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Politics of killings, kidnappings in Anambra State

By  Lawrence Njoku, Southeast Bureau Chief
29 May 2022   |   3:07 am
The nonagenarian and elder statesman, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi was in pain on Thursday. At his country home in Ukpor, Nnewi, he had rued the increasing insecurity in Anambra state...

Mbazulike Amaechi

The nonagenarian and elder statesman, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi was in pain on Thursday. At his country home in Ukpor, Nnewi, he had rued the increasing insecurity in Anambra state, regretting that he has become a “victim”, because his cousin’s wife, a Police sergeant and two other relatives could have been alive if some unknown gunmen had not snuffed life out of them callously.

Insisting that he had been caused “unbearable injury,” Chief Amaechi, who narrated the painful story of their killing to The Guardian, stated that they were brutally shot dead in their residences on different days by gun wielding boys who also fled without a trace.

“That is an unfortunate story because it happened right here in this compound. They came, killed my cousin’s wife and wounded the husband. The man is in the hospital recuperating. The head of Ukpor youths in my village and his younger brother were killed. The Vice President of my town union has not been seen in the last one week. They went to his house, kidnapped him and shot his son. His son is still in the hospital at the moment. These are my pains. I worry because these people were not killed in the street; their homes were invaded. I worry because this level of killing is strange and I believe that those doing these things are not members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB),” he said.

He stated that the rising insecurity in the state would reduce should the federal government grant his request and release the leader of the IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. He stated that even in custody, crimes are being committed using the name of IPOB, adding that he was certain members of the group did not create the current situation in the state.

The first Minister of Aviation said: “I have been telling them, including some governors who said they are opposed to the release of Kanu, that these things are escalating because it is no longer being carried out by IPOB. The boys have identified themselves as “Umuoma (good people)”; they used to be called Unknown Gunmen. But they are committing crimes using the name of IPOB and claiming to be apologetic to Kanu and enforcing sit-at-home on Monday and what have you and killing people. They are creating havoc here and there and we have become unsettled”.

Indeed, the way and manner Anambra state had been ravaged in the past months leaves one wondering the motives behind the perpetrators. There is a wonder to what those who are killing and kidnapping the residents want to achieve. Certain unanswered questions have also trailed the activities of these young men who kill and kidnap both young and old, state actors as well as non-state actors.

A source told The Guardian that the last time the state witnessed the level of carnage being experienced at the moment was during former governor, Chinwoke Mbadinuju’s era. He quickly added that certain state actors in the quest to control power imported all manner of criminals, who were used as tools against political opponents.

The source, who pleaded anonymity, narrated that it got to a level where in an attempt to check the rising killings, Mbadinuju procured the services of the dreaded Bakassi Boys from Aba, Abia state, who worked with his administration to restore some semblance of sanity to the state.

Stressing, however, that the situation got messier when the original Bakassi Boys pulled out following attempts to infiltrate their rank by some overzealous actors, he said that the actors recruited their boys in the name of vigilante. He said the state was thereafter turned into a theatre of some sort with indiscriminate killing of targets, political opponents and seizure of communities.

It was gathered that the supremacy battle then was for the soul of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which produced Mbadinuju through the alleged efforts of the self- acclaimed godfather, Chris Uba. Sources indicated that Mbadinuju wanted to extricate himself from control of the godfathers and this created the fight among them and in the long run, led to the denial of his second term ticket by PDP.

In the present instance, however, could what is happening in the state be said to have political colouration? Who are the actors and what are their motives? Incumbent governor, Prof Charles Soludo emerged on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Congress (APGA), a popular political platform that controlled government in the state. Is the soul of the party or the seat he occupies in contention?
Sources stated that the seat he occupies is not in contention and that the present killings have no bearing with partisan politics. And that is because “Soludo ran in the election alongside candidates of other political parties and won convincingly. He did not need a godfather and didn’t need to pledge allegiance to any godfather to emerge. His individual merit and capacity that put him ahead of other contestants made the people of the state vote him into power.”

