Aluzu Ebikebuna Augustine

Anini may be long gone, but his adventure is still fresh in our minds. In 1986 when he terrorized the whole nation, he thought himself ‘above the law’ owing to the complicity of top Police officials as he was egregiously referred to as ‘the law’. He ruthlessly pillaged and carnaged the old Bendel state and men of the Nigerian Police Force and sometimes munificent enough to let the masses partake in the share of his booty as a stratagem of escape employed by him and his gang.

Anini who spearheaded a four month reign of terror between August to December 1986 killed over nine Police men among others and robbed banks and other vulnerable joints. He was later captured and sentenced to death. He was executed March 29, 1987.

His reign was so bad that Justice Omo-Agege while passing judgement on Anini and his gang remarked, “Anini will forever be remembered in the history of crime in this country, but it would be of unblessed memory. Few people if ever, would give the name to their children.”

In March 1987 when Lawrence Anini’s capture made headlines, the news triggered jubilation amongst Nigerians. Though Bayelsa was very much annexed with Rivers state, little did it know it had a galore of clever Anini’s waiting in the polity to plunder and leech on it as well. Indeed, we thought that was the last to be heard of Anini.

Many years after the execution of Anini, Bayelsa has been under the administration of successive elected Governors from 1999 till date who have held the state to ransom at gun and pen-point. These Anini’s cuts across the different Senatorial District of the state and Local Government Areas. Their tentacles spread to neighboring states in the purlieu called Niger Delta region. These Aninis have impoverished Bayelsans, comparing the staggering resources that have come into our disposal as a state and the development on ground gives credence to my assertions. They are our ‘Enemies Within’ found in every government agencies and parastatals.

The almost 2million out of school children due to NUT strike, impassable roads in our streets, Hospitals that are relics of a bygone era, continuous owing of civil servants salary, about 85℅ unemployed Bayelsa graduates a resultant effect of the embargo on employment, gross impoverishment of Bayelsans, dilapidated public structures, environmental degradation by activities of Militants, and above all, the insecurity on our waterways is a pointer to how terribly Bayelsa has been managed.

If the recent revelation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that it has recovered over N1bn from the South South alone is anything to go by, I will be left in no doubt that the dried bones of Anini will shake in disbelief at the expertise of our modern day Anini’s. Even Anini himself will have to agree with the aphorism that “the pen is mightier than the sword” when it comes to heists. He would be a learner in his own game to our ‘Enemies Within’ beside the Alamieyeseigha’s, Dezianini’s, Patience Jonathan, Dudafa of our time because his most impressive heist at the African Intercontinental Bank, Agbor branch fetched him about N46,000.00 not more than USD$10,000 (at the time), a mere USD$150 (going by current exchange rate of $1 = N305)

These suit and tie Anini’s have plundered more than $7billion put together from a state of not more than 4 million people and eight (8) Local Government Areas causing unimaginable economic and social asperity on the people. They run to foreign lands for medical check up every now and then but our people are left behind to be made medical experiment of the efficacy of roots and herbs. We sometimes end up as experiments to test the technical know-how of our ill equipped medical practitioners who are products of our ailing educational system.

One of our Anini’s suffered a chronic medical condition before he passed away. He was in Dubai for treatment but had to abandon it to return to Nigeria where he explored his Presidential pardon much to the chagrin of the victimized public. Very recently, another sent his wife to America where she put to birth. Much to the delight of the ignorant populace who have been made to die from minor illness in the state due to lack or neglect of the Health sector by our Anini’s. I wish Bayelsa had a fully functional tertiary hospital like those in Dubai and America.

I do wish Bayelsa had the sort of leaders that Dubai and America had, leaders who would build and equip hospitals that people crossed deserts and continents to attend. Leaders who would invest in the educational sector and build schools that countries will send their citizens on scholarship to attend. Leaders who would prioritize the education of her people in lieu of religion. Leaders who will understand that at 20, the state is still dependent on external borrowings to pay salaries and the need to diversify the economy. I do sometimes wish Bayelsa would have leaders who would see the many opportunities in tourism. Leaders who understands the entails of selfless service.

Why would anyone, laying claims to sanity, stash millions of dollars in her account and have no good health facility where she’s from. Prudence, the sort that encourages wealth accumulation, will dictate otherwise.

What kind of sickness will a man be possibly suffering from that he would need $31.4million dollars to treat if not greed? Yes, greed is the only ailment even such staggering amount will not cure. Greed is the only sickness that cause compulsive accumulation disorder that afflicts our politicians and not prudence.

