Kidnapping Mafias and Their Branding, By Jimanze Ego-Alowes
…Nigeria is a deeply divided nation and peoples. Despite the pretences, Nigerians and Nigeria exist in and as Bantustans – in tribal/nationality shitholes. It is this lack of sensitivity by the Fulani – of a fact that they live in and profit fro, like the others – that is causing the branding. You can’t live in a Bantustan and pretend you are in a federation in your trade; criminal or otherwise.
First, it came from Bola Tinubu: “I am extremely concerned about security but I don’t want stigma. I can go through history of kidnapping and we know how it started, where it all started, there are lot of copycats, how many years ago have we faced insecurity in this country and cases of kidnapping? Is Evans a herdsman?”
Next, a well regarded Nigerian columnist wrote as follows: “After all, when the South-East was overrun by kidnappers, why didn’t the media refer to the culprits as “Igbo kidnappers”? Have we forgotten Evans? Was it his Christianity or ethnic origin that made us refuse to stereotype the people from the same region as him? And more importantly, why do we keep calling certain killers “herdsmen” if the majority of these criminals are never seen with cows?”
Our take is that Tinubu and the writer got the data right but the perspective wrong. The two were not as it were, able to distinguish between speed and velocity. By the way, speed we are told is velocity without any given directions. That is, speed is in mere quantities. And velocity is speed with specified directions.
One important point, both in the speed and velocity of movements and relationships, is that the difference between them are not semantic. The difference is decisive. Above all, human and historical events, it is worthy to repeat, come with their speeds and velocities.
If the commentators of the Evans piece had kept an eye on not just the details but in their characters, they would have given weights to the following contextual or background facts of the Nigerian nation.
First, kidnapping started as a wave in the South-South geopolitical zone. Generally, the kidnap operations there as it began, were directed against expatriates who worked in the oil extraction industry. It was largely a political act, though it later turned criminal and a source of funding for the kidnappers. It is well to recall that they were then called militants and not kidnappers.
Now, no thanks to the information age, technology and science find it easy to cross boundaries. And the criminals, despite what we may think of them, are operating a knowledge economy, like the rest of us. Thus the other criminals from other regions, especially the South-East, were quick to learn and adapt from the South-South veterans.
That is to say, the South-East criminals borrowed from the South-South the industrial science and technology of kidnapping. But they only did that to fellow citizens, as those targeted by the South-East kidnap kingpins were essentially their own fellow South-Easterners. There were no records as much, as this correspondent knows, that the kidnap gang of the South-East went rogue and turned west or north to “harvest” non-Southeasterners.
…unlike their South-South/Ijaw/others and South-East/Igbo counterparts, the Fulani criminal elements universalised their area of operations. For them, the entire Nigeria is their turf. They really took the definition of citizenship and the right to do business anywhere in the jurisdiction seriously.
In other words, there was some style to the madness of the kidnap sub-industry as it was perpetrated by the South-Eastern and South-Southern gangs. They restricted themselves to natives or locals of their zones. It was only in the case of the South-South that expatriates – non-Nigerians and as such “strangers” – were being kidnapped. The fact of this is important as will be shown later.
In other words, there is a geography and sense of direction to the kidnap gangsterism of the South-East and the South-South. Then came the matter of their Fulani counterparts. It is obvious again that the criminal elements amongst the Fulani, like their Igbo equivalents in the South-East and the Ijaw etc. elements in the South-South, must have learnt about the commercial technology of kidnap and ransom-taking. And borrowed it for their own use and greed.
But unlike their South-South/Ijaw/others and South-East/Igbo counterparts, the Fulani criminal elements universalised their area of operations. For them, the entire Nigeria is their turf. They really took the definition of citizenship and the right to do business anywhere in the jurisdiction seriously. That is, while the South-Eastern and South-Southern kidnap mafias were circumspect as to turfs and regions of operations – home turf and home citizens – the Fulani started on the kidnap trail as a pan-Nigerian franchise for themselves. They infested all Nigeria with their criminality. And there are more non-Fulani natives than there are Fulani in Nigeria. So the sense of dichotomy is bound to be there. More on this later.
At this point there are two ways to see this. The first is through the prism of a market. Lest we forget, crime is pure business, whatever else we take it to be. And for businessmen, what could be as important as profit is market share. In mafia-land, market share is almost the same as territorial exclusivity. They too play the turf game. Industrial kidnap rings are a mafia business.
