Proliferation of small arms across the country has been of great concern to security agencies over the years and has been blamed for high crime rate. As the 2019 general elections approach, there are fears that there might be election violence and general upsurge in crime rate, with so many loose weapons everywhere. This has been the sad trend over the years whenever elections are around the corner. Despite the routine mop up of arms by the police on the orders of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, a lot of illegal weapons are still found in wrong hands.
The shooting incident that occurred on Monday, 10th September at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) state secretariat in Calabar, is an ominous sign and a sad development that should not have taken place if the assailant and the victims had exercised caution. A simple argument led to the avoidable tragedy. Unfortunately, one of the two victims who were shot later died in the hospital where he was rushed for treatment. But it is too late to cry when the head is off.
The incident underscores the fact that there are many like Ekpri Effiom, who allegedly pulled the trigger that ended the life of another party supporter at the PDP secretariat in Calabar, moving about freely with guns and such people will be willing tools in the hands of desperate politicians in the days ahead.
Every time the police parade arrested criminals, a huge cache of weapons, especially assault rifles and thousands of bullets recovered from the criminals, are usually on display. A lot of locally made guns are also among weapons recovered from the suspects. This shows that the business of blacksmiths who produce the guns is thriving. The police have to take the battle to the blacksmiths to curb the proliferation of small arms.
Recently, the Nigeria Customs Service intercepted over 15,000 units of illegally imported military hardware and the suspicion is that they were meant for political thugs to be used during the forthcoming elections. The identity of the importer of the hardware has not been unmasked as the paramilitary outfit is still investigating the matter.
Truckloads of weapons had been intercepted by Customs officials on the roads in similar circumstances in the past. Some had been seized at the seaports sometimes without any clue about the identities of the importers. Often, the dubious faceless importers engage in barefaced deception to outwit the Customs at the ports by declaring different goods in their waybill whereas what the containers bear are illegal weapons.
Desperate politicians do not help matters as they acquire arms for thugs to attack their political opponents. That is why assassinations and murders are rampant during elections. The South-south and Southwest geopolitical zones of the country lead in political violence, with the 2015 elections not an exception. In the South-south, Rivers and Akwa Ibom are the leading killing fields during elections. It was so bad in Rivers state in 2015 that a section of the media described the state as 'Rivers of Blood'.
A lot of fake policemen and military personnel are usually arrested and unmasked during elections. Politicians sew uniforms of security agencies for their thugs and arm them to enable the thugs have a field day during elections and get away with election malpractice.
Unfortunately, after elections, the arms and ammunition acquired for thugs are not retrieved from them by their political masters. The thugs are abandoned by the politicians. And in order to survive at all costs, they turn the guns on innocent people when they go into armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes.
We believe that in order to curb the proliferation of small arms, especially in the south-south, there is need for security agencies to be more proactive by arresting those who wield the weapons before they are put to use. It is imperative for the police to engage in continuous mop up operations to reduce the number of illegal arms in circulation. Sister security agencies should share intelligence to make the task of protecting the lives and property of the citizens of this country easier at all times, and not only during elections. Working at cross purposes has only led to undermining the nation's security as has been witnessed over time.
Politicians should also banish the notion that election is a do-or-die affair. Such disposition is bound to rock the boat and cause bloodletting. Politicking should not be synonymous with violence. In other climes, electioneering period is like a carnival. We can replicate that in Nigeria.
Penultimate Wednesday, Senator John Owan Enoh was at Ikom, Cross River State, to formally declare his intention to contest the gubernatorial election in Cross River State. That is no longer news. That day, there was a heavy downpour. That too, is no more news. Ikom town was practically shut down because of human and vehicular traffic. This is no news again. But what many people did not know is that among the crowd of supporters was a 97 year old man, a clan head that is, from Boki, who had to get help from some good men, to be able to get to the venue of the declaration, just because he needed to see Owan Enoh as he makes his declaration to contest the election. Our man in Calabar, DAVID ODEY who was at the event, reports.
When a 97-year-old man is committed to a cause he believes in, nothing can stop him from demonstrating that commitment. Not the torrential rainfall. Not tear gas canisters. Not the crowd. Nothing. That man is Chief Michael Otu Edebe, the 97-year-old clan head of Bashua in Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State.
Edebe can't even walk straight again. He is so old that he has become bent and now uses a walking stick to support himself while walking. He was among the scores of people that thronged the venue of Owan Enoh's gubernatorial ambition declaration and was spotted by TNN correspondent that Wednesday, September 5.
He was assisted into the venue even while it was raining. He did not mind the pushing and shoving he got from the crowd, as everybody tried to gain access into the venue at the same time. Just like that woman with the issue of blood whose desire was to see Jesus to get healed, Pa Edebe had just one thing in mind: to behold Owan Enoh whom he described as his son, mount the rostrum to make that declaration to present himself for election as governor of his state. So, nothing else mattered to him than to have a view of the senator. He achieved his desire and was there when Owan Enoh made his declaration. And he felt fulfilled.
Neither his age nor the torrential rain that fell that day dampened his spirits nor served as a barrier to his desire to be a part of the crowd that came from all over the state to witness the declaration. And that done, his second wish is to be alive to see Owan Enoh sworn in as governor in May next year. He believes this, too, will come to pass.
He even risked being removed as clan head by defying an alleged directive by the governor of the state that no traditional ruler should honour the invitation extended to them to attend the event.
Speaking with TNN correspondent, he explained why he had to come all the way from Boki to Ikom for the momentous event.
“I have come to witness the declaration of my son, Senator John Owan Enoh. I expect him to succeed in the governorship race,” he said.
Chief Edebe, a clear-headed man in spite of his age, even set an agenda for Owan Enoh. “When he becomes governor, I want him to develop Boki local government area, provide amenities and give scholarship to our youths. I want him to give us Ogoja State and give us more local government areas when he becomes governor.”
He expressed his opinion on how the state is being governed. According to him, “I am not satisfied with what is happening in the state. When Ogoja state is created with more local government areas, things may be better.”
Another committed supporter of Owan Enoh's governorship aspiration is Takon Takon, a trumpeter and leader of a brass band from Bendeghe Ekiem. He is also very old.
His band was at the event to entertain the teeming crowd and dignitaries.
According to him, “I came to support John Owan Enoh become the governor of Cross River state. I am the leader of the original brass band of Etung. If he becomes governor, I want him to mobilise the band and buy us more equipment.”
He also expressed his opinion about the government of the day, which informed his decision to pitch his tent with Owan Enoh.
“We are not happy with the present government. We are suffering. There is no job for our children. Youths have joined cult groups and there is violence in the communities. Let Owan Enoh come and stop all these. We need to live in peace and unity with one another because united we stand and divided we fall,” he said.
Takon also bemoaned the poor state of roads and absence of electricity in his community and wants Owan Enoh to do something about these problems when he becomes governor.
“We need good roads. We have not had electricity for over a year in our communities. We have been paying bills without any electricity. The current governor is aware of our plight but nothing has been done about it. I am very sure that Owan Enoh can provide the amenities we need. With God, all things are possible.”