But less than four months after he was sworn into office, rising insecurity has not allowed him to fully set in motion his plans and programmes for the state. While he was trying to find solutions to rampant burning of local council secretariats by some arsonists and unknown gunmen, the perpetrators migrated to killing and kidnapping people of the state. From kidnapping and killing, they are threatening to seize communities and make life unbearable for the residents and his administration.

Perhaps, part of their nefarious activities that have made Governor Soludo sleepless and put on edge was the killing of the House of Assembly member representing his Aguata 11 state constituency, Okechukwu Okoye. Okoye was kidnapped alongside his driver on May 15, 2022. A week later, he was beheaded. Okoye’s head was found along Nnobi road, in Idemili south local council of the state where it was hanged. Soludo reacted and placed a N10million bounty on anyone with useful information about the killers. Nothing has happened to date.

The other was the Sunday killing of a woman, Fatima Jubril, her four children and six others by unknown gunmen in Isulo, Orumba south area of the state. The 32-year-old woman and her children who hailed from Adamawa state were said to have been caught by bullets of the terror groups while returning home on a motorcycle.

These incidents have continued to unsettle the state and have received wide condemnation by Nigerians, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which during the week stated that, “Satan is on the prowl in Igboland.”

“The ongoing gruesome killings in the southeast are a very strange phenomenon in the Igbo cosmology and culture. The Igbo culture strongly abhors killing of mankind, no matter the circumstance. Among the Igbo, the killing of a human being is an abomination, which attracts heavy sanctions including ostracism for a stipulated number of years. If the ostracised dies before the expiration of the sanction period, the corpse is condemned to an evil forest or will not be accorded a befitting burial,” Ohanaeze had said.

Possible Causes Of Killing Spree
Although the state had not been at ease before Soludo took over as governor in February 17 this year, it was gathered that the way he had gone about the implementation of his programmes, which has deprived certain people opportunities to continue to milk the state, could have fuelled the spate of current killings.
Ifeatu Obi-Okoye, a lawyer and former political adviser to former governor Willie Obiano told The Guardian that certain political considerations that were not partisan, since they did not involve or being sponsored by political actors, led to the upheavals.

He stated: “Let me put it this way, it is political but not in terms of partisanship. Most times, some people make the allusion that they are sponsored by politicians. That is a wrong statement of fact; they are also not working for any political party. But it is political in the sense that it is a new government and these criminals are trying to bend the new government to negotiate with them.
“The present governor has put up a stand that is not very comfortable for them. Some of the new policies seem to agitate these groups. When you are talking about touts, traders in the market and unknown gunmen, there will be a very thin line of difference between them. So all these miscreants who are being pushed out from the street as touts or being removed from control of the markets where they had been collecting revenues illegally constitute what is known as unknown gunmen.

“The new governor is also not ready to negotiate with the criminals. He may not be wrong because that is his style. The federal government sometimes negotiates with bandits and that’s their own style. If you listen to Dave Umahi a few days ago, where he was talking about methodologies he has used to ensure peace in his state, it included negotiation with gunmen. My summary is that we have a new government not prepared to negotiate with criminals and they (criminals) are fighting to force the new government to negotiate with them. It is rather unfortunate and that is why it is political but not partisan.”

He stated that given that a good number of them have not known any other means of living except “what they derive illegally from the motor parks and markets, dislodging them without alternative could make them revolt in an unpleasant manner.”

Emeritus President of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike said, “The boys killing are telling Soludo to mind his business. He has interfered in their business. These boys have been collecting revenues under Obiano and Soludo said no more. So, he has already hurt them and that is their major grievance. Those people are not really Anambra people but they have their leadership as Anambra people and in every segment they want to announce that they can handle their affairs.”

Speaking on ways out, Obi–Okoye, who stated that security strategies are not discussed in the public, however, suggested that negotiation was part of sustaining peace in any environment.

Mbazulike Amaechi, on his part, added that there was the need to release Nnamdi Kanu. “If you release Kanu today and he comes out on the conditions that I have transmitted to the president, I don’t think this thing will continue. The more we allow these things to continue, the more criminals will exploit the situation and create havoc. Releasing Kanu will help us know how to contain these criminals.”