The evil things people do ostensibly to make money have continued to multiply in this country. Everyone should be worried about young people, especially those from the south-east and south-south of Nigeria.
Criminals of all kinds will forever stand condemned: cybercriminals who steal women’s pants or turn ritual murderers at the prompting of an evil spiritualist, boys who rape grandmothers and great-grandmothers to satisfy the condition for a money-making ritual, armed robbers, hired killers, kidnappers, terrorists, and thieves.
I attribute this explosion in crime partly to those I often refer to as the original 419 fraudsters. They are the major source of all crimes, and they have refused to die out. 419 is not a recent phenomenon, as many erroneously believe. In every generation, from time immemorial, there have been fraudsters that hide behind religion to steal, rape and kill fellow human beings.
Every tribe has a name for such people. In Igbo they are generally called dibia. But they are different from herbalists – those who prepare medicines with leaves, roots and barks of trees.
There are species of dibia whose names in English are not familiar: Some foretell the future for a fee (fortune tellers? seers? prophets?). Some make sacrifices on behalf of their victims (diviners? occult priests?). Some claim to cure all ailments by incantation or strange concoctions (spiritual healers? magicians?)
Whatever names they are called, they are the original 419ers – the root of all crimes, people who make money off the fears of the ignorant. Some of them were, perhaps, the founders of several religious sects that dot our neighbourhoods today. Definitely, they constitute the membership of all secret societies – the fly-by-night bats, the witches and wizards, the great pythons that turn human beings during the day to decide the fate of nations!
The 419ers will not abandon their trade because it’s profitable during hard times. I once lived in the same neighbourhood with a family whose business was barely surviving. Suddenly, the man’s wife converted their shop to a “prayer house”, and, within a few months, the family was swimming in money. Among her clients were AIDS and cancer patients. She could “reveal” the sources of all ailments: a mother-in-law who poisoned her grandchild’s food, a brother who left a charm on the farm, a child witch or ogbanje who was born to die young. There was always a crowd inside and outside the shop every evening.
Like hard drugs, such 419ers are the catalysts for many crimes that bedevil Nigeria today. Armed robbers and political thugs constantly seek out dibia to get “bulletproof” into their blood or skin. They assume that, with the “bulletproof” or odeshi bought for as much as N50, 000, they would become immune to bullets from soldiers and policemen. Several corpses of robbers killed in the south-east have been found with odeshi marks.
Jobless and frustrated young men go into crime because they are emboldened by drugs and charms. I say so because few people would waste human blood and still retain their sanity. It takes madness for a human being to hunt for fellow human beings. Remove all dibia and hemp or cocaine from the country today and three-quarters of armed robbery and assassination cases would disappear.
But who would dare to attack Nigerian crimes at their roots? Our security operatives are always chasing shadows, leaving the substance untouched. There is hardly any Nigerian community or street where hemp is not consumed. And the sellers are known. Even some security agents patronise them. NDLEA has offices nationwide, yet its men don’t see hemp farms everywhere or those destroying kids with the drug in almost every hamlet.
Similarly, secret cults are everywhere, not just on university campuses. Though the Nigerian constitution outlaws all secret societies, we have seldom witnessed a raid on any. The noise made about Okija shrine a few years ago has since died down; many other towns in Igbo-land have more or less “powerful” shrines that still harbour human skulls. Are the security agents not aware of this? Or are they also afraid?
The continued existence of these fetishes more than 150 years after the coming of western education and civilisation is an indication of the black man’s stupidity. Could it be responsible for our lagging in science and technology? The white man engages in “wizardry” in order to make aircraft, television, computer and electricity that make life comfortable; the black man’s witchcraft enables him to kill and destroy.
Even when there is an opportunity to put charms to good uses, our leaders and their law enforcement agents bungle it. Eighteen years ago, for instance, the Bakassi Boys of the south-east kept criminals at bay by murdering confessed criminals at public places. Soon, there was uproar against the “crude method” of fighting crimes and Bakassi was dismantled. The criminals have returned with vengeance, leading to the era of kidnappers, suicide bombers and rapists. Had Bakassi been replicated in the south-west (OPC is there but is not quite like Bakassi) and in the north, maybe the armed robbers, terrorists and kidnappers of today would have been busy on their farms. Likely, all the security challenges we are facing today would never have reared their ugly heads.
I regard Bakassi as a good crime-fighting outfit, but not because of the charms it allegedly used to detect criminals. I know the “charm” was actually the confidential information they received from people. They confirmed the information they received before moving against the criminals who often confessed before they were butchered at marketplaces or in the streets.
In those days, people of questionable character avoided returning to the south-east. Today, it’s the upright people that avoid their homelands in the east for fear of kidnappers. Even at Christmas, many Igbo people now choose to live virtually in exile.
Criminals may have won a battle that started a long time ago. By destroying the country’s education system, they ensured that morality was no longer taught in schools. Then, gradually, certain crimes (including cheating at exams and election rigging) had to be accepted as normal. People of questionable character – who cheated to pass their exams – became teachers!
In today’s Nigeria, thieves and robbers are celebrated – and decorated with national honours and chieftaincy titles. The new generations have been taught that hard work and honesty don’t pay. The outcome of all this is what we are seeing today. And the worst is yet to come. Little wonder somebody said, “If education is expensive, try ignorance.” Truly, ignorance is very costly. I pity my compatriots.
Nwamu, book editor and writer, is the CEO of Eyeway.ng.
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