Last week the media was awash with the news of the death of a notorious gangster and militia leader, Terwase Akwaza known more by his underground name of Gana. He was known to have terrorised the entire Benue State for years that the mere mention of his name sends chills down the spine of many in the locality. And we use ‘sends’ here advisedly because his boys are running wild in reaction to the perceived cru- elty visited on their leader. So, the death of such a bandit that otherwise ought to have elicited feelings of relief of one headache less is turning into a nightmare of unimagi- nable proportions. That is the seeming interpretation of the reaction of the State Gover- nor, Samuel Orthom who, it was claimed, suffered personal lose in his hands. He cried foul when the news was broken to him. Eminent citizens of the state also have continued to register their disapproval with the way he died.
The story out there was that he was persuaded to abandon the life of crime in exchange for amnesty which he allegedly accepted. It was also said that he was on his way to Makurdi, the state capital, for the usual shenanigans politicians con- trive to trivialise tragedies in the guise of making peace with public enemies through am- nesty, that bastardised word, when soldiers reportedly dragged him out of the official vehicle they were travelling in and killed him in cold blood. The army has a different story. They claimed that the terror- ist was felled in an exchange of gunfire with an anti-terrorists’ group of the force.
This newspaper is not inter- ested in the argument on how a murderer was murdered. But
it may be simplistic to dismiss it as poetic justice – the law of Karma taking its course. May- be. Our editorial policy, at all times, is that we vehemently are against any move to nego- tiate with terrorists, repentant or not. We insist on bringing criminals to justice. Suffice it to say, however, that the cir- cumstances under which Gana died, no matter what anyone may say, is more of vengeance. And vengeance is not justice.
Our worry, as a newspaper, is that we’ve been through this path before and the nation is still trying to cope with the horrors of capturing a crimi- nal alive and murdering him in cold blood. Was that not how the Boko Haram debacle
FOR GOD AND COUNTRY
started and is still threaten- ing the polity? Yusuf was cap- tured alive and was killed by those who had a warped no- tion of justice. His followers disagreed and the rest is the fear and anxiety the nation is living with till date.
Already, information from that state indicate that the people in the area, especially his Sankaraland, are leaving in droves. All those involved in the negotiations that yielded the amnesty plan, legislators at the federal and local levels, local government chairmen, councillors as well as other dignitaries are said to be liv- ing with their hearts in their mouths in trepidation over a possible reprisal attack by the
late terrorist’s henchmen. That is to be expected. The anger of most is that what happened to Gana was not only avoidable but painted a discriminatory picture of what amnesty is be- coming given recent handling of the policy as it applied to Boko Haram supposedly de- radicalised members.
The danger involved in what happened in Benue state, in our opinion, is that it will harden the position of crimi- nals who will have no reason to believe any talk about am- nesty when it concerns them as they will always refer to the Gana episode and demand for even more difficult to meet guarantees before consider- ing dropping arms and com- ing to the negotiation table. The youths who form the bulk of these criminal gangs often, even in their madness, pause to listen to their leaders. That has certainly been jeopardised by this precipitate action by the army to apply military justice as they see and under- stand it.
Governor Orthom, in exas- peration, has yielded to the divine describing the incident as an act of God. Gana’s wife, too, is taking it in her stride making the world to believe that her husband was tired of the life of crime he lived. What is left now, in our opin- ion, is for the government and all other stakeholders to pull their resources together so as to re-strategise on how to bring criminality in Benue state to manageable levels. The word amnesty will have to be redefined for it to make any meaning to the target audi- ence, in this case, the bandits. That they have to do very fast because the state lacks the re- sources or, for that matter, the political will to engage them in a sustained armed struggle. And it is not only Benue state.