What is the worth of your life? In the hand of the assassin, a life could be worth as low as N10,000. Last month, Imohimi Edgal, the hard-working Lagos State Commissioner of Police, paraded a 20-year old suspect who allegedly confessed she got paid N10,000 per operation. Her career as an assassin was short-lived but deadly. She had already participated in four successful operations with her accomplices. Her innocent face was her natural disguise. Dressed in hijab, the sober dress of the Muslim ladies, she was the figure of innocence. Her youth and simplicity; no make-up, no jewelries and her pious exterior, would deceive even an imam. She had easy access to her four victims.
Why would anyone take the career path of the assassin? Some kill for faith, some for money, some for revenge and some because they want the notoriety of the successful assassin. In truth the assassin wields the ultimate power of life and death. The king may command, but assassin only deals in life; the power of life and death over those who ordinarily are powerful.
Assassination has been thriving since the dawn of democratic rule in 1999. Murder was not invented by a Nigerian. It was invented by a Jew called Cain who killed his brother Abel at the dawn of time. But the Nigerian assassin has learnt the science of disappearance.
The more freedom we have, the wider the space for the assassin to operate. I cannot remember any arrest, successful prosecution and conviction of any assassin since 1999. This may have been encouraging the dastardly profession. Even Chief Bola Ige, first elected governor of old Oyo State and then the sitting attorney-general of the Federation and Minister of Justice, was assassinated during the yuletide of 2001 without any known repercussion to his assassins. Today the list of the victims is long. There is no list for the convicted assassins.
So who knows where and when the assassin is lurking in the shadow? In the 8th Century Persia (now Iran), a religious zealot, Hussani-I Sabbah, formed a secret group called Hashshashin, (Society of Killers) dedicated to the killing of perceived religious or political opponents. The Society of Assassins was active in the Middle East, especially in old Persia, Syria, Iraq and Egypt for almost 500 years, killings leaders of religious and political entities suspected to be opposed to their brand of Islam. Though the society is moribund now, their deadly weapon is still being used by mankind of different faiths, political persuasion and philosophies. The religious assassins are believers who wrongly thought that God needs the help of ordinary mortals.
The assassin is thriving more today in Nigeria because the society is placing greater value on material things instead on human life. There was a time when Nigerians valued the lives of fellow Nigerian and every life was considered sacred and important. In 1971, there was a student riot at the University of Ibadan when the great psychiatrist, Professor Adeoye Lambo was the vice-chancellor. Adekunle Adepeju, a student, was shot and killed by the police sent to quell the disturbance. The whole country was in grief and the military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, who was the visitor to the university, set up a commission to look into the disturbance. At the end of the day, Professor Lambo was found culpable and asked to leave his exalted office. All these because one student was killed.
Today, one student killed is no longer news. Our youths are engaged in cults battles on several campuses and in urban centres during which scores are killed. Many universities have spent huge resources trying to rid their institutions of dangerous cult activities. The cults have taken on new forms on the larger society where they have become ghoulish blood-sucking gangs, terrorizing whole communities or even states. For many months, the cult groups terrorised Ikorodu, Lagos State, resulting in many gruesome murders.
On the political fronts, the cults are the dark armies of the men and women of power. For the political killings, it may be power that is at stake. The youths of today find political pursuit as the most profitable industry in town. Who could beat the Honourable and His Excellency in the display of wealth and power? Gone were the days when ministers and governors live in relative modesty. There was a time when low profile was the creed of public officers. No more! Our leaders are in competition to show who can spend more on automobiles.
Today the assassin and his brothers, the yahoo boys, robbers, kidnappers and sundry agents also want to ride in the best of cars. Among this class, the assassin is a member of the elite brigade. He works for those who want to change the story by force. They are not ready for the convoluted and unpredictable temper of the ballot box. They disdain the process of campaign and the sacred inanities of constitutionalism. They look at their target and what they see is a dead man or woman. The assassin waits in the unknown bend of life highway.
I often wonder how the assassin chose his target. So someone who has a grudge would go to the market looking for someone who can kill on his behalf? The hijab killer said once the client is ready, he or she would contact the group. He would supply the picture of the would-be victim. On the day of the operation, the assassination squad would go to their spiritual consultant, a babalawo, who would consult his oracle to know whether the road is clear or not. How could anyone involve in such an ungodly industry believes he needs the blessing of God?
So on December 23, 2001, Ige confronted the assassin. Last Friday too, it was Bunmi Ojo’s turn. When they were heading for the operation to kill Ojo, did the team of assassins consult the oracle? Ojo was one of the rising stars of Ekiti State politics who represented hope for civility in a polity with disturbing history of brigandage and needless bloodletting. He was a prominent aide of Asiwaju Segun Oni, former governor of Ekiti State. During Oni’s tenure when he served as one of his special assistants, he was a valued mentor to the youths. Then he became a commissioner at the Federal Character Commission. He loved to mix freely and the youths followed him. Last Friday he followed his friends to the television viewing centre at Adebayo area of Ado-Ekiti, more to enjoy the company of his friends than anything else. He had a comfortable home in the town with satellite television and the comfort of a loving wife and children.
Manchester United FC and its old rival Leicester City FC were playing and the men and few women at the television viewing centre were engrossed in the tension of football.Then about five men strolled in, shot in the air and headed for their target. They shot Ojo on the head and fled into the enveloping darkness. Someone, in this heartless age of the internet, still had the misguided courage to snap the picture of Ojo in his state of death and posted it on the web. Such is the new commonality of death even of a prominent citizen. What has become of life in the views of Nigerians?
In cases like this, we have learnt not to hope too much. The criminal get emboldened because he or she knew justice in Nigeria is not an effective beast of prey. It does not hunt like the relentless tiger or the merciless mamba. It is a lazy beast of prey and often follows the wrong trail. But let us hope this time around, Justice would hunt its prey successfully and Ojo’s killer, sooner than later, would be brought to justice. A successful assassin also deserves his tryst with karma.