Polscope By Eddy Odivwri
As it has become our lot, every December 16 now represents a day of grief and gruesome memory. It was the day my father, Pa Jacob Odivwri Edjesa was kidnapped and later murdered by his abductors. That was four years ago. All thanks to the Delta State government and the State Security Service (SSS) who dug deep into the kidnappers’ web and within three or so weeks, all those involved in the crime were rounded up. We had thought that arresting the assailants was going to be tough. It wasn’t quite. And what we thought would be the easy part has turned out the toughest bit: convicting the suspects.
From that 1998 till date, the Odivwri family has been going back and forth, from court to court, in the prosecution bid of the accused persons. And this has taken a huge toll on our finances, time, belief in the system, etc. For four years, the case has remained neither dead nor concluded. It just drags on and on. Next Wednesday is yet another date in court. We are not sure where that court session will take us.
Now I understand why some people will opt for “jungle justice” as a way of getting consolation on cases of established crime. On this matter, several witnesses including the SSS, the telecoms firm, the Police, the Pathologist, the family, neighbours of the suspects, school teacher, have all been called. And they have testified. But the wheel of justice is yet grinding slowly, very slowly and annoyingly so. We do not know much longer we’d have to wait to get justice for the slain 82-year-old man. Little wonder it is said that justice delayed is justice denied. Our grief seems sustained with justice yet far away.
I dare say that it is the tardiness in dispensing justice on such matters that has emboldened the criminals in making a career out of kidnapping. Only penultimate week, was the case of the kidnap of Pa Okowa, father of then SSG of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, decided with the slamming of a 35-year jail sentence on those who kidnapped the father. And as the euphoria of that judgement was yet to settle, the kidnappers hit home, this time with a harder bang by abducting, right from the palace, the mother of the Finance minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, Professor Kamene Okonjo, in Ogwashi-Ukwu, all in Delta State.
I do not know why the governor is yet to sign into law the Bill recommending death sentence for kidnappers in the state. Have they not caused the state enough trauma and embarrassment? It is not that a death sentence will automatically end the menace. But it sure will serve some deterrence. Few months ago, the commissioner for Higher Education in the state, Professor Hope Eghagha was kidnapped after his police orderly was shot dead. Several government officials or their family members have been victims. These are more than enough reasons to support every means to run such bad guys out of town. Allowing cases of kidnappers to run almost endlessly in court, in a way, emboldens the criminals to perpetrate the crime. I believe the court processes, if we must go to court, can be made to run faster.
Kidnappers have become a signature malaise of all times. No responsible government at any level can treat them with kids’gloves. This is Christmas. Many families are scared of going home. They would rather stay in the city than go savour the warmth of village setting and end up in the kidnappers’ den. City dwellers or their family members have become endangered species in the countrysides. Gone are the days when families purposed to meet and share fellowship and cultural communion at home. The eerie of peace and love ruled the atmosphere in such familiar harmattan weather of Christmas. Not anymore. Now, there is anxiety, suspicion, unease and raw fear. Indeed, as Chinua Achebe quaintly put it, “There was a Country”.
Scammers at Work
At our daily Editorial Conference on Wednesday, we had shared a joke about how desperate scammers had become, as almost all member of the Editorial Conference had a mail or more, purportedly from their friends soliciting financial assistance from a foreign land because they are stranded. It became my turn last Thursday as my day practically started with barrage of calls from my friends and allies seeking to confirm if I was truly stranded in Ghana, as a scam e-mail had suggested. They hacked into my e-mail and Facebook accounts. I was said to have forgotten my token device and I would need to make a payment of about N120,000 in Ghana. That I should be helped with the amount, “or anything you can afford”. See the mail: How are you today? “Hope all is well. I made a trip to Ghana yesterday. I was meant to pay N120,000 to an individual in Nigeria and I just discovered I forgot my token device for online transfer. Can you help me make this payment? Whatever you can afford will be highly appreciated. I will make refund as soon as I get back over the weekend. I wait your kind response.”
It was raw fraud. The one and only time I have been to Ghana was last Christmas. I have disclaimed the fraudster: one Mr Fortune Prince Awele, who had forwarded his GTB account no 0117927354 to some of my contacts who chose to play along with the crook. I guess he was in desperate search of money for Christmas. I am hardly ever going to use such a means to sort myself out of a problem. And I must thank all those who called to confirm, and more importantly those who expressed their good wishes.
When will Obanikoro Assume his Mandate?
