Dateline: Boki, Cross River Central Senatorial District. The day was Thursday, August 26, 2021. On that day, Thomas Obi Tawo, the enfant terrible of Boki, who gave himself the sobriquet Gen. Iron, apparently for the iron hand he used in terrorising his people, was in his best.
He had killed a chief in the village. He never knew that the slain chief was going to be his last victim of terrorism. The entire community rose against him.
He was haunted by soldiers who had taken over his village as they searched for him, after he had beaten up a former member of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Mark Obi. Obi’s offence was that he had refused to join the APC.
Before then, he had warned the former lawmaker who hails from the same community with him, not to cough in the name of PDP, because after he had defected to the APC with the governor, there wasn’t supposed to be a dissenting voice in the area.
So, when Obi chose to continue carrying the umbrella around the community instead of the broom, Iron felt offended and went after him.
He redesigned his face and body. He actually thought the man had died before leaving him. But Obi turned out to be a man with nine lives. He is still alive till now, just as Thomas Onabe, a commissioner in the state civil service, who had escaped death by the whiskers, after Gen Iron dealt with him in December 2020.
Onabe told TNN in an exclusive interview that the slain terrorist, who used to be an aide of the governor, Prof Ben Ayade, beat him up in the presence of his wife, the then PDP ward chairman and his own personal assistant.
They watched helplessly as the man pummelled their boss, even as the wife looked with awe as her husband was being beaten mercilessly, with blood oozing from different parts of his body. But he is alive to tell the story, just like Obi.
But there are scores of Boki people that are not alive to tell the stories of their torture in the hands of Gen Iron. Sources said he acquired so much money from his control and management of the Boki forest. He had been in control of the forest security since 2015, when the governor came into power.
But the governor decided to sack him after complaints and protests that followed Iron’s attack on Obi, that almost led to his death. Obi’s elder brother, a retired Army General, Moses Obi, who is also the president of the socio-cultural group called Ochibe Boki, had been irked by the effrontery of Iron to terrorise the entire community, to the extent of giving his younger brother machete cuts.
He had approached the governor, asking for his arrest and prosecution, to prevent future attacks on people. It was after that period that Ayade decided to sack him. But even after his sack, the man was still terrorising the Boki Nation.
Soldiers had to be deployed in the area to go after him. He went into hiding and would emerge once in a while to terrorise the community and then take off again. He stationed his well armed boys at the entry point to the community to give him information about movement of strange vehicles and personnel into and out of the community.
But luck ran out on him the day he killed the community chief. The villagers teamed up with the soldiers and combed the entire place in search of the man that everybody in the town dreaded. When he knew that the entire community was up against him, and on sighting the soldiers, he fought back, expectedly.
But he was over-powered. They killed him and-wait for this-his body parts were shared by the community people.
“He was deadly, he had blood stains round his body. He forcefully made himself a political leader. He burnt those he perceived were witchcraft, he became a small god overnight, he colonised the oil palm estate to his private entity, he never wanted any opposition or any rival around his neighbourhood, he became a commander of a militia, he threatened to kill a majority of the people in his area.
“His boys were brandishing AK47 at will without any confrontation, he threatened the peace of the entire Boki LGA, he banished some residents of his community from their ancestral homes, etc. On this faithful day, August 26, Thomas Obi, who was popularly called General Iron, was killed, with the same sword he has used to kill others. May peace reign again in Boki nation,” one Boki native wrote on his social media page.
How Iron Apologised to, Begged Boki Ruler Before Death
In what appeared to be a pretentious letter of apology, Iron, known to be a first grade illiterate, had written a letter to the paramount ruler of Boki, begging for forgiveness for all his atrocities. But the letter made no meaning because days after the so-called letter of apology, he still did worst things in the community.
Here is the unedited letter:
OPEN LETTER TO HIS ROYAL MAJESTY: THE PARAMOUNT RULER OF BOKI LOCAL GOVT. AREA.
