Examination of the deadly wave of armed banditry in Nigeria via a classical reminiscence
| Former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, pulled a comic trigger on the pulse of the nation towards the end of l986. He was barely a year old in power having toppled the no-nonsense Buhari-Idiagbon regime on August 27, l985. Meanwhile, Lawrence Anini, Nigeria’s immensely notorious dare-devil armed robber, in company of his top hatchet-men, Monday Osunbo and others, had been terrorizing the entire mid-western part of the country. Even the influential British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) presented a most graphic description of the situation: while Babangida was ruling Nigeria from Lagos, Anini was ruling the country from Benin. The dreaded group carried out its heinous acts with daring openness and brazen impunity. The name Anini sent shock waves down the spine of even the most courageous of men across the nation. He was not only invincible but also incredibly invisible, capable of operating in three different places simultaneously The people remained hopeless, the government appeared helpless. The fear of Anini was, to all who cared at all about their lives, the beginning of wisdom.
The frustration of the people with the excruciating reign of terror of Anini, ‘The Law,’ and his incredible elusiveness had also reached a boiling point. Where were the men of the Nigerian Police who were always arresting innocent citizens in their thousands for wandering? Where were those trigger-happy unknown cops who delighted in shooting harmless students and sports men on sight? Then the retiring Inspector General of Police, Mr. Etim Inyang, paid a farewell visit to Dodan Barracks from where IBB operated until shortly after Gideon Orkar ’90. In the course of the visit, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) beamed to the world the point where Babangida, who had hitherto appeared indifferent about the escapades of his power rival in Benin, asked the out-going IGP, “my friend, where is Anini?” “We are (still) looking for him, sir,” the police chief had replied. Nigerians heaved a momentary sigh of relief: so the president was after all aware of their plight! A couple of months (or was it weeks?) later, Anini was captured.
The trial and drama that followed later revealed that ‘The Law’ was after-all one super-performing senior coward of Nigeria who would urinate in his underwear at the sight of an ordinary lizard. The success of his escapades had only been facilitated by his contact man right inside the top hierarchy of the Nigeria Police itself, DSP George Iyamu. Iyamu was later executed alongside Anini and his men. Before his death, however, ‘The Law’ gave the world a quotable quote which should stand all of us in good stead with respect to security management: “there can be no robbery without information.”
Information, with the sophistication that could enable the Anini group to operate with such invincibility and elusiveness, could only have been the product of coordinated activities of organized networks. International crooks like Pablo Escobar and Adnan Kashogi were globally notorious barons and god-fathers of such syndicated gangsterism. Escobar of the deadly Medellin drug cartel, ran such an organized network that rivaled the Columbian government itself strength for strength and might for might. Daring the government in the way and manner he operated, he dictated, on several occasions, his own terms and stringent conditions to be met by government before he could be made to serve prison terms. He was ultimately shot dead on his last day, on the roof of the prison cell while trying to escape, as usual, leaving behind not only tales of horror but also a long train of satanic orphans and apostles.
As a corollary of Anini’s submission, there can be no thuggery without god-fatherism, the bane of Nigerian politics. And at the center of the most classical example in Nigeria until recently was the so-called and self-styled strongman of Ibadan and Oyo State politics who commanded his own 2 mechanized division of the army of dare-devil miscreants, ruling and ruining the state from his bunker. And just like Anini, he had the leverage to operate with contemptuous openness and damning impunity, former president Obasanjo perhaps being his ‘Iyamu-In-Chief.’ Throughout the eight-year reign of the ex-General, the one who should normally be put out of circulation remained not only invincible but also incredibly untouchable, with red carpet usually laid for him at Aso Rock.
That definitely should leave a very sour taste in the mouth. And the implication of the situation was confirmed at his funeral not long ago by no less a well-positioned personality than an Islamic cleric who publicly expressed fears about the probable consequence on the society of leaving behind such a large garrison of political thug orphans. Graduate products of such colleges of organized banditry, without doubt, now abound in the country. And it appears it is only on account of the operations of such god-fathered gangsters that the enduring wave of dare-devil armed robbery, thuggery and banditry in the country could have been visited on the citizenry with this devastation and ruthlessness.
From Lagos via Abuja to Jos, Ibadan via Ile-Ife to Ogbomoso, Benin to Onitsha, Awka to Port Harcourt, the resurgent tales of horror could only be appropriately described as a crime tsunami. A bank robbery, by a gang of twenty, for example, which left several bankers, countless customers and passers-by and tens of policemen dead with only one armed robber wounded or arrested could not but speak volumes about the prevalence of networked banditry and organized crimes.
The mystery surrounding most of these operations is simply incomprehensible. And, in fact, the sophistication, openness, invincibility and elusiveness with which the present-day Aninis operate cannot but fuel suspicion about the presence of new ‘Iyamus’ in the security set-up. The barons and god-fathers of notorious groups of bandits, had they been put in check, could, in the first place, probably have found it difficult to operate. Like Anini, they might, at the end of the day, have turned out to be some lily-livered swaggering rakes who would faint at the sight of just two ‘eaglet’ boys scout from the street corner but only enjoying the protection and encouragement of their own ‘Iyamus’ in and out of government and right inside the top echelon of the security forces.
And, with the approach of another festive season on the heels of recent deadly robbery operations involving collosal loss of precious lives and property, if the time is not now to put the present-day Aninis in check, one wonders when. The deadly, destructive and disruptive activities of these dare-devil criminal gangs have, by now, wrecked more than enough havoc on the good citizens of Nigeria who deserve to sleep with at least half an eye closed. With the police appearing powerless and helpless and the people tired and wondering if ever they will be delivered from the demonic grip of these men of chronic violence, the time is ripe for comprehensive and decisive action. The issue is now a national calamity of international concern. And so the question can only go to the ultimate abode of power where Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua resides: Mr. President, where is Anini? Or are we still looking for him? But for how long? And after wrecking how much havoc?