He was easily one of the most notorious criminals in the annals of Nigeria's criminal history. His name was Don Waney. He lived and operated in Rivers State where he bestrode his ''kingdom'' like a colossus. He was feared by even the police and oil companies in Rivers State. If the police and oil companies feared him, the ordinary folks dreaded him. He was a law unto himself. Because he was feared and dreaded by everyone, he did as it pleased him.
He was stupendously rich. His wealth came from sundry sources, including, and especially, kidnapping for ransom, extortion and offering of protection to oil companies who hired him and paid him handsomely to look after oil pipeline installations. It was no surprise then when after his elimination by security officials, it was discovered that he had billions of naira in his bank account.
Don Waney was the mastermind of the New Year bloodbath in Omoku Community in Rivers State in which about 21 people, returning from a cross over service, were brutally assassinated.
He ran to Enugu State where he was trailed to and shot to death with two of his accomplices. His brother, said to be deadlier, was killed some days ago.
Don Waney may have died but there are still many of his ilk all around us. But the saddening aspect of it all is that the Don Waneys of this world, at least many of them, were created and are being sustained by our elders through their actions and inactions.
Because of the respect accorded all manner of criminal elements who have a few wads of the naira note to wave, our elders have encouraged them to continue on their nefarious paths. Even the man in question, Don Waney, was a titled chief in his community in Rivers State; his traditional ruler having conferred a title on Waney despite knowing his background.
The action of this traditional ruler is the action of many other elders today in our society. Money rules and who has money can never go wrong. Such people are saints, even when their sources of living are pretty well known.
Waney lived and operated among his people. He knew them and they knew him. But those who did not like his ways could do nothing because it was possible that even the police were worshipping him. That explained why it took so long to deal with him. Had those who ought to act acted when they should, those souls killed on the New Year would be alive today. But sadly, it took a killing of that magnitude for some people to awaken from their slumber. Now, no amount of tears can ever bring them back to life. Too bad!
Only God knows how many titled men in our communities are thieves, kidnappers, ritualists and more. They have only to ''pay homage'' to their traditional ruler to be recognised, worshipped and made chiefs. What the present generation sees in titles, I do not know.
But the tragedy of the entire thing is that our elders have lost it. They have sown the wrong seed and the new generation now believe that hard work, honesty, et al, do not pay. The end will now always justify the means. Anyone who does that becomes a hero among his people. That is why many of our young men today are falling on top of each other to go to Malaysia where 90% of those there are involved in drug trafficking. Malaysia is now the new fad. Of course, many still go to other places, like South Africa, where they kill themselves more than the police kill them.
These people come home with their blood money and intimidate the lesser mortals with such blood money. (I thank God that such people will never impress me, not least intimidate me.) The way they go about making noise and forcing you to notice them, many young men see them as gods and do everything to be like them. Why not? When they see them take prominent positions in the church, become bazaar chairmen, build churches and buy cars for priests and pastors, as well as take chieftaincy titles, it will be difficult for any young man not to aspire to be like them.
Last yuletide, such people were all over the place in many communities. They took the centre stage in everything, even when the pockets of some of them were still dripping with the blood of their victims. Parents fell over themselves to have their daughters married to them. They were simply the new sheriffs in town.
How do we stop this nonsense? There's no doubt that we have the power to do that if we really want to. Every community knows the bad elements in their midst. It is just a question of having the will to go after them. Every thief, ritualist, kidnapper, con artist, or whatever, comes from, and lives somewhere. So, it is easy to deal with anyone who's constituting themselves as a nuisance.
Such treatment is something that should be done early, not when it is too late. Our communities used to do that in years past. Then, announcements were usually made after meetings to the effect that all bad elements should leave town at a determined date or face the consequences. Those who refused to leave were usually ''taken away'', never to be seen. That way, bad elements feared the community. But today the community fear the bad elements. They have grown bigger and much more powerful than the community and so the rot continues.
To curb this trend of delinquency, I suggest that we move back to those old days when the community dealt with the bad people. We can modify it now to make it more civilised. Thus in a given community, names of known and suspected bad elements can be compiled and given to the police who will now invite those people for interrogation.
Communities should also set up machineries for investigating all the idle youths in their midst. Many of the boys you see drinking in pubs as early as 10 am are not far from being criminals. Many of them have become frustrated after wasting their opportunities. They now live on the fast lane; monitoring people's movements and striking when they can.
Shops should be stopped from selling alcohol in the morning time and no one should be allowed to hang around in pubs at designated times of the day.
Above all, our elders should lead by example by shunning money bags, no matter how much they bring. There should be clear cut criteria for giving out titles to anyone and it must include those so chosen showing what they have done for their community. It shouldn't be a question of just giving money to the traditional ruler who will then feel obliged to reciprocate by giving such people chieftaincy titles.
The Church should equally play her role properly by not allowing money to take over. No matter how hard pressed a parish is for money, it should never collect such money from dubious elements. The excuse that crime or being bad is not written on the forehead is not tenable here; for, as I have already said, we all know who's who in our communities, including streets.
It is the failure to do the afore-stated, that we had the Aninis in the past and now the Waneys. Worse still, we began, not to admonish them, but to worship them and lick their boots because of money. The narrative just has to change.
Last Line: The Nasarawa Time Bomb and the Usual Noise
Last Monday, we read and heard about how 73 cows were killed in Nasarawa State by suspected cattle rustlers. The attack also left two herdsmen dead. Immediately in the aftermath of the attack, residents of the affected community started fleeing the town in anticipation of a reprisal attack by the Fulanis. It is interesting that the killing of 73 cows came weeks after 73 people were killed in neighbouring Benue State by herdsmen. I was forced to wonder at the number being 73 again. Was it a coincidence or a calculated attempt to hit back on behalf of the 73 slain in Benue?
Whatever it may be, I believe that this is a test case for the federal government and her security agencies. Nigerians know what is going to follow and that is that the Fulani herdsmen will retaliate in their usual bloody style on innocent villagers in the area.
As I write this, I can tell you, as sure as this Sunday is February 3, that the retaliatory attack will come. The police and other security agencies will do nothing, either before or after, and Nigerians, the rest of us, that is, will as usual cry, curse and shout, as powerless as the mother hen whose chick has been taken by the kite. This is Nigeria.
Stop Press: Just as expected, the retaliatory attack by the Fulani Herdsmen on the Nasarawa Community over the killing of their cow, ocurred the next day (last Tuesday) with seven people killed.