All the stakeholders must join forces to curb crime in the society

It is always laughable when politicians declare endless ‘war’ against criminals and cultists, considering that there is a nexus between “do-or-die” politics and organised crime in our country. Over the years, many violent cults and criminal gangs owed their origins to political campaign organisations. It is also a fact that many of the notorious criminals in Nigeria usually graduate from motor parks to political thuggery before eventually venturing into the more “lucrative” business of armed robbery.

At every election cycle in Nigeria, there is often space for thugs, hoodlums and cultists. Wraps of Indian hemp and other dangerous substances are almost always freely distributed among the waiting ‘army’ of violent men that take over campaign trains, brandishing matchets, clubs and other weapons. When the illustrious ‘guest’ finally arrives the scene, the entire wagon of these street urchins are usually herded into vehicles that move to the campaign grounds for the usual show of strength with their opponents.

While Nigerians are aware of this development, no case has highlighted this ugly situation more than that of Zakeri Isiaka, a suspect in Kogi State who recently spoke to a national newspaper. Incidentally, his own case did not follow the usual trajectory. By his own account, he started off as an armed robber who eventually linked up with militants in the Niger Delta before finally becoming a high class political thug who took control of his local government in Kogi State. He even claimed that but for the death of a politician in the state, he could have, by now, been the chief security officer to the governor of his state!

The stranger-than-fiction confession of Isiaka depicts the sordid level to which our politicians would go in seeking power. Yet it is not an isolated incident as it is a story that is replicated in several states of the country. In Nigeria today, it is not uncommon for an elected governor to beg a known criminal gang leader to please restrain his ‘boys’ so that some peace and security could reign in the state. Then the gang leader would dictate the areas of the state where he would operate freely and the monthly fee for him and his gang so that the governor can enjoy political acceptability.

Therefore, if we want to fight violent crime in Nigeria, we must first break this nexus and allow the arrested criminal gang leaders to name their political sponsors and law enforcement enablers and collaborators. The revelations will overturn the polity. Yet if we don’t smash this evil triad, there is no way we can successfully deal with the issue of law and order in Nigeria.

However, the problem also persists because the police authorities have been willing collaborators. For instance, there have been several bans on the indiscriminate use of siren, revolving lights, tinted glasses and police supernumerary (SPY) plate numbers by those the police describe as “unauthorised person or persons” in the public and on highways across the country. Yet, suspected criminals continue to hide under the cover of certain official privileges and courtesies to evade police and other security checks.

It is also a notorious fact that many of the armed robbers who terrorise innocent people are well known to the police and many of our political gladiators. Many are also known to pastors and imams who pray for them before embarking on robbery operations. Members of the killer squads set up and funded by influential politicians are equally well known to the police and state security service.

Therefore, smashing these gangs of criminal elements in our society will require the willingness to act on the part of all the critical stakeholders, including the police and the political authorities at all levels.