Whither Anambra? - By: Chika Unigwe | Dailytrust

Whither Anambra?

Can we get a break from the relentless bad news in Naija abeg? I am begging God oo. Every single day, there’s some bad news to plunge one further into despair. No region of the country is exempt. Sokoto. Bauchi. Anambra. Abia. Imo. Naija is just becoming one major mess. Hardly had I processed the news that a tailor I knew in Lagos has been missing for weeks – presumed kidnapped or dead in Owerri– than I read about the beheading of a lawmaker from Anambra State, Mr Okechukwu Okoye. 

Mr. Okoye and his aide, who was also killed, Mr. Cyril Chiegboka, were abducted in mid-May. News of abductions – and not only in the South East – has become so normal, it barely registers. Now beheading and displaying the head like some trophy? The criminals didn’t ask for ransom (not as far as I know); they didn’t steal anything valuable from Okoye (not as far as I know); so perhaps, they were sending a brutal message. What that message is, is anyone’s guess.

Governor Soludo, whose local government area Okoye – a husband and a father of five children- represented, has offered a N10 million reward for credible information on the perpetrators. This heinous crime seems like a middle finger to the new governor who’d demanded the release of the victims and per a newspaper report, “regretted that insecurity was deteriorating in the state.” This is a governor who believes that “There is no conflict that dialogue, in good faith, cannot resolve,” and whose “government is determined to urgently restore peace and security in Anambra,”  per his inaugural speech.

There is no reason to suspect that Governor Soludo isn’t committed to pursuing security. Like many people in the state, he has not been left untouched by insecurity. In 2009, his father, Pa Simeon Soludo was kidnapped. The then 78-year-old’s abductors asked for a N300 million ransom. Luckily, he was released after the family paid a drastically reduced ransom, and the kidnappers were later arrested. In 2021, gunmen attacked the future governor and killed two police men attached to him. In April this year, gunmen killed one policeman close to the governor’s house in his hometown.

So it is no surprise that Governor Soludo is putting his (the state’s) money where his mouth is. The question though is whether or not the promise of N10 million will lure informants to expose those responsible for the killing of Mr. Okoye and Mr. Chiegboka.  The problem is not that these criminals are not known. Let me ask again, like I’ve asked in the past: shebi they are human beings? They have families? Friends? Neighbours? They are not in hiding. They go out abi? So, they are known. However, with the way things have been going in the region with the amount of fear that has been sown in people, it is not clear to me that there is any amount of money that will make people who’ve been scared into silence turn informants. 

So, chances are that the governor’s millions will remain in the state’s coffers. And these crimes will continue. One day, one new atrocity shared on social media, and not just in Anambra State. We have become a country of lawlessness. Outrage isn’t enough. Dialogue isn’t enough. And for Anambra State, I fear that not even N10 million is enough.

A good friend has made the point that what is happening in Anambra appears to be (mostly) self-inflicted. The rise in insecurity could arguably be traced to the wider Ala Igbo leadership vacuum that gave rise to IPOB and now, to its offshoots and the other rogue groups acting in its name, groups which IPOB can’t control. Directives which ‘come’ from IPOB are denied by the group. Nnamdi Kanu says his group is a “peaceful movement,” yet whether IPOB is directly responsible or not for the wahala, the effects are the same. For instance, the sit-at-home order is still in effect regardless of what Mazi Kanu says is IPOB’s present stance on it, and folks who contravene it are dealt with swiftly.  

Governor Soludo in his inaugural speech promised blanket amnesty to agitators who voluntarily give up their arms.  He understands the link between these weapons in civilian hands and the state of our dear Anambra. As far as I know, no one has taken him up on it. On the contrary, his use of the word, ‘amnesty,’ was condemned in certain quarters because “amnesty is for criminals.” The same day he visited the IPOB leader, part of his efforts to curb insecurity in Anambra, and Mazi assured him (the governor) of his commitment to fighting insecurity, Mr. Okoye and his aide were kidnapped. Perhaps someone is sending him a message that neither he nor Kanu is in charge. Nsogbu di.

The governor might have to find some other way to take back the state from the criminals holding it hostage. He is willing. He is smart. He needs to show us that he has the tenacity too.

I wish the family of Mr. Okoye and Mr. Chiegboka the uncommon fortitude to bear this loss. I am sorry this happened to you.  

And as long as these criminals keep getting away with their crime, they will only become much more brazen than they already are. So what to do? I have no idea. Economy is hard. Electricity is unstable. Yet these are things that can somehow be managed, no matter how terrible it is. But how does one ‘manage’ a deepening state of insecurity? How do you manage living with the fear of being the next victim? That is no way to live a life. Ka udo di, ka ndu di.


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