One whole year after his victory was made inchoate, no thanks to electoral manipulation, last October, the Lagos State Local Government Election Tribunal sitting in Ikeja declared that Babajide Obanikoro, son of Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr Musiliu Obanikoro, was the winner of the Ikoyi-Obalende Local Council Development Area election conducted in October last year. It was a euphoric declaration that surely ruffled plenty of feathers. The young man belonged to the PDP, an enemy party in Lagos State. Worse still, he was supposed to preside over the local Government where the doyen of the Action Congress of Nigeria ( ACN), Senator Bola Tinubu lives. It was an irony too offensive to be contemplated. And so spanners were thrown into the works. The judgement was appealed. Three months after, there is no whiff of anything happening to the case. That means that 15 months have passed with the mandate hanging and wasting. The argument that your term begins when you are sworn in does not apply to local council elections. To tactfully bury the mandate in the graveyard of a docile judiciary will be practising dictatorship by another means. Let the young man assume his mandate. That is the wish of the people of the council.
Azazi: Is Dasuki a Correction?
I thought one of the reasons for sacking the former National Security Adviser (NSA) Gen Andrew Owoye Azazi was because he appeared lax in dealing with the insecurity in the country. That he was presiding over a very huge security budget, yet nobody was sure of the security of the country; so much that on one of those years of his “NSA-ship”, Mr President could not even dare step out of Aso Rock to the Eagle Square to celebrate the nation’s 51st independence anniversary. It was that bad.
So what point are you trying to make with this historical regurge?
I am trying to check whether the security situation in the country is any better now.
So? What if it is not better? You don’t understand how government works. It is not true that Azazi was sacked only because of the security situation in the country. He was becoming too garrulous. He was supposed to be (rarely) seen, not heard. But he was often making political statements, including accusing the PDP of being behind the insecurity in the country, because of the wrangling that preceded the choice of Mr President as the party’s presidential candidate.
But what was in the public domain was that he had failed to tame the insecurity scourge in the country at the time. Many blamed him for strengthening the accusation of weakness associated with Mr President.
You are talking of what was in the public domain. Do you know what was in the private domain?
I also heard that being a Southerner, Azazi was an irritation to the Boko Haram squad, as he represented the status quo that was being fought. And that if and when a northerner is appointed as NSA, he will better connect with the socio-political apparatchik of the region which can urgently calm the unrest in the north.
Yes, haven’t you heard of proposals to dialogue with the Boko Haram leadership?
We have heard that over a hundred times and nothing has happened. Killing of innocent Nigerians has continued. In two days, a military barracks in Jaji and and (SARS) Police Barracks in Abuja were successfully attacked. In fact, Boko Haram now has a cousin called Jama’tu Ansarul Muslimina, aka Ansarul. Never before had the security institution been so humiliated by a rag-tag militia.
You talk as if you do not know of the heavy and frequent casualty the Islamic militias are suffering. Don’t you hear of how they are being killed like chicken by the men of the JTF? You think it is by sheer happenstance? You do not know it is the product of strategic military planning? You can be sure that in a short while, Boko Haram or Ansarul or whatever they are called, will be history.
On the contrary sir, it is the Boko Haram members that are killing ordinary Nigerians like guinea fowl, on the roads, in the churches, at drinking joints, in the schools, on the streets, in the markets…, just anywhere. What is the NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) doing? He has been appointed for six months now. What difference has he made? Didn’t Mr President say “ we brought in people who can do things differently”? So, what is the different thing he has been able to do? Nigerians have never been as unsafe.
You talk like a confirmed novice. This is military warfare. You think it is Ludo game? It takes a lot of clinical stratagem to dislocate and overcome the killer squad called Boko Haram. It is a security issue. Everything cannot be discussed in the open, for obvious reasons. But I can assure you that Col Sambo is not resting on his oars. Something is being worked out, and in no time, you will see the fruit.
Fruit indeed. Year-in, Year-out, you people keep promising the advent of this elusive fruit. All Nigerians would have been killed before this fruit will be seen, right? That was how the former IG, Ringim promised that he would soon terminate the scourge of Kidnappers in the country. Rather it was kidnappers that terminated his appointment. And till date kidnappers are on the prowl, looking for whom to nab. And there is an NSA somewhere, ensconced by a platoon of armoured personnel and weapons. And poor Nigerians are being harangued by untamed and merciless kidnappers. And you stand here talking about a certain coming fruit. Please tell me something new.
You are back to this your hard pessimistic canvass. See, as for kidnappers, their days are numbered. After the yuletide season, they will be smoked out from the hills and creeks and wherever they hibernate. It is the Christmas season and the huge expenses that follow that has propelled the rising wave of the crime. The Inspector General of Police, MD Abubakar is on top of it.
(with a sneering look and pouted lips) On top of what? Apart from dismantling roadblocks across the country, how has the new IG been able to tackle crime? Robbery has increased. Has car snatching not returned with full force? Is insecurity not even more dreadful now more than it was when he came on board?
Look, look, I don’t have more time with you, I must go attend a meeting of my committee. You know I am a member of one of those Mr President’s committees-the Sure-P committee.
Oh you mean those groups of disparate people who are only agreed on how to spend our money?
Sure, the constitution guarantees freedom of speech.