Neither Akeredolu, Nor Boroh
By Comfort Obi
When I first read the story, my initial reaction was: this is an irresponsible joke, especially given the profile of the person it was attributed to. It was no less a person than the Presidential Adviser on Amnesty Programme, retired Brig-Gen Paul Boroh. But it was no joke. For, Boroh was soon joined by another high profile government official in the thoughtless, insensitive statement – Rotimi Akeredolu, the governor of Ondo state. What makes Akeredolu’s statement worse than Boroh’s is that Akeredolu is not only a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, he was the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA. So, what irks?
A brief back-ground.
For six weeks and counting, six male students of the Igbonla Model College, Epe, Lagos, went through hell in the hands of kidnappers. They were in their school when gun-wielding, God-cursed kidnappers whisked them away. For weeks, they held the students in the creeks-a very hostile environment. Forcefully yanked away from their comfort zone, they were denied of their freedom, They had no basic needs. No roof over their heads. No good food. No clean, drinking water. No bed. No parental love and care. And worse, they were leg-chained and subjected to regular beatings, intimidation and humiliation. When two of the boys fell ill, there were no comforting words or arms: Instead, their ill-health served as a blackmail and bargaining tool. Parents of the two were told of their condition, but were warned: pay up or lose your kids.
And their hearts bled, as did the heart of every parent. A parent’s worst nightmare has to be not seeing your kids, not knowing their condition, and not knowing what such kids are going through. Dead or alive? There is no closure. Their parents were helpless. They cried to no avail. Their pain, anger and helplessness boiled to high heavens. Prayers were held for the boys in Churches and Mosques. But the kidnappers’ souls had been taken over by the devil. So they knew no God. Security agents were helpless. Their everyday promises and threats to rescue the kids were just talks. As they threatened, the kidnappers laughed. Nothing moved them. Not the tears and agony of the parents. Not the threat from the government, and security agencies and not the fear of God. When the Lagos state government and security agencies insisted no money would be paid to the kidnappers, poor parents resorted to contributing money. According to media reports, which remain undenied till date, parents of the victims parted with the sum of N30 million. Yet, no dice.
Mercifully, none of them died until the kidnappers released them at their own convenience. They have since re-united with their families, teachers and school mates. But the scars remain. The trauma remains. The experience will remain with them forever. And may have either changed, or killed something in them.
Not many people survive such traumatic experience. My uncle’s wife stroked out, and lost her life a couple of years ago because the trauma of watching the devils kidnap her visiting daughter in the village, before her, was too much for her. More recently, another relation’s 26-year old lawyer-daughter died because she was unable to recover from the shock of being kidnapped in the Surulere area of Lagos. She slipped into depression, hated life, and eventually died. Her devastated parents are still asking why. I can almost touch the trauma and pains the Model school students and their parents went through, and are still going through. There lies my anger with Akeredolu and Boroh.
In a most insensitive manner, Boroh told us that the FG, through the Amnesty Programme which he heads, has decided to congratulate the kidnappers for a job well done. How? Boroh informs they will be given jobs to protect oil pipelines. According to him, that was the agreement reached with the bad guys before the students were kindly released, not rescued, as the government and security agencies made us believe. If one was shocked by Boroh’s submission, paralysis is the reaction to Akeredolu’s. The governor said the kidnappers would be given employment by the FG as that was the condition given before the boys were released.
So, questions: Where are the kidnappers? Can we see their faces before this congratulatory handshake from the FG? On what basis did the FG arrive at such an agreement with criminals? Are they being compensated for kidnapping our children? Why are we shaking their hands and applauding them? What is the punishment for such a heinous crime? By offering them employment, is government not encouraging crime? Is the government not encouraging more kidnappings? And endangering the lives of our children? Is the government now rewarding crime? How does that deter other criminals – in-waiting? The reasoning may have been that the kidnappers took to crime because they had no jobs.
The question, then, is: Are they the only youths without jobs? If all unemployed youths took to kidnapping, and they are in millions, who would be free in Nigeria? We would all have been kidnapped within a week. Akeredolu says no ransome was paid to secure the freedom of the boys. I don’t believe him. The parents say they paid N30 million. Nobody has debunked their claim.
Both Akeredolu and Boroh should be ashamed for proudly putting their names and faces to such provocative statements. It is disgraceful.
The President, Muhammed Buhari, in his address to the nation on return from medical vacation vowed to deal ruthlessly with, among others, kidnappers. How does this offer of employment help Mr. President’s vow? I understand. The employment offer must have been to secure the freedom of the students. But that offer should have been thrown into the Lagos lagoon as soon as the boys were released. Or, why was the wife of one of the kidnappers arrested and now, arraigned before the court for not reporting her husband’s criminal activities to the Police?
What to do?
Since, according to both men, the kidnappers are known, they should be paraded and prosecuted by the Police for the crime they committed, to wit: the heinous crime of kidnapping. Otherwise, some copy cats, flaunting unemployment, would most likely, kidnap more of our students, and we would also not only shake their hands, but reward them with jobs for their kindness!