I HAD thought I would not say anything about the arrest, penultimate weekend, of Evans, the urbane-looking billionaire kingpin of kidnapping, otherwise known as Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike.
I feared I could get personal, especially as his name (and that of the now late Ossy Ibori) occasionally propped up during the abduction, earlier in the year, of students and staff of the Turkish international College, in which I was directly affected.
Of course, I have always heard of the faceless phenomenon known to the police simply as ‘Evans’. But the story I heard of him was that he shuttles between Nigeria and South Africa and that he and his gang were not only behind the kidnap of many ASPAMDA businessmen and several Igbo businessmen, residing around the FESTAC/Amuwo axis, they (and one TK, who is now late too) were also fingered in the daredevil armed robberies in the area.
One story even had it that apart from the regular/legit businessmen victims of Evans, there is also a legion of billionaire drug barons whom Evans also kidnapped, and who quietly paid the standard $1 million, without as much as making a police report of their kidnap. Many of them felt reporting to the police might lead to the public wanting to know what they, the victims, actually do for a living.
Of course, having gone through two harrowing kidnap experiences, I should consider the arrest of Evans a personal triumph. And I have indeed been inundated with phone calls from friends, calling to (wait for it) rejoice with me. But I’m really not rejoicing, even though I’m happy that the underworld has been dealt a deathblow with this latest arrest. In fact, at some point last week, I actually wished I could be given the opportunity to see Evans, and return some of those hot slaps and lip-splitting punches the goons dealt on me the night they abducted my wife. I also felt going to ask him for my balance of the ransom money, while at other times, I really felt like taking a Suya knife to him and actually cut away a pound of flesh – with or without blood.
Rather than celebrate, there is a sobering feeling this arrest has foisted on me. For one, I look at the foolish woman, who calls herself Evans’ wife and who has been posting all manner of things on the social media, including photographs of their innocent children, and I’m shocked to the marrow. Of course, the latest photo of her, encircled by her weeping children looks rehearsed. It is clearly a selfie. Everyone is crying at the same time and looking into the camera lens. Clearly, she told her children to pretend to be crying, in the hope of attracting public sympathy. It clearly achieved the opposite, going by people’s reactions to the post. I almost feel like wringing her neck.
Of course, I don’t buy the story that she didn’t know what line of business her husband was into. If it is true that she truly did not know, then she clearly has an IQ that is a class or two below the moron level. It is not just enough to say that she is just an ‘ordinary housewife’. For one, she does not look like someone, who has not bountifully enjoyed the spoils from her husband’s war.
But my heart goes out to the innocent kids she’s exposing to this public ridicule and angst. Having lived through the torture of having my 10-year-old daughter kidnapped, I cannot wish the trauma for even my worst enemy, let alone, underage kids. I just wish there’s a way we can keep the children out of all the public opprobrium and the venom we’re pouring on Evans and his wife.
The other lesson, which this Evans saga has brought home to me, is the fact that the criminals we’re looking for in distant evil forests, and inside Ikorodu swamps and Niger Delta creeks, are actually living next door. They are our neighbours. They live in the next flat. The compound on your left! They attend the same landlord and tenants association meeting with us. They are our co-workers (who are using the employment as a mere camouflage). They are members of our church and social clubs. We drink beer with them at the neighbourhood’s open-air bar and other joints. They are those guys popping champagne at the nightclub like champagne is going out of existence. They are that okada man we regularly call up to come ferry us to the bank or office. They are the security man that opens the street gate for you, as you drive in. They are also the ones that close the gate and run errand for you and other tenants in the compound. They are the electrician, plumber, carpenter and other technicians that now know all the nooks and crannies of your abode. And, I bet, none of you knows the surname of any of them. You also don’t have a photograph of him. You don’t know his next of kin or the state he really comes from. You have no forwarding address of any of them. That is how exposed we all are.
So, that house beside yours, which has this eerie feeling about it and is too quiet to be real, is actually, truly not real. Draw the attention of the police to it.
But that is not all the only drama around this Evans saga for me.
Having been forced to flee from my own house in the Okota/Amuwo axis by armed robbers and kidnappers (all of them, kindred spirits of Evans’), Magodo was actually one of the areas I was checking out houses to relocate to. In fact, one serving public official in the Lagos State government had offered to facilitate my relocation to Magodo. But I had foot-dragged over the offer, knowing that Magodo was not too far from Isheri, another favourite hunting ground of kidnappers.
However, a few days after I made up my mind to give Magodo a serious thought, and actually went to inspect a property in the area, ACP Abba Kyari and his IRT team smoked out Evans from there.
You can, therefore, imagine my shock! I would have left Amuwo, thinking I had run away from Evans and his brothers in crime, only to land right at their doorstep in Magodo. A case of jumping from frying pan to fire.
Now, I can reconfirm the position of the Psalmist that; unless God watches over a city, the watchman watches but in vain.
It also reminds me of the arrest, in Lekki, a few years ago, of another robbery kingpin whose gang masterminded the forex heist at the bureaux des change around Murtala Muhammed International Airport. The police were busy combing Ikeja and environs for the robbers, the authorities did not know that kingpin was co-habiting with the high and mighty in Lekki, while running a gang that unleashed mayhem on Ikeja and Yaba. Occasionally too, he would monitor the homes and movement of some of his Lekki neighbours (including banks and all) and get his gang members to strike and escape by boat. Occasionally too, they trailed any neighbour, whose home was rather impregnable, to the Lekki/Epe Expressway and robbed or kidnapped him on the road.
The funniest aspect was that this particular kingpin and his gang, at one point, sighted a brand new SUV a friend of mine just purchased, negotiated with a prospective buyer of stolen vehicles, sold the car in absentia and collected advance payment, before they now came to snatch the car from my friend, at gunpoint, on the Mainland.
Meanwhile, my friend and other frightened Mainland residents are daily relocating to Lekki and the Island. It has never occurred to them that they could be moving to within sight of the leaders of the same gangs they are running away from.
Now, many of those urging me to relocate from my present abode are suggesting I move to Lekki. Ironically, the same waterfront view, which they say compromised the security of my present home, is also present in Lekki. The gated estates of Lekki, which they claim enhance security, are also present at Isheri. But those gates have never stopped the kidnappers. In several cases, it is even the uniformed security men that collude with the kidnappers. In fact, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, some time ago, revealed that the police command is now working with the private security companies in the state to build a database of the young men and women engaged as security personnel. According to him, many of the personnel are actually planted by kidnap gangs to take up such employments to serve as informants to their gangs. It is these security men, who man the gates, that now squeal on residents to the gangs, detailing the who is who in the estate and how such residents could easily be picked up for ransom.
Bottom-line? No place is really safe. Our help comes from Above.