Recently, the highly revered Oba of Benin, due to compelling reasons of the utter helplessness of the ordinary man, had to take practical steps to curb the rising crime rate in the state. Before the welcome intervention of the Royal Father, Edo State was literally under siege. No day passed without reports of armed robbers' gory operations.
Many were killed, maimed and dispossessed of their belongings, sometimes in broad daylight by armed robbers.
On November 15, 2008, exactly four days after the exit of Governor Osunbor, a businessman, Prince Kennedy Okojie, proprietor of Buvel Petrol Station, was kidnapped, thus becoming the very first victim of the new crime.
His kidnappers demanded from him all the money he made as contractor supplying fuel to the Government House during the Osunbor administration. Thereafter, kidnapping, hitherto alien to the people, became an everyday occurrence. Anyone could be kidnapped - market women and petty traders, pastors, teachers, medical doctors, Army Generals, students, the aged - no one was spared.
Some of those kidnapped were released after the payment of the agreed ransom, which ranged from the mind-boggling sum of one hundred million naira to the relatively paltry fifty thousand naira. Others, not so lucky, were tortured to death. Not one victim left the kidnappers' den scot-free; the trauma suffered by survivors often lingers on for the rest of their lives. All had to constantly watch their backs. Indeed, fear became pervasive throughout the entire Edo State.
While all these were going on, the Governor stuck to his position that the creation of jobs for the teeming population of the unemployed youths of the state was the only remedy for the unprecedented high crime rate in the state. As the Comrade Governor repeatedly put it, once the youths are kept busy in the work place during the day, they will be too tired to venture into criminal activities at night.
It was his own way of saying that Edo people should continue to endure the murderous and cruel operations of armed robbers and kidnappers in the state, pending the fulfillment of government's promise to provide jobs for the many unemployed youths. Besides his recourse to vain rhetoric, no stringent measures were considered and put in place to fight crime in Edo State.
The half-hearted donation of logistic support to the police, through direct deductions from local government council funds, came rather belatedly later. Such was the naïve and ill-researched approach by Comrade Oshiomhole's government to the very serious security situation in Edo State. Left unprotected from the full rage of criminals, Edo people simply resigned themselves to fate. Indeed, the state government had completely lost grip of the situation.
These were the circumstances, which informed the practical intervention of the Oba of Benin. On June 11, traditional worshippers invoked the wrath of the gods on all those who perpetrate criminal acts in Edo State. As a confirmation of the efficacy of the Oba's traditional method in his efforts to combat crime in the state, there has been a remarkable reduction in the crime rate since the spiritual cleansing of the land. Reports of armed robbers' bloody operations are now rare; assassins and kidnappers too have been on holiday since then.
This is why many Edo people are irritated by the shameless comments by some from the expected quarters that the method adopted by the Palace in fighting crime is outdated and primitive. I consider such views subjective and unhelpful; I also think that it is a mark of intellectual laziness for anyone to suggest that any idea at all that is not amenable to scientific laws should be discarded. Even internationally renowned scientists admit that we know very little of our world, and of the many forces at work therein.
In any case, as far as the people who have been at the receiving end of the criminals' fury are concerned, it is result, rather than the means, that counts. Given the belief of our people, only those intent on mischief would pretend not to understand why the deterrent measures, implicit in the traditional method in fighting crime, was expected by many to yield the desired result, as we have seen today.
All said, I am in the good company of the overwhelming majority of Edo people who have continued to applaud the Oba's practical intervention, at a time when the feeble efforts of Comrade Oshiomhole's government failed abysmally to make any impact whatsoever. Indeed, was anyone expecting a caring Royal Father, as our Oba is, to do nothing when government seemed, from all indications, to have abandoned its basic responsibility of protecting lives and properties in his domain? I shudder!
Mr. Enobakhare, a public affairs commentator, writes from Benin City, Edo State.