By Ejike Anyaduba
Until recently Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State was generally seen to be settled in temperament. But recent developments in the State appeared to have rattled this calm disposition. Since hostage taking business became commonplace in the Southeast zone taking over from the Delta region, life has not been the same for the people of the East. Organized crime has put a damper on all aspects of business in the zone. Competing at that level for the decay of the zone are the neglected federal roads.
The amount of disinvestment already engendered by this cannot be imagined. Investors, even those who successfully escaped the onslaught of the murderous Boko Haram sect in some parts of the North, nibble at the thought of locating their businesses in the South East. To evade abduction would suggest either of two options; move about incognito or go in disguise. At some point in Aba then, it was almost impossible for people to move freely. Everybody was vulnerable and victims were ransomed for as low as a recharge card. Two reasons underscore kidnap as an organized crime.
One, nobody since inception of the crime was known to have been kidnapped twice. Two, anytime a notorious gang leader was penned in or killed in action, a breather usually came the way of such State. Aba, for example, became peaceful immediately the notorious Osisikankwu fell to sustained security assault.
He was said to have run his abduction ring in the most dehumanizing of the ways. His would-be victims were alleged to be subjected to various forms of inhuman treatment before they were taken hostage. Some were reportedly gang-raped while others were compelled to incestuous sex orgy just to slake the voyeuristic desires of the kingpin. His bloodlust was such that at the mention of his name people scampered to safety, including security operatives. There was no significant difference from what happened in Anambra State until September 4, 2012. The gang leader, Olisa Ifedike a.k.a Ofeakwu made sure he led the people of Anambra State a dog’s life. Unlike the Aba scum, the Anambra waste of space was more criminally smart and insanely blood-lusting.
His ostentatious life style ensured that he had target victims who were ransomed in millions. The discovery of an armoury in his lair at Ifite Oraifite, in Ekwusigo local council area of Anambra State, only helped to buttress another dimension to the crime. It also explained the macabre exploits and the lightning speed with which the gang leader carried out his nefarious trade. It will be reasonable to argue that those who managed to escape his hostage-taking business were either hemmed in by security details or were just damned lucky. Ofeakwu inflicted maximum fear and used same to unlock the wallet of his victims. However, there were cases of victims whose whereabouts are still unknown.
Two notable examples are the traditional ruler of Ihembosi in Ekwusigo local government, Igwe J.C Okoli and Chief L.N. Oragwu of Adazi Nnukwu in Anaocha local council. These men are yet to be seen more than one year after their abduction. Emboldened by a superior firepower, which he claimed to have amassed during his days as a militant in the Niger Delta, he invaded and sacked many police stations in the State. His criminal activities emitted sorrow, explaining why people rejoiced immensely when he was arrested and his house demolished. Governor Obi who led the campaign for the demolition and revocation of the land space was no less overjoyed at the turn of event. In invoking the laws of the State over the criminal activities, Obi warned youths in the State to embrace hard work and avoid crime.
The decision to revoke his home in accordance with the laws of the State, was partly to deny any criminal the opportunity of enjoying their criminal proceeds while at the same time serving as deterrent to others. Earlier, Governor Obi had sealed off a hotel in Nkpor, believed to be a hideout for kidnappers. Investigations are on-going to determine the culpability of the management of the hotel, and if found guilty will suffer the fate of Ifedike. Obi, over time, had waged relentless war against insecurity and other forms of impunity. Though there is still work to be done since crime, like cell, often undergoes meiosis.
Its multiplication, though difficult to contain, is being addressed by active support of the governor. The Obi administration has invested so much in the fight against crime. Over 250 operational vehicles, as well as security gadgets, have been given to the police and other security operatives in the State. It is to the credit of the administration that all community vigilante groups have direct subvention from the State. Even though Anambra is not without its fair share of insecurity, being predominantly a business area, past political blunder was no less responsible. Recall that earlier administrations in an effort to put paid the monster sought recourse to alternative security arrangement. Needless to say from hindsight, that the disadvantage outweighed the advantage.
The decision of the Obi government to dismantle the amorphous outfits and deal directly with the police is paying off today. The discovery of arms cache at Oraifite, and another one in Uli, in Ihiala local government area within a space of two weeks can only be achieved by a well equipped police force. The new arms discovery is a pointer that more of such illegal stockpiling of arms may be in other locations in the State. There is need therefore, for the general public to assist the police with information.
The rot in the system is much and will take effort from all and sundry to rid the State of the undesirables. Past political blunders in the State and elsewhere, did sediment into the general insecurity witnessed today. Time was in the State when various groups constituted themselves into some violent racketeering. It is some of the indefinable groups that have melted into a band of criminals. But with determination and support for the efforts of the State government, the crime of kidnap and or armed robbery can be reduced drastically.
Youths must understand that there is a reward for hard work, and any shortcut to success always has negative effect. Though many would want to blame high rate of insecurity in the State or elsewhere solely on unemployment, but like Governor Obi said anybody who lived as large as Ifedike was certainly not looking for job. Besides the fact that there are schemes in the State designed to help youths who are desirous to live responsibly.
Until the saying that an indulgent and intemperate youth delivers to age a body permanently worn out is contradicted, any youth who is loath to work is almost certain to deliver to society violence and all manner of criminal activities. Anyaduba writes from Abatete, Anambra State