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Nigeria and her shoes: Banditry and Kidnapping, By Gbolahan Gbadamosi – Premium Times

Gbolahan Gbadamosi
For most part, an unusual problem requires an unusual solution. Irrespective of what everyone else might say, the man who wears the uncomfortable shoes is in the best position to know where it pinches. The shoes pinches on the legs of Nigerians, their moaning and groaning is loud. This needs to be actioned urgently.
Every nation has its own peculiar problems and people. Nigeria is no exception, the problems of the nation are multifarious, complex, complicated but some are self-inflicted. There is one ongoing problem that has been recurring and seemingly unattended. Maybe I exaggerate if I say unattended, but that is exactly how it feels. Nigeria seems to have a big problem with shoes. The country does not seem to know which shoes fit her feet. Let us look at a few metaphors here.
First metaphor: Nigeria once had a President who went to school shoeless.
Listen to former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 during the presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the Eagle Square in Abuja.
“I was not born rich, and in my youth, I never imagined that I would be where I am today, but not once did I ever give up. Not once did I imagine that a child from Otuoke, a small village in the Niger Delta, would one day rise to the position of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I was raised by my mother and father with just enough money to meet our daily needs. In my early days in school, I had no shoes, no school bags. I carried my books in my hands but never despaired; no car to take me to school but I never despaired. There were days I had only one meal but I never despaired. I walked miles and crossed rivers to school every day but I never despaired. Didn’t have power, didn’t have generators, studied with lanterns but I never despaired. In spite of these, I finished secondary school, attended the University of Port Harcourt, and now hold a doctorate degree. Fellow Nigerians, if I could make it, you too can make it”
Second metaphor: Shoes off can be a solution, the Japanese have used it for centuries.
A jolly good lady developed a foot problem, and her doctor told her she would have to wear wide, flat shoes. Soon after, she was dressing to attend an important cocktail party, on the invitation of some top Japanese bigshot. She studied her reflection in the full length mirror and the flat shoes seemed to kill the powerful effect of her new dress. She decided immediately to use a pair of her old high heels and this looked brilliant on her legs matching the new dress. As she continued her journey to the destination she nearly twisted her ankle following pains from the shoes. She continued, shoulders straight, face up and a gracious smile, grudgingly. When she arrived at the Japanese host’s penthouse, a maid answered the door – and politely asked everyone to remove their shoes. Problem solved!
The name Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike (aka Evans) is a well known name in Nigeria. Trust me, he is even recognised by Wikipedia with a dedicated page. Nigerians have labelled him “The Billionaire Kidnapper“. He was notorious for a flurry of kidnappings across three states (Lagos, Edo and Anambra). His arrest was the anti-climax of a number of notorious kidnappings ravaging those states unchecked since the Police seems either oblivious of it or probably did not consider it a serious crime. Well, it was not a crime against humanity, was it? The last I read regarding this high profile case was the appearance in court of Evans in August 2021. Evans had changed lawyers up to five times since his trial resumed in 2017. He is next appearing before Justice Oshodi on October 16, 2021. It has taken five years so far yet the case is not nearing completion, and do remember he has a right of appeal so we may be looking at another decade before completion of the case.
The arrest of Evans was a great opportunity for Nigeria to say no in the strongest term to kidnapping in her space. The drag on the case and possibility he may end up freed as witnesses are becoming more difficult to produce is a great incentive to wannabe kidnappers and their aspiring bandit brothers. The failure to speedily try Evans and get a conviction is the dawn of the proliferation of kidnapping in Nigeria. In 2015 and 2016 when Evans was engaging in his series on kidnappings in southern Nigeria, kidnapping and banditry was almost non-existent in northern Nigeria. While he lived large in prison and remained not convicted for these years despite the initial guilty plea (which he changed) there seemed to be no return from the albatross for a country already drowning in insecurity. With an abundance of unemployment, poverty and greed combining to create the Nigeria dragon of bandits the country was set on a dangerous slope downhill. With unabating corruption in top government circles and the flaunting of illegally acquired wealth, there was enough wealth to show off and kidnappers were not to be outplayed in this game. They have been audaciously bold, demanding hundreds of millions in ransom stone-faced even from the government and other victims.
There have been numerous escapades of banditry in the North West, kidnappings in the South East, South West and South-South over the last 5 years, enough to fill an entire book. Let us just admit this is throughout the country in various proportions. Perhaps a final nail on the coffin is the recent invasion of the accommodation of staff of the University of Abuja. It was both shocking and sad. When citizens are woken up by armed kidnappers at past midnight in their own homes, then the society is back to where I started this piece – an unusual problem requires an unusual solution.
Banditry and kidnapping are the bad shoes on Nigeria’s feet. She has been wearing these for far too long. These were initially pinching but for a while are now killing. How does one allow their shoes to kill them? The problem of banditry and kidnapping is a national calamity and embarrassment that requires concerted effort by all, a cooperation by all and a national rather than state or regional solution. The kidnappers have tested the waters and been successful enough to make the point of kidnapping several government appointees, a former senator, state commissioners, academics, traditional rulers, religious leaders, retired generals among others. If you are still not following me, these kidnappers are easily driving home the point that they are now in charge and now unstoppable. They may soon begin to walk into offices to kidnap permanent secretaries, CEOs and EDs, principals/teachers in schools, and judicial officers in courts. They might then move on to medical centres kidnapping doctors and other key medical staff. Is it implausible that they may appear at a state house of assembly and cart away the entire legislators in a state? Does the Presidency consider this a serious enough problem? What exactly would it take for the National Assembly to legislate on this matter? What would it take for the ministers of interior, information and the Inspector General of police to make pronouncements on this matter?
A new legislation, even if temporary, with a 4-5 year lifespan and regular review forthwith with stricter nationwide punishment for kidnapping is urgently required. This means there has to be a by-in of the judiciary as this legislation is urgently debated. The commitment of the judiciary to enable accelerated hearing of kidnap cases is urgently required. A dedicated special squad reporting to the IG of Police on kidnapping is urgent. Global good practices is a great ideal but sometimes it will not work given some level of development and local peculiarities. It is time for Nigerians to be selfless, putting up a united front to fight this scourge in her society. Nigeria, like former President Jonathan and the Japanese in their homes would be better off shoeless, by removing the banditry and kidnapping adorned as shoes presently. The shoe Nigeria needs at this time is the shoe that fits, one that is convenient, comfortable and affordable. It does not have to be a designers’ but the country can afford not to be shoeless. Nigeria is presently walking around in shoes that are embarrassing and this has to stop immediately. It is a national emergency.
Gbolahan Gbadamosi can be reached through gbola.gbadamosi@gmail.com
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