The people of Imo State frantically waited for that list; the list of those sponsors of a series of violence that has hit the state in recent times and left many widows and widowers, orphans and childless parents.
Some families got a big basket of poverty which they might have to carry as burden for a long time as they found themselves losing hard earned cash and property in the various disturbances, as well as in bribes and free bail that is not really free. Indeed, many young men are reportedly still in custody, awaiting trial that might never be.
Your guess is as good as mine as to what corner of their eyes the people would have used to view this list or the people that eventually made the despicable list.
However, the D day came when the governor promised to name the sponsors. No such names were heard at the meeting now widely referred to as the naming ceremony.
I do not fault the fretfulness mixed with wild anticipation as the people waited to know those causing them pain. In very many occasions, the guerrilla-styled strikes on public buildings, especially police stations, prisons and the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and lately palaces and gatherings of traditional rulers, had been blamed on the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Eastern Security Network (ESN). This group often come out with denials, stressing that they would hardly harm the “Biafrans” they seek to liberate. Then, who donit?
It was, supposedly, the search for the culprits and their sponsors that led to police invasion of a church in Nkwerre, recently, where they picked up Ugwumba Uche Nwosu on allegations that he was supplying arms to the hoodlums. The Gestapo-styled arrest of Nwosu, the former Imo State governor’s son-in-law, stirred the hornets’ nest last week and tongues have not stopped wagging about the incident which left people thinking that it was a kidnap until the police owned up, saying it was an arrest.
When arrests and kidnaps begin to take the same shape in a country, something is definitely amiss. The circulating video of the arrest cut a picture of a manhunt on Pablo Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug baron who evaded arrests on many occasions as he carried out his evil trade, but was finally mowed down while trying to escape an arrest in 1993.
More shocking is that the arrest of Nwosu took place in the church premises as a thanksgiving service was going on after the burial of his mother. Guns boomed in the church and the congregation scampered in fright. In a flash, his photographs were taken, in handcuffs, wearing a singlet. Within 24 hours, however, he was released on the instructions of the Inspector General of Police. That left people asking, why all the bravado? Why hurry to pick him up, never waiting until he was clear of the church? If the IGP had to quickly issue an order for his release as it was reported, who then ordered that high calibre arrest?
The incident has cast a blur on the already battered image of the police force, members of which ought to be well groomed in decorum to justify the saying that the police are our friends.
Professional members of the force know that there are places where arrests are not made in that manner. Some UN charters, to which Nigeria is among the signatories, had been made for the protection of cultural heritages and places of worship.
Even in war times, those places categorised as such are expected to be respected and protected from attacks, except when it is convincingly proved that they are being used as a military base.
The police professional is also aware that a suspect is presumed innocent until pronounced guilty by a competent court of law. The good policeman swoops on the criminal only when he has concluded his investigations and is sure to nail the suspect in court during prosecution.
Perhaps the Nigeria Police Force is truly in dire need of this crop of professionals to do them proud. The endSARS protest made that clear.
Arrests are made in sacred places, including schools and village square meetings only when there are reported and confirmed criminal activities going on in such places, for instance, the Okija episode. It is absolutely against police code of conduct to chase a suspect, not a jailbreaker or a runaway convict, to the church, mosque, shrine, school premises, village square, and other similar places.
Perhaps, the police had believed that Nwosu belonged to the class of unpopular politicians and so the people would hail them over whatever treatment they mete out to him. Why not, when the Ugwumba was part of the team that insulted Archbishop AJV Obinna of the Owerri Catholic Archdiocese during the campaigns for 2019 election? Was he not the arrowhead of a land grabbing spree, confirmed by a judicial panel of enquiry, which led to the Whitepaper authorizing the return of the lands to their original owners in this present administration?
As the political debate or a manifesto session was going on at Assumpta Cathedral, the Rochas gang stormed the scene and disorganised the show.
No matter how many times we replay the sins of that administration, politicians will not cease to be like lizards; they all lie prostrate and are all assumed to have stomach problems. And the people know so. Nwosu might be experiencing the concept of “what goes around comes around”, or the thing people call karma, but it is not a reason for an administration that professes a saner attitude to governance to do things the wrong way as two wrongs don’t make a right.
The public were subsequently fed the news that the government of Imo State apologised for the invasion in the church. This is taken and should be viewed as mature governance. How about the apology of the police? Did they realize that their action offended the entire Christendom let alone the community they caused so much undeserved trauma?
Anyway, why would it be necessary to release names of suspects when they have not been found guilty, if not to smear people’s image and bring them to disrepute? In other lands, the fully investigated criminal merely faces the law. Not much show is made of it and no politician cashes in on such cases to make political gain.
Well, kudos to Gov. Hope Uzodimma who realized this and decided to still keep the list on his chest.Opinions are divergent on this issue.
Some link the incident to the assets recovered from the former governor, postulating that Okorocha and his gang are bent on making the state ungovernable for the incumbent governor who has been championing the recoveries since he took over the mantle from Emeka Ihedioha. It is easy to rest on this presumption, but, security issues of this kind are known to have thrown up more than meets the eyes at the end of the day.
This is why the Imo disturbances should be thoroughly investigated before accusing fingers are pointed at individuals. It would not have been be nice to smear the innocent individual.
Conversely, it would be unfair to allow the real enemies of the people to walk the streets freely.
More desirable is a situation where the characteristic peace of Imo State, the South East on the whole, returns. The road to peace, much often, lies in dialogue more than in the barrel of the gun and absolute power is demonstrated more evidently when the holder of power is able to make the people do the positive things he or she requires of them without applying force. Violence often begets violence.
As we enter the New Year 2022, we must make sure that the evils of 2021 do not creep into this year of even number. The change ought not to be in digits only, from 2021 to 2022, but also in our attitudes, our method of governance, our perception of our neighbours, a resolve to be on the path of justice rather than oppression and power show, a respect for law and order, a distaste for bloodletting and cannibalism, the application of love in carrying out our various duties, especially among the security agencies, and a determination to leave a better country behind for our progeny.
Indeed, we must rebuke the year 2021 to go, forever, with its wars and worries, and never to look back, never to make us be in expectation of any list of the evil men. Happy New Year.