By Theo Adebowale
Sunday Oppone is a man to meet. He has been friends with me for more than three decades. There is never a dull moment with him. He has a good memory with a high sense of humor. We spend several hours together whenever we meet because we do not know when next the opportunity would offer itself. Oppone is truthful and gives honest account of events, which may not prevent him to make unjust conclusion when he is at the receiving end. Sometimes, a boy close to him broke the law but he was disappointed that instead of getting him off the hook, Kabiyesi handed the suspect over to the police on demand. You need not hear the other side before you arrive at a conclusion.
When Oppone decides to vary a story, it is to bring out a humor. There was a day my friend went to visit his uncle who happened to have two female guests. He was left behind with one of the females in the car. It took a few hours before the couple returned. They found Oppone and the lady in a compromising posture. On interrogation, Oppone enlightened the uncle that feelings or love itself have no relationship with paper qualifications or fashion. The uncle could not fault his submission. When men and women burst into themselves, they do not display paper qualifications before they catch each other’s fancy. My friend is Uneme, Akoko Edo, in a neighbouring state.
My friend showed up today. It was in the small hours of the day. And he chose to appear to me in a dream. There was this construction site which design attracted my attention with the shape of a W or an M, depending on where you are located. It was an architectural outfit to house the Police, and Amotekun. Immediately the thought on space allocation came over me to accommodate the Police in the middle and house the Amotekun personnel in the outer blocks. At the same time, it occurred to me that there should be outposts in the jungle. Since the criminal elements that would be tackled are not cut out for conventional policing, the community police should be able to pursue them towards whatever direction and bring them to the law.
There and then appeared my friend to help me with my thought. For his starting point, Oppone made a distinction between those of them that are in Nigeria, and those of us that are Nigerians. They watched us in the season of hope. As 2015 general elections were getting close, hope for us was rising. We went as far as going to Abuja to observe the New Year Eve so our presidential candidate would be our guest and our promise, all at our own expense. Every party man bore campaign expenses. In his acceptance, the victor identified with everybody and has since belonged to nobody. A very honest man, President Muhammadu Buhari assured Nigerians that corruption would fight back. Whether the reprisal attacks have started or not, we would not be able to tell. Oppone saw a prosecuting attorney appointed junior minister to the accused. Also most of them undergoing grilling at the Economic and Financial Crime Commission and ICPC have either been released to contest elections or to assume appositive positions. Oppone, in the dream, assured me that those of them that reside in Nigeria have no problem whatsoever because they do not poke nose into national issues, they do not comment on socio economic issues. As to why their attitude, it is for self preservation.
So with the spate of banditry, insurgency, criminality and general insecurity, mum should be the attitude? Oppone observed that it was easier for a horse to pass through the eye of a needle than for a hardworking, brilliant pupil to gain admission into a higher institution whereas it takes just repentance for a Boko Haram insurgent to be converted into the Nigerian Army, be offered university admission with scholarship abroad. Islam means peace and those that have practiced it as a religion or in occupation must be brought to the peace of its meaning. When herdsmen kidnap, they soon open a line of communication with fund raisers, bargaining, negotiating eventually concluding. But they would not be detected or located. But for the prosecution that took place in the United Arab Emirate no evidence that Boko Haram had sponsors, financiers and canvassers in Nigeria. It was just recently that the United States demonstrated that it has equipment that can locate kidnappers. That was shortly after Federal government agencies had identified those that looted warehouses.
My friend was doing so much conceptralising and differentiation between those of them in Nigeria, and Nigerians. It was like the other day when Gbenga visited his friend to wonder why he did not tell his correct age. His wife had told him that on a cursory look at the husband with the father in a photograph, the man appeared to be older than be claimed. Now Gbenga is dead, the woman’s son came to announce to a cross section of those attending the man’s 65 birthday party, that his actual age was 70 that was borrowing a leaf from the school of thought of identifying a Nigerian from among those resident in Nigeria. A particular woman was uncomfortable with the verbal age declaration that she has since considered why people are untrustworthy. But we cannot dismiss the logic in Oppone’s submission. A man not given to hate speech or fake news, he would rather discuss family matters, Ajaokuta Steel Project and the state of labour unions. It was at dawn that the discussion was real, and that was because it took place in the dream.
Before we rounded up the conversation, my friend assured me that banditry, insurgency, kidnapping and the rest of them would soon end. He said that the whole network is before the international community and the Nigerian elite. Dr Malafia’s disclosure that a sitting governor presides over the affairs of Boko Haram was an understatement. By the time the international community and the local political elite get to know officially the power behind the mayhem, there would be surrender. The dream has reinforced my hope that the Nigerian state will overcome the present challenges not through the defeatist posture canvassed for those in Nigeria but rather through a critical engagement of those in public office. We need to keep them on their toes and not let them get away with their vanities. We must insist that the law must be enforced without fear or favour of everybody. We must insist that proceeds of extortion of kidnap victims can no longer be used to terrorize law abiding citizens any longer.
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