Your Royal Majesty,
I SEEK FOR PEACE
My Royal father sir, following the political misunderstanding with my cousin , Hon. Mark Obi of PDP of which a group of Nigerian Army invaded Oku Community on 4th August, 2021 and destroyed my three houses, my two vehicles and went away with a lot of my money. Thereby, leaving my family members homeless.
1. I humbly seek for peace and beg on our senior uncle , General Moses Obi ( rtd) to kindly forgive me as his blood and younger cousin.
2. The Nigerian Army that have been drafted to Oku Community should please be withdrawn to allow us settle as a family and free movement of Oku people to go to their farms and normal businesses.
3. As a family, we disagree to agree.
4. Whoever I have offended in the past , I seek for forgiveness, because nobody is perfect except God.
5. My Governor , His Excellency, Prof Ben Ayade, please forgive me as your son , if I went too extreme to protect our Party ( APC). Yes, you are a leader of honour that preaches politics with ethics. Through your leadership, you granted us amnesty 2018 and subsequently appointed me your Special Adviser on Forest Security . For the seek of my aged mother, my wife and children, please do not forsake me as your party loyalist who stood by you throughout the last general elections. Yes my Governor, you sacked and relieved me of my appointment, find a place in your heart and forgive me. My father who was a soldier died and left me at the age of 10 years as a farmer and hunter.
5. To my cousin’s immediate family ( His wife and children ), please forgive me as blood is thicker than water.
May God sooth our hearts with lasting peace and love.
Thomas Obi Tawo( a.k.a General Iron)
CC : Governor of CRS
*Gen.Moses Obi (rtd).
*Dr. Pius Tawo .
*Boki Council Chairman.
*All Boki Political Stakeholders Both APC & PDP platforms.
Govt Should Take Over His Property-Gen Moses Obi
Reacting to the killing of the terror gang leader, retired Gen Obi, a former Force Commander of the United Nations mission in Sudan (UNMIS), said it was painful that Iron was not caught alive and made to face prosecution for the atrocities he caused in Boki.
Obi who served United Nations peacekeeping mission as Platoon Commander in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), and Deputy Sector Commander in the United Nations mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) however challenged Ayade to ensure that all the property acquired by the slain terrorist was taken over by the government.
He said: “I would rather say that a character like that has been a thorn in the flesh of his people, he has burnt people alive, he has destroyed people’s houses, he has sent his clan head into exile and many others and he dominated the common resource of the state, an oil palm estate and that gave him wealth and influence, but somebody who is not developed, you give him power and money, he can abuse it and he abused it thoroughly.
“I think there is a lesson that people should change the character of politics. I don’t want to emphasise politics but it is also important and people have to respect values and the supremacy of the law, and that I as chairman of Ochibe Boki, I will want people to be conscious of that.
“I would have loved him to face the law squarely but sometimes when people get out of control, sometimes they don’t give the chance, the course to develop itself, such that those around him, some others around him are exposed but then if he is armed and he resists the people, I think the only way they can bring him to justice is to resist him and that is the consequence of somebody having arms and being out of control.
When he was reminded of the apology letter that Iron wrote to the traditional head of the place and copies sent to him and other stakeholders, he said “I wouldn’t know if there was a letter of apology, but if what they are referring to is what I also know, I believe it was written for him because he didn’t go to school.
“I know he asked that the military should pull out and when the military pulled out for one day he returned with his violence. So I think his intention was not genuine; one day that the military pulled out, he rampaged, he burnt, destroyed houses, injured people, ran after them all over the place. What sort of jungle justice is that in our country? So you can see. Was there really a letter of apology?
“After that write up, the military left for whatever reasons and the night they left is the day he did all these things I’m talking about. So you can see, was there really an apology?”
He said with the death of Iron, Boki would be rebuilt. “We will build Boki again and work with the Boki people and see how we can sustain peace, how we can sustain order, how we can get people to be more responsive to other people’s concern.
“We shall not burn people alive and then remain helpless, we shall not attack people in their houses with impunity, we will not have weapons flying all over the place illegally and pray that the government takes over his estate and use it for the benefit of the state and the people.”