Mark Amaza: Okonjo’s Kidnap, Is Any Nigerian Safe?


It is no news that Nigeria is a highly insecure country, especially going by the events of the past two years. Despite continuous assurances from the Presidency that we are not as insecure as we think, daily events in the country make those statements to be evidence of a delusional leadership and an attempt to call black. It is so bad that it seems that every region has adopted its form of insecurity: whereas it is terrorism in the form of bombings and targeted killings in the North, it is armed robbery in the South-West. Meanwhile, the South-East and South-South took kidnapping and turned into a N750m-a-month industry.

However, as Nigerians are inclined to get used to almost any situation (no matter how desparate), it takes incidences of monumental proportions to jar them back to the reality of how bad things are. Last Sunday was a day in which one of such events of monumental proportions took place, when the mother of the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Professor Kanene Okonjo, an octogenarian was abducted from her home. It was bound to be that the kidnap of a direct relative of such a highly placed citizen as Dr Okonjo-Iweala will definitely be a topic for discussion at every gathering, formal and informal.

While there are many Nigerians who are truly sympathetic with the plight of the old woman, there are also many who are indifferent, and some even saying she deserves it, for no crime other than being the mother of a top government official. It goes to show the deep-seated resentment common Nigerians have towards the people in power, and many have especially for Dr Okonjo-Iweala for her role in the partial withdrawal of fuel subsidies early this year.

Not only that, there is the suspicion that the kidnap of the Finance Minister’s mother might have been the handiwork of those involved in the subsidy scam, especially considering the Minister’s insistence that those indicted be prosecuted fully and made to face the wrath of the law. It would have been expected that considering her political exposure and the security risks she has been facing, there will also be efforts to protect even her extended family. This is in addition to the fact that her father is a traditional ruler, which entitles him to police protection.

But this only goes to show one fact: nobody in Nigeria is safe anymore. This is just but one of the numerous crimes in which high-profile Nigerians were involved. A couple of months ago, civil war hero General Mohammed Shuwa was shot dead in front of his house in Maiduguri, Borno State. This was despite the presence of armed soldiers guarding him, as it has always been even before the Boko Haram insurgency overran the town, as is the custom with every retired general or its equivalent in the Nigerian Military. All the accounts of the killing defied logic as to how the killers were able to gain access to him, shoot him and walk away without any challenge from the soldiers. This in turn has increased the fear of Maiduguri residents who have been terrorised for the past two years.

Even though President Goodluck Jonathan has given orders to the security agencies to find and free Professor Okonjo, a lot more needs to be done to give Nigerians the confidence to live their lives and not feel insecure.

It is about time that the government stopped playing the ostrich and pull out all the stops possible to ensure that this dizzying height of insecurity is brought down.

No amount of white-washing can make Nigerians and foreigners believe that ours is a safe country, where there is respect for lives and property.

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