So, a kidnap gang in territory “A” cannot, without NAFDAC approval, crossover to territory or turf “B” to ply its trade. A lot of mafia wars happen because of territorial or turf disputes. In other words, the attempt by the Fulani to hold 100 per cent turf franchise, is bound to come to resistance.
But the real factor is that Nigeria is a deeply divided nation and peoples. Despite the pretences, Nigerians and Nigeria exist in and as Bantustans – in tribal/nationality shitholes. It is this lack of sensitivity by the Fulani – of a fact that they live in and profit fro, like the others – that is causing the branding. You can’t live in a Bantustan and pretend you are in a federation in your trade; criminal or otherwise.
That is, if the Fulani criminal elements had restricted their kidnapping market share to their own states and territories, and their own natives, nobody – I repeat nobody – will be speaking of Fulani kidnappers. They are so branded because they have crossed the redlines of cohabitation, in a deeply fractured society. Which is why it is being insinuated that their main man, who is capo, is empowering them. And that the whole security apparatus is allegedly in their “composited” hands. And you can begin to see the justice in so branding them.
…it appears that the Fulani criminal branch of the Nigerian family are not open to cross-nationality collaborations. There has not been too many, if any, cases of joint Fulani and other tribes kidnap ventures. These things are important and give directions, not just speed, to our interpretation of data and activities.
The point is, if the Fulani had restricted their operations to Fulani-land and territories and natives, no other Nigerians would have been branding them as Fulani kidnappers. And the story of Evans, who has been mentioned several times, confirms this. Yes, Evans operated beyond the South-East. But in Lagos, Evans was Nigerian and Bantustan enough to restrict his harvest of victims to the indigenous Igbo. Or can one suppose that Evans was not aware of the Yoruba and other non-Igbo wealthy nationals in Lagos? Yet, Evans was “smart” enough to know and go about his turfs and dedicated fauna.
Anyway, just imagine if Evans had successfully kidnapped Otedola, Adedoyin, Okoya, Tinubu, etc. Justifiably, the Yoruba would have been specially outraged. And they would be saying: Igbo kidnappers. But Evans was on top of his Nigerian Bantustan game. He knew where and against whom to ply and not ply his nefarious trades.
It is also important to recall that when Evans did things in Edo areas, he did so with local boys and he wasn’t even the leader of the gang in those instances. However, when Evans turned up in Lagos, his gang members were essentially an all Igbo.
But it appears that the Fulani criminal branch of the Nigerian family are not open to cross-nationality collaborations. There has not been too many, if any, cases of joint Fulani and other tribes kidnap ventures. These things are important and give directions, not just speed, to our interpretation of data and activities.
In other words, it is also semantically correct to so tag them Fulani kidnappers. This follows their audacity not to know their turfs and keep to it as their Igbo, Yoruba, Ijaw etc. cousins are doing. This is so because, despite political correctness, Nigeria is a Bantustanised space. If you transgress redlines and cross borders, then your tribe becomes the hot button issue. To give a hint on the fact of this Bantustan-hood, despite denials, then this: Theophilus Danjuma is a retired Nigerian General and ostensibly a nationalist. He has also being around at the highest echelons of power, and this at the centre. Yet, we can recall that once in the hey days of kidnapping in the South-East, he was interviewed by ThisDay. And in the course of his reply, and we recall from memory, he said something like this: “Oh, I hear that my friends from the east can no longer go home for the marriage of their sons and daughters because of kidnappers.” For him the South-East could have been Afghanistan, too far away for fellow-feeling and consideration. But things happen.
By the hour he said so, no non-Igbo Bantustans suspected or cared that kidnapping was to be a moveable feast. But his speech was in consonance with Nigeria as it is, despite pretences. The fact is, we live in Bantustans, separated from one another by our being trapped in one geography. Nobody, despite our false gestures, has fellow feelings for others from the next Bantustan. We are all for our selves, nationality by nationality, and the devil is against us all. Luckily for everybody, our many sins, both ancient and modern, have found us out. All else is in humor. Ahiazuwa.
A developmental economist and newspaper columnist, Jimanze Ego-Alowes writes from Lagos.