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A State Under Siege

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By Kenneth Jude

We are in dire times. A climate infested with fear and unmitigated anxiety hovers over our heads ominously, whether in the illuminatinng light of the day or the shrill quietness of the night. it’s as though we’re stuck in a flaming cauldron in all its merciless heat and ferocity.

A gunshot here, people on the run to nowhere in particular, hand and leg trembling, the youth raging as poverty bites, massacre plus mass abduction in the north, economy in tatters, the man on the top chair helpless, doom is – for want of a better word – staring us menacingly in the face.

Some shop owners can no longer fling their doors wide open for business. While some leave it slightly ajar, others attend to customers from the small openings in their iron protected shops. Many now call it a day before the usual time. Businesses are not breathing well. It’s being suffocated by a pall of fear occasioned by what now seems an everyday affair.

The streets are unsafe. Hitherto street urchins have turned demigods in crime and criminality. They needed the covering of darkness to perpetrate their evil trade then, but not again. Now, in what we call broad daylight, bags, phones are snatched with mind boggling audacity in a city that once swam gingerly in the ocean of absolute peace. And so it deservingly took its place as the nation’s number one town to unwind, host top conferences at any spot no matter the time of day.

But in what seems like a cruel bolt from the blue, what is now the reality is a far cry from that tranquil past that gave a son and daughter of this side the energy and clout for bragging rights. Now, the bragger cannot shut both eyes when in union with nature at night after a hectic day. A pirch of bird on the zinc makes the heart quack in utter trepidation. Any, every noise anywhere is treated with utmost suspicion.

But one incontestable fact is that a thief is a thief. A fellow who is criminally minded will always find an alibi to steal, kill and cause havoc even in the most hallowed of places. They will always steal a chance from, say a noble cause, or better still, crisis situation to execute their inherent evil enterprise. We saw it in the EndSars protests that turned an avenue for wanton looting and mindless destruction.

So, the rising and acutely frightening insecurity situation ravaging some parts of the country, with a once peaceful enclave of Akwa Ibom not spared this seeming descent into anarchy, is not necessarily a by-product of a protest that was only meant to push for reforms in the way and manner the SARS unit of the police and indeed other security agencies conduct themselves when carrying out their lawful duties of securing lives and property.

To say that the EndSars protests is the chief cause of the spate of robbery currently ravaging the state is bunkum. While it may have further emboldened criminals, we must not throw up our hands up in surrender as though helpless hence allow these marauding elements hold the state to ransom. No matter how sophisticated, daring criminals may be, they cannot overrun security agents, the state or the people who far outnumber them.

What the people wanted an end to was police brutality and unprofessional conducts of its men whether the SARS unit or any other unit and not an end to the Police Force. So, to fold their hands and surrender the state to the reign of hoodlums is not the way to go. Their morale may have suffered a huge blow from that sustained protests, but they must dust themselves up, gird their loins and return to duty without further delay.

Everybody suffers similar, if not more humiliation whether as individuals or in the line of duty. Journalists get harassed almost every other day when doing their work, yet they’ve not dropped their pens, but bear the pain with striking equanimity without quitting the field. So, the Police should wake up from their slumber and protect the lives and property of the people as they swore to away from this sickening lethargy that has seen crime rise to unimaginable proportion.

Hoodlums cannot overpower sane minds. They must be be fought to a stand still. The city must be made too hot for their evil trade to thrive. The Police and other security agents must be proactive and not necessarily the other way round. There are hints that these criminals may still visit some marked areas like Nepa Line, Nyong Essien, Etuk Streets and other commercially-oriented streets within the city during this yuletide season. It is therefore pertinent that security should be beefed up in the streets aforementioned along with others in that category to forestall further security breaches.

There should be regular surveillance in these areas, while it won’t be out of place to station police vans in the ‘targetted’ areas because as you read this, businesses in these areas have been dealt huge blows following series of attacks in the past few weeks. And the unrestrained manner these unwanted elements carry out their operation has induced fear among those doing one business or the other in these areas. Even buyers have had to tread with caution given the recurring news of attacks in these areas. This slide into anomy must be halted immediately lest we get overwhelmed and outpowered by criminals. No society thrives in an atmosphere of perpetual fear. The state must be reclaimed from the demonic hands of these felons, anon.

It is cheery that Governor Udom Emmanuel has handed new operational vehicles to the police to boost their efforts in combating crime, but more should be done to assure the people of their safety this season and beyond. The governor must show leadership now more than ever lest he be seen as a weakling in a clime he oversees as chief security officer. While one understands how hamstrung the governor(s) is when it comes to fully execising control over their domains as that appellation suggest, it is dangerous to give indication that nothing can be done to stop criminals in their tracks.

We live in a society governed by laws hence it’ll be appalling to allow the lawless continue to have a field day unchallenged. The year has already presented us with enough baggage, making it hellish if this season of nightmare is not addressed pronto.

The people should atleast be allowed to end a year of turbulence in peace, share the joy of Christmas with their families and loved ones as, if anything, a redeeming feature to a year ravaged by covid-19, lockdowns, downturn in economy and other setbacks that made many wonder if 2020 was/is the last for all on this plane.

This is no time to play the sychophantic card or tread the path of delusion by declaring that all is well, when everywhere is gripped by fear of the unknown, even as crime and criminality continues to walk on all fours, threatening businesses at daytime and nighttime, while night life is seemingly cascading down to the sepulchre.

All hands must therefore be on deck to snatch back the state from the cruel hands of these bestial souls now.

Kenneth Jude writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. kennethjude2014@gmail.com

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