Praying kidnappers out of business

Casmir Igbokwe

First published Sunday, June 14, 2009

Though I laughed off a recent joke by the Editorial Board Chairman of The Guardian, Dr. Reuben Abati, it set me thinking once again about this country and where we are heading. I had complained about the growing incident of kidnapping in my state, Anambra, and the danger inherent in travelling home these days. Abati told me to beware because my complexion and outlook might give some kidnappers an impression that a wealthy Oyinbo had come to town.

No doubt, the business of kidnapping has assumed a frightening dimension, especially in Anambra, nay the South-East. There is apprehension everywhere. Nobody knows who the next target of these hoodlums will be. If you are building a new house, you are not safe. If you struggle to buy a new car, you are an easy target. Some rich men in some towns now sneak into their houses to avoid people knowing that they are around. Some, I learnt, don’t even put on their generators anymore. They light their lanterns, which, sometimes, they hide under the table so that people may not notice their presence.

If you attend a function outside your home and you are not back by 7pm, your relations will be in pains. Except you constantly phone them to assure them of your safety, you may come home and discover that the high blood pressure of some of them have shot up. Our villages, which used to be a haven for peace, have become more dangerous than the urban centres.

Penultimate Friday, gunmen waylaid a billionaire businessman, Chief Paul Okonkwo, who just returned from a trip abroad, in Awka and kidnapped him while on his way to his hometown, Isuofia. He regained his freedom after about three days. Similar fate had befallen such people as the chief executive of Tonimas Petroleum Limited, Chief Anthony Enukeme; the traditional ruler of a town called Abagana, Mbamalu Okeke; and a host of other prominent Nigerians.

In fact, the malaise started in the Niger Delta where militants used it as a weapon to bring global attention to the plight of the people of the region. But if we could attribute the difficulty security agencies encounter in trying to nip the problem in the bud to the terrain of the Niger Delta, how do we explain the inability of security agents to put a stop to the incident in the other parts of the country?

The most worrying thing is that rather than think of practical ways of stopping this problem, some Nigerians have chosen to pursue shadows. In spite of the security challenges in Anambra State, for instance, some individuals consider security as the number one achievement of Gov. Peter Obi. In an advertorial last week, a group that calls itself Continuity Group says the Obi’s administration “has been able to restore peace, security and stability through the provision of communication gadgets and more than 100 patrol vehicles to various security agencies in the state thus reducing crime drastically.”

Obi himself knows this is farther from the truth. This is why he convened a security summit recently and promised a reward of N2m to whoever would volunteer useful information that would enhance security in the state. He believes, though, that his political opponents are the ones masterminding the crisis in the state.

The question is: what shall we do to curtail this menace if not eradicating it entirely? It is in crisis situations like this that one discovers how hopeless Nigerian’s feel about the ability of government to protect them. Most times, they believe prayers will work where government or adequate planning has failed.

Penultimate week, for instance, it was reported that the Redeemed Christian Church of God embarked on a three-day fasting and praying session so that God would give victory to the Super Eagles against their Kenyan counterparts in the World Cup qualifying march played last weekend. To the sports minister of the church, Pastor Paul Bankole, the prayer was for God to uproot all the “uprootables” to ensure Nigeria’s presence in South Africa.

Super Eagles won the game with three goals to nothing. It is likely the prayer warriors gloated over the victory as a sure sign that their prayers worked. But could Eagles have won without adequate preparation and skills?

A number of people I have spoken to have also canvassed prayers as the only antidote to kidnapping in Nigeria. I have no problem with this. We have prayed and continue to pray against bribery and corruption in Nigeria. We have prayed and continue to pray for Nigeria in distress. We have prayed and continue to pray against some other social vices in our churches and mosques. It is time to ask ourselves why, in spite of our prayers, things tend to be moving from bad to worse.

I had an argument with somebody who agrees that prayers alone may not solve the problem of kidnapping. But, according to the person, we should continuously pray and fast so that even if kidnappers strike; we will not be the victims. This presupposes that those who fall victims of kidnapping are those who either don’t pray or are sinners.

While we continue with our prayers, the government at all levels should do everything humanly possible to protect law-abiding citizens of this country. It won’t be a bad idea if the state governors, for instance, donate 80 per cent of their security votes to train and equip security agencies to tackle the menace.

We have lost enough precious lives and property already. It will be very sad to continue to lose more. I have hinted my family members that should this problem continue; they should forget going home this Christmas.

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