer, not President Buhari.