Guest ColumnistInside Nigeria

It is time we run faster than the kidnapper, By Dare Babarinsa

Protesters carry placards calling for an end to kidnapping and banditry in Nigeria.

The new war on kidnapping and criminality has to be fought on the frontier of knowledge. The new bands of criminals are vicious and lack any semblance of humanity or mercy. They are worse than animals, but they are living among us. Yet, we are all scarred because we think the government may also be as helpless as some of us.

We don’t know who is next. Now, the criminals are focusing on unusual targets. In Ekiti State, the criminals made attempt to kidnap three traditional rulers. They killed two in the process and one escaped. The following day, a whole bus of school children with their teachers, was carted away.

Few days later, they killed the traditional ruler of Koro Ekiti in Kwara State. This is a direct challenge to authority of the state. It is an indictment of our statehood.

On Tuesday, Ekiti State Governor, Abiodun Oyebanji, told a delegation of Afenifere, the mainstream Yoruba cultural and political movement, that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was in constant touch with him throughout the period of ordeal when the children were with the kidnappers, until they were rescued.

The delegation was sent by Chief Reuben Fasoranti, the leader of Afenifere and Asiwaju Yoruba. The governor did not confirm to the delegation whether the kidnappers got the ransom they wanted.

As long as kidnapping remains a thriving business, where investors can reap millions during a single transaction and with no immediate and dire consequences, young children of the devil would be attracted to it.

Kudos to the security agencies who seem to have arrested the right suspects in the slaying of the three traditional rulers. Grave and immediate consequences is the only antidote to save our society from these vermin. We only hope the same swift and sure rewards would be visited on politicians who are also involved in the kidnapping of Nigeria’s future.

One of the most important functions of the state is the capacity for legitimate violence. In the closing years of the 19th century when the Nigeria state was being coupled together from the factory of British imperialism, the most important instrument to show that a new state had arrived was the force to impose its will.

Now a ragtag force is challenging authority of the Nigeria state. Every day, you hear frightening news about kidnapping, killings, raping and other violent crimes. As you are reading this, hundreds, perhaps, thousands of Nigerian citizens are being held by kidnappers and families are in distress trying to raise ransom to free them.

The ocean is deep and the dangerous beast of the deep might strike at any time and then disappear. This is more so in Yorubaland where the very fabric of the society is been attacked with deliberate viciousness. How can kidnappers try to make traditional rulers their targets? If traditional rulers are not safe in their palaces, who else would be safe in their domains?

In those days, the kaakaki (the heralding trumpet of the oba) was beyond the reach of the robbers. Now both the kaakaki and its owners are targets. A few weeks ago, a whole bus of people travelling from Ekiti to Akure were seized by kidnappers. In Ekiti North, around Ikole, Oye and Omuo, farmers are going about their business with their hearts in their throats! Now it is the turn of the obas to be afraid!

In the past, obas were fears themselves! In the pre-colonial days, when an oba’s embassy is passing through an area of conflict, the combatants are expected to hold their fire once the Oba’s standard is raised. Now we are living in a different era. The aura, the authority, the reverence and the sacerdotal import of obaship has been subverted.

Many obas, who were supposed to be the centres of their communities, have become subjected to foreign doctrines, foreign deities and foreign loyalties. Perhaps, because of all these conflicts of interests and contradictions, the owners of the land are standing askance while our royal fathers are being subjected to fear and indignities.

What has happened to the old routines of initiations and installation when the obas are made to have the transforming encounter with the continuum that would transfigure them into new beings? I am sure our royal fathers in Ekiti and other parts of Yorubaland would be looking into this.

Yet, as Professor Sola Adeyeye, a former Senator, warned last week, it would be retrogressive to rely merely on the metaphysical to defend our traditional rulers and shield our society from the menace of the lawless.

Indeed, we cannot rely on the old system to take care of this new menace. In September 2015, I was invited to the Island Club, Lagos, to participate in a symposium on national security. The convener was my friend, the late Major-General AdewumiAjibade, who just retired as the Director of Military Intelligence (DMI).

Ajibade told that august gathering that for Nigeria to win the war against kidnappers and terrorists, the government must employ science to help our troops. Eight years later, our troops and policemen are still on the battlefield, but science is still thin on the ground.

In many parts of the world, you cannot use the phone without being traced because a phone is a moving object on the digital screen. It is just like an aeroplane in the sky that must be identifiable in the control tower. The voice-print of the criminal asking for bribe is quickly taken and recorded by the computer. Once that voice is heard again, the computer would pick it from the crowd. But it is apparent now that science is lacking on the field and Nigerians are suffering.

It is not clear why the governments, especially governors of the Southwest, are not making use of voice-recognition computers and digital prints. We need then to get science into this battle. What is the essence of BVN, National Identity Number, Driver’s licence and others if these are not available to help in the fight against criminality?

Let the traditionalists move in their own wares. Let the governors employ science too. It is wrong for us to ask God to do for us what we ought to do for ourselves

What we are facing is the threat of the present era, which is confronting every society in the world under the glare of modernity. At the Island Club workshop eight years ago, I told the audience a story, which I seek your indulgence to repeat here.

We need to understand that with the advance in knowledge, both the terrorists and the modern state would be taking advantage of science. What is necessary is for the state to stay ahead of these criminal enterprises. There is the example of Pablo Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug lord.

At the height of his power, he controlled more than 40 per cent of cocaine smuggled into the United States. At a time, he was worth more than $30 billion, making him the richest criminal in history.

The Colombian government had no choice but to negotiate with him after his gang had killed almost 1,000 security men, including 800 policemen. But he later escaped from prison when it dawned on him that the government was planning to extradite him to the United States.

In the end, it was knowledge that came to the rescue of the Colombian government. Escobar was on the run, but he could not run fast enough for science. For more than one year, he would not touch the phone for he knew the government was monitoring his calls.

After more than one year, he answered a call from his daughter for less than 10 seconds. The voice registration and identification computer picked him up immediately! Few hours later, Escobar and his bodyguard were pinned down in the centre of the city and killed on December 2, 1993, a day after his 45th birthday.

Nigeria cannot be free and prosperous unless we also employ knowledge and science. Yes, it is good and proper that we employ the Amotekun, bring in the local vigilante, invoke the powers of the ancestors, but in this modern age, if science and knowledge are not on our side, the criminals may still be having the upper hand.

That was the admonition of General Ajibade eight years ago. That is still what is required today.


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