By Attah Ochinke
Thomas Obi Tawo, popularly called General Iron, was illiterate; an unexposed young man with the tendencies of a small time criminal. He is dead; hunted down and killed disgracefully like a rat. A lot of people, including me, believe he deserved his end. But I think Gen Iron was deceived unto his death.
The political system used and dumped him, and dodged from him when the chips were down. At the time of his death, the political system he thought he was serving had abandoned him; too ashamed to associate with him. Even the government that gave him a high office in recognition of his atrocities, sacked him and withdrew the high office. He stood alone, naked, in his last days. He had no place to hide, none of the political associates accommodated him. He ran into the bush like a rat. Am sure the people he thought he was working with and working for avoided his phone calls in his troubled last days.
The question, my dear Boki youths, is, are you being used by the political machinery of some politician to commit havoc? Will you be dumped and discarded like Gen Iron after you commit the havoc they are sending you to commit? Will they dodge from you when you fall into trouble while playing their script? That is what happened to General Iron.
General Iron imposed himself, by sheer acts of terrorism, as the political leader of Oku/Borum/Njua ward. His political party immediately recognised him as such. The state government appointed him into the Cross River State cabinet as Special Adviser. He plucked out people’s eyes; he chopped off the toes of a chief; he roasted some people on fire for being witches – about 4 of the victims died. Others are still struggling with their injuries, receiving poor medication in the village for first degree fire burns.
General Iron tried to kill Thomas Onabe who escape with grevious injuries. Thomas Onabe, himself a Commissioner in the Cross River State Civil Service Commission, reported the matter to the law enforcement agencies and the political authorities and nothing happened.
General Iron must have seen the lack of admonition to all his atrocities as an endorsement of his actions by the political system he served. So he was emboldened; gingered by the lack of condemnation.
He started telling poor villagers, and those who do not tow the political line of the government he served, that he will kill them and nothing will happen. Indeed he always say he will kill them and government will still give him money. And he was correct; because as he was killing and brutalising people his salary was being paid by the government. That was how he saw it. Remember he was stark illiterate.
None of his associates and fellow political leaders guided him as far as he directed his atrocities to their political opponents. They used him to “level the ground.”
General Iron seized the Boki Oil Palm Estate owned by the state government. The government allowed him to keep it, he saw this as an endorsement of his actions and this encouraged him. He made millions of naira from the estate. They say he shared the loot to his political associates far beyond the borders of Boki. He bought guns from the proceeds and believed he was Rambo.
Young men followed him because he had money to pay. Anybody that disagreed with him pays dearly, or is sent on exile.
His political party recognised him as leader. He took political decisions concerning his ward. He was invited to political meetings where he sat with bloodstained hands, amongst those that called themselves political leaders. They hailed him and threw banters. They egged him on deliberately or by default.
Iron became a lord unto himself, egged on by the system. So he tried to work for the system that has recognised him, endorsed his crimes, and allowed him to reap financial reward. He declared that no political activities should take place in his ward other than the activities of the APC. He said this loudly and nobody, none of his associates accross the state, guided him. He was tormenting the opposition so it was ok.
So when Hon Mark Obi went home as a member Of PDP to meet his Party supporters, General Iron, in sheer display of audacity, went to Mark Obi’s house and warned him to desist from holding any PDP activities in the ward. Mark Obi stood his ground on that occasion and Iron left. Mark Obi dutifully reported the matter to the Commissioner of Police in a detailed petition. Nothing happened. General Iron was a high government official.
Eventually, misled by the endorsement of his actions and by the lack of admonition from the government he served, egged on by political associates and fellow political leaders in Boki, he attempted to make good his promise of killing Mark Obi for planning to hold PDP activities in the Oku ward. Mark Obi miraculously survived the attack with grievous injuries. This was the height of it. Iron had outdone himself.
The government he thought he was working for sacked him; dropped him from cabinet with ignominy. His fellow political leaders in Boki disassociated from him. Everyone dodged. He stood alone. Those who collected money from him, those he shared the proceeds of the Oil palm estate to, dodged.
It was then Iron realised he was alone, exposed, abandoned. Nobody had guided this small time criminal as to the acceptable standards of behaviour when you are vested with a high office. He was promoted beyond his capacity, and applied violence, the only thing he knew well, as solution to solve all problems, especially political issues.
He worked for his party and the political system that accepted him. But in his last moments he stood and died alone in the bush. A scape goat.
My dear Boki youths, learn from what happened to General Iron. Don’t let them use you. Understand that when they send you to commit crime and you are in trouble, they will dodge. Even if you have served them and given them millions, they will dodge. Even if they appointed you PA, SA or anything, they will dodge. So look after yourself. Check your wings before you fly because you will have to carry yourself. Anything you know you cannot defend if you stand alone, don’t allow your group or political party to send you to do. The fact that your actions are endorsed by your master today does not mean you will not account for them tomorrow.
Ask yourself; will your political master send his child to do what he has sent you to do? Let this guide you. Anyone that does not find you useful in politics if you keep to descent behaviour is not your leader. Don’t be used and dumped. Don’t allow them push you and dodge like they did to Iron.
At the end General Iron deserve his end. He died the way he should. The biggest loss will be if we do not learn the lessons from his death. This is my contribution to those lessons. May Boki now know peace after the death of Thomas Obi Tawo, and may his kind never pass this way again.
· Ochinke, a former commissioner for justice and chairman of the Calabar branch of NBA, sent this from Calabar.