“Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13)
Benue State-born notorious gangster, Terwase Akwaza, alias Gana, whose first name means God’s help, may after all not have enjoyed the help of God. Since God abhors evil deeds, so the all-protecting God turned away from Terwase, alias Gana.
Gana was an evil colossus like Shina Rambo, Oyenusi and Lawrence Anini that had shed the blood of innocent people across the country. The dreaded Gana died at last in the hands of security agents on September 8, 2020, in what was described as controversial circumstances. Indeed, he lived a controversial life and died the same way, leaving tongues to wag.
He was a son of Tivland, but must have been a letdown to known Tiv sons and daughters who are hardly named in any criminal involvement .
This writer was taken aback when, as the chief correspondent of National Concord in 1986, I was transferred to Benue from the old Anambra State, now comprising Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi. The type of criminality common then was border disputes and minor theft. Most of the notable robberies were by robbers escaping from Enugu or other neighbouring states and would perpetrate their evil in Makurdi, Gboko, Oturkpo or Zak. The state was peaceful because the army, air force police were very visible, while the traditional rulers of Tivland and Otukpo were revered by their people.
It was worrisome that Tiv people could provide shelter to such a criminal, to the extent that they saw him as a saviour against external aggression. Very unfortunate. They trusted a chameleon. He was notorious for several criminal activities, including banditry, kidnapping, assassinations, ritual killings and cattle rustling. However, the tide turned when, in 2015, many, including the Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom initiated an amnesty programme and Gana was the greatest beneficiary.
On the last day of the programme, he turned in 84 assorted firearms and thousands of ammunition. He was granted amnesty and made leader of the beneficiaries, and was also made a revenue consultant as part of his rehabilitation benefits. Here was where those in government shot themselves in the foot. Granting amnesty to notorious gang leaders takes more effort than romaticising their ego. Such are on drugs and are hardened criminals who should be first caged like a captured lion before it is domesticated to behave like a dog.
As expected, the criminal instinct in him resurrected and it was reported that he sponsored the assassination of the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Security, Mr. Denen Igbanah. Again, like the native cow, Gana slid back to swallow his vomit, shaming all those who helped to open a new page for him. He moved back into the jungle to continue his atrocities and even constituted himself into an alternate government and enjoyed the status of a maximum ruler in the jungle. Security reports showed that his area of influence covered the Sankera geo-political axis, comprising Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Logo local government areas.
Despite the fact that government declared him a wanted person and placed a bounty of N10 million, which was later increased to N50 million for his arrest, his community provided cover for him, preventing security agencies from arresting him. He was a thorn in the flesh of the Benue State government and the people.
At a stage, the Federal Government became involved and two operations, code-named “Operation Ayem Akpatema” and later “Operation Whirlstroke,” were carried out, to no avail. Gana became an incarnate of the late Anini. Gana was reported to be a brutal and deadly killer, who hanged and often raped female victims before killing them. It was alledged that he laughed hysterically while torturing his victims. It is reported that Gana killed his victims with relish. He was alleged to have buried many alive and gunned down many at the slightest provocation. In this manner, several traditional rulers were killed in cold blood, including the District Head of Mbayongo, Chief Aloo Alev, and his counterpart in Michihe, Chief Chiahemba Livinus Shom, in Katsina-Ala. Also killed was Chief Awua Alabar, District Head of Kundav in Ukum Local Government Area, who was gunned down in the presence of his family. Another of his heinous criminal acts was the abduction and murder of Mrs. Esther Nguumbur Tur, wife of Justice Tine Tur of the Court of Appeal and her companion, Mrs. Mbalamen Kpensuen Aminde, allegedly after collecting ransom and seizing the pick-up vehicle in which they were abducted. The Appeal Court Justice could not survive the trauma of his wife’s murder. He died shortly afterwards.
Gana’s killing spree was endless. He was a lord to himself. Maiming and killing anyone standing as an obstacle. All the affected local governments witnessed an almost shutdown of socio-economic activities. Unfortunately, his criminal activities were centred around Sankera area, the axis that establishes Benue State as the “Food Basket of the Nation.”
When communities and their rulers ignorantly provide shelter for criminals, such acts help in prolonging their visibility. That Tiv leaders could morally stoop so low and appeal to the conscience of the governor to extend a second amnesty to such a heartless killer speaks volumes. Even the governor who acceded to their crocodile tears demand must be blaming himself for accepting to extend the second olive branch of amnesty to Gana and his cohorts. In all of this unfortunate drama in Benue State, despite the viciousness of Gana, nowhere was the police active in ensuring that he was apprehended. The question on many lips was if it was the same police that we know that ended the evil reign of notorious armed robbers like Anini, Oyenusi and Shina Rambo? Gana killed innocent citizens, so why should his death tear the state apart? Gana killed harmless people of Benue Stste, should his killers not be commended? Does it mean that some disgruntled people were enjoying the pain being inflicted on both the government and the people?.
This is a death that should teach the people of Benue State, especially the Tiv, that their evil son should not have been provided a safe haven but should have been handed over to the security agencies once he was identified. The narrative that Gana was ambushed and killed by the military while on his way to “Calvary” for amnesty could have made some sense, but he attracted the venom that killed him. Terrorists are not good students of a second chance because they are green snakes that usually hide under the green grass. They are like rotten potatoes, they can spoil the good ones.