By Richard Murphy
In the most bizarre turn of events yet, Benue State Government and leaders from Sankera axis of the state said they have accepted the killing of notorious militia leader, Terwase Akwaza, aka Gana, “as an act of God” while also elevating themselves into a pontificate conclave with the powers to grant absolution to the Nigerian Military against which they said they have resolved not to take up issues. Gana was killed by troops of Operation Ayem Akpatuma III, an Operation of the Nigerian Military saddled with the responsibility of tackling banditry in Benue, Taraba and Nassarawa State area.
By this attitude, the government of Benue state and stakeholders of Sankera disrespect other Nigerians for several reasons. Gana died under controversial circumstances, Commander of Four Special Force Brigade, Major General Ali Gadzama, said the militia warlord was killed in a shootout; while authorities in Benue state insisted that Gana had earlier surrendered as part of embracing an amnesty programme of the state. The preponderance of opinion is that there should be a thorough investigation to get to the root of the matter, which makes it curious that the Benue state government is now saying they have resolved not to take up issues with the military.
The move can best be described as an attempt to preempt investigation into the matter and perhaps conceal the true magnitude of the crimes that Gana committed against the rest of us during the period that he waged his campaign of terror. This is in addition to the ugly development whereby Nigerians are being bombarded with so many lies and distorted account of events by those behind Gana’s atrocious acts without thoughts for the people who had met horrific fates at his hands.
It is important to bear in mind who Gana was. He was that nutjob who first came to limelight as fighting inter-ethnic battles between his Tiv ethnic nationality and other ethnic groups, mostly in Taraba state. That he survived to later become a terrorist testified to his brutality and efficiency in annihilating foes from these other ethnic groups. Of course, his victims from those inter-ethnic battles did not enjoy the luxury of seeking amnesty, being arrested or having expectations of fair trials. They summarily died in battle at the hand of a more brutal militia leader.
The end of attrition against these other ethnic groups in Taraba and sometimes Nasarawa state was only possible because Gana found commercial application for his bloodlust by hiring out himself to desperate politicians as a tool for snuffing life out of political opponents. It is no wonder that he reportedly accepted the offer of the poorly packaged amnesty only after a certain politician has stepped in. The involvement of a known militia lord in the dynamics of elections in Benue state speaks volume to the nature of democracy practiced in that state while putting a question mark on electioneering activities conducted under the supervision of a murderous enforcer. It is an arrangement that bears uncanny similarities to Boko Haram ascendancy, being an organization that was at some point leveraged as a tool for political enforcement.
Gana’s final descent into darkness was precipitated by his falling out with his political patrons. He took to the jungles straddling Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states. His was a campaign of plunder, gore, carnage and terror. In the over six years that he laid siege to these areas, hundreds of people lost their lives to him and his fighters, sometimes entire communities were wiped out as Gana’s means of sending messages to the politicians he wanted to feel helpless and powerless. So dangerously did he push the entire nation towards the edge that some of his atrocities were credited to Fulani herdsmen in situations that led to reprisals being launched against the Fulani, which in turn led to counter reprisals that sparked a circle of violence that was not helped in any way by the militias sometimes rustling cattle and leaving communities they transited through to bear the brunt of enraged pastoralists.
The foregoing makes it stomach churning that Wantor Akwa, one Gana’s widows could desecrated the memory of her deceased husband’s victims by attempting to canonize the personae described in the preceding paragraphs. Akwa’s keening is consistent with what has emerged to be a systematic and coordinated effort to dress the deceased Gana in saintly robes, not because he was a saint or freedom fighter in his lifetime but because his clients, who misled him to death by the way, believe that they can redirect attention from their own crimes by making Gana appear as the victim whom the state has wronged as opposed to the reality of him being a notorious and merciless robber whose only joy was to kill endlessly while he was alive.
However, rather than engaging in this perverted manipulation of reality, those who egged Gana onto his death should be brave enough to step up to whatever investigative panel is set up to explain their roles in his emergence as a terror to those whose lives he cut short and the families he threw into mourning. They should discard their ongoing attempt to make Gana’s death appear like an injustice against Benue people.
The nature of the amnesty that the state offered to the late militia lord should be investigated as well because the reality was that even if Gana’s crimes were confined to Benue state the fact that his victims were and are Nigerians gives the Federal Government full jurisdiction in addition to the fact that security is on the exclusive list. Note must equally be taken that Gana dealt death across state boundaries, which made one wonder if Benue state had the understanding of Taraba and Nasarawa state in their failed attempt to wash away all of Gana’s sins before he was killed.
Perhaps, to the extent that a N50 million bounty remained active on Gana’s head and the Federal Government was not formally running the amnesty programme, troops would have still taken him out if he were right inside the Benue State Government House. As tragic as Gana’s killing was under these controversial circumstances, in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states, those who sense they will get relief from it see his demise as divinely arranged and are even thanking God for answering their prayers.
The answered prayers will certainly extend to an outcome where none will rise up in place of Gana even though he futilely pronounced that someone would emerge after him that would be more brutal than him. Hopefully, the military will ensure that no such person lasts longer than 72 hours after their first declaration of belligerence against the nation state. This is why those trying to incite the remnant of Gana’s militias to regroup and revenge him should give up the ill-advised enterprise because the certain end for those that dealt terror on the scale Gana is not to be different from what recently transpired. Hopefully, Boko Haram’s madman, Abubakar Shekau should have gotten this memo that a time will come that even running under the skirt of their clients would not provide safety.
On an insensitive note, the late militia leader was not sensitive to the lives of others in his lifetime, the military has dispatched Gana to meet his maker and it is from thence he should seek forgiveness and absolution, which the Benue state government and stakeholders of Sankera axis are not in a position to give.
Murphy is a security expert and wrote from Calabar.