Anini’s reign was finally brought to an end on December 3, 1986, by Uanreroro who acted on a tip-off from the locals. The policeman went straight to the house where Anini was hiding and apprehended him with very little resistance. After Anini was captured and dispossessed of his charms, the man who terrorised a whole state and who was supposed to be fearless suddenly became remorseful, making confessions. This was against public expectation of a daredevil hoodlum who would remain defiant to the very end. It is instructive to note that the Police acted based on a tip off from locals in thesame state Anini hails from.

Anini, who was more generous than our politicians was ratted on by locals he shared his booty with. Men who could no longer endure their aversion for stealing and the shame Anini was bringing to the entire state gave the only Law enforcement agency then the tip off. The irony here is that our politicians have a way of mesmerizing us. They have manage to appropriate some degree of sainthood to themselves. They plunder the common heritage, fan divisive embers to generate a smokescreen, and conscript the conscience of the poor.

Bayelsans who wouldn’t mind lynching a petty thief to show their aversion for stealing would gullibly believe pen-robbers are witch-hunted, when probed. We shouldn’t be surprised if this article is greeted with so much aspersions and lampooning from my Ijaw brothers. We shouldn’t be surprised if I am accused of selling the Ijaw nation out. That is how we have deified our true enemies within. The critical question facing us remains thus: Why do we continue to succumb to the machinations of those saboteurs masquerading as leaders who continue to be agents of our collective destruction? It is this question that leads logically to one of the major challenges confronting us today and which is an internal imperative that must be resolved for Ijaw nation to progress. This imperative is one of leadership within Ijaw nation. Are we going to allow ourselves to be led by individuals whose agenda is selfish, narrow, and continue to perpetuate a slavish relationship with the powers of the Nigerian state?

There has been all sorts of offensive publications on social media lately. Some people are asking the anti graft to leave our ‘Enemies Within’ alone. Our brothers who are elected and appointed into public offices are responsible for our impoverished state yet some self serving Bayelsans have identified to collaborate with them to deprive us of our only succor.

The represented who are doubly victimized, rise to their defence, deflect their guilt and render praise. Such identification have sanctified and enslaved. The poor masses embrace the delusion that they owe support to the thieving politician with whom they share a kind of primitive identification or association with. “He is our brother.” Ethnicities and religions own people in this country, not the nation.

The monies the anti graft wants our brothers to account for, is it their personal money? The stewardship progressive minds want them to account for, is it the stewardship of their own Family? There is a better way to show solidarity with one’ s brother than this utterly reprehensible method of brazenly defending crime at the expense of the peasant farmers, labourers, civil servants, carpenters, petty traders, school teachers and others.

There are better ways in rewarding stewardship than losing ones mind to sycophancy and obtuse reasoning.

Enough of the publicity given to alleged looters and their being treated with kid gloves, some of us wouldn’t mind who goes to jail or for how many years they are sentenced to once they are found guilty and convicted as such.

I can’t pretend I don’t understand what our looters are going through in this anti corruption crusade. But it is a feeling that can be checked by thinking about thousands in many horrible cells in our jails who are there because they stole sums and items comparably infinitesimal and inconsequential.

Those who changed political ship are still enjoying their loots and their integrity is still intact. But this doesn’t make light of the calamity our brothers have brought on us.

“Why him, why her? Some have asked. Is she, or he the only thief in Nigeria? Why don’t the EFCC go after X, Y, Z? After all, Amaechi is still a Minister and Tinubu is still posing as Mr. Integrity, loved by his people. Why this Niger Delta son?”

I have pondered about the above posers several times and each time i came to the unavoidable conclusion that the answer will not create jobs for my people or cause our leaders to have attitudinal change towards Leadership.

Amaechi was never a Governor of Bayelsa state. And even if he was corrupt and enjoying immunity as a result of his romance with the center, Niger Deltans should find solace in the fact that he is a Niger Deltan as well.

Tinubu was never a Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa state, neither is he from Bayelsa. Most progressive elements who wants our leaders to give veritable account of their stewardship are Bayelsans and not Lagosians.

All have sinned, but we won’t open Okaka prison and ask thousands of poor inmates to go home. That will amount to questioning our reasoning. If we do not begin to hold our leaders accountable, we will soon lose the right to cry cheated.

Aluzu Ebikebuna Augustine is a Human Rights Activist and can be reached on ebikebuna@gmail.com

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