The circumstances surrounding the recent death of retired Gen Idris Alkali elicited deep seated pathos round the country and even beyond as many found it difficult to come to terms with the brazen and heartless conduct of his killers. While the circumstance of his final moments at the hands of his killers remain uncertain, the reportedly frantic efforts by his killers to move his body from place to place in the heat of the chase by the Nigerian Army team, who had earlier launched a systematic search for him, tells volumes of the dastardly enterprise of his traducers.
Against the backdrop of his accomplished career in the military establishment, General Alkali, whose last posting was as the Chief of Administration in the Nigeria Army headquarters, was no pushover when it comes to matters of combat, even in the face of imminent death. Military generals anywhere, are made of sterner stuff. But just as the element of surprise can defeat even the strongest of men, so the officer and gentleman, fell victim of miscreants, who disposed of him in the most heinous manner. And so Nigeria lost an elite military officer and gentlemen. This author never met General Alkali when he was alive. Hence this piece, in whatever allusion it may make to Alkali’s positives – does not run with any intention to celebrate a personal friend or even interest.
Rather it is an expression of lament over the country’s loss of grip of its soul which is captured by the death of Alkali and several thousands of other Nigerians, who met their untimely deaths in the course of a nation’s internal contradictions in its value system, leading to a parade of paradoxical crises on several fronts at the same time. Yes, many may have died in the hands of heartless killers like the mob that killed Alkali.
But the choice also lies with the country to take a stand over whether to allow this syndrome that claimed Alkali to continue endlessly. For reasons which space constraint would not allow this article to explore exhaustively, the country has degenerated into a killing field where the prize of a human head is less than the head of a goat. At least courtesy of the traditional Ibo cuisine through which the ‘Isiewu’ delicacy was popularised, the head of a goat blended with select condiments, constitutes a treat for gourmets. What value would any one assign to the head of a fellow man if not as defined by a demon-inspired hate, from the pit of hell? Even animals do not kill their kind just for fun except when such constitute valid threats to their well-being. When then did fellow Nigerians become valid threats to each other to justify extra-bestial conduct fueled by the conjured motive of hate.
The long string of hate-driven conflicts point to the country’s arrival at the precipice of a cliff, awaiting the sudden drop into the abyss of attrition and at the price of no return to normalcy. In the North East is the Boko Haram insurgency. In the South East is the festering matter of a resurgent clamour for Biafra. In the South South – being the oil rich Niger Delta is the yet to be resolved issue of deep seated grievances of the over 45 million indigenes of the area over the oppressive marginalization and pauperisation of their homeland by the Federal Government and the associated restiveness by the youth. In the North West in particular Zamfara State, armed mobs now rule the land in broad daylight. Just recently was the ‘Ombatse’ cult menace in Nasarawa State which claimed the lives of scores of police officers who went to confront the cult.
By and large, while the security challenges which featured earlier may seem more significant than Alkali’s death, they like his case, define a common thread that the country is progressing along a path of growing freedom of impunity – a liberty to ‘kill and go’, across the land. Nigerians do not need a soothsayer to know that such a tendency remains unsustainable even in the shortest run, and should be abandoned now before it is too late. When even a retired general cannot travel from one point to another without guarantee of safety except surrounded by a full complement of guards, then it is time for uncommon introspection with respect to the state safety and quality of life in and around the country.
That is why the observation by the Chief of Army Staff Lt General Yusuf Burutai, during a condolence visit to his office by the Executive Governor of Plateau State Simon Lalong, over the death of Alkali remains a reference point. According to media reports, during the visit Lalong had appealed to Burutai to prevent a revenge by the Nigerian Army against the people of Plateau State. Burutai had responded by pointing to the apparent security breaches that facilitated the heinous circumstances under which the country lost Alkali. He had noted that a more discrete approach to intelligence activities by security agents would have prevented the death of Alkali and many other Nigerians who lost their lives to the hands of unknown and yet to be identified killers on the rampage.
An immediate alibi for Burutai’s observation was the situation where the search into Alkali’ fate in the Dura Du pond, unearthed telling evidence of other killings of innocent Nigerians – some as far back as 2013. Could it then be reasonable to assume that such heinous criminal activities were totally unnoticed by the generations of security officers who had been operating in that locality – especially the generations of policemen and other intelligence gathering agencies over the years? What of the local vigilante groups and traditional rulers in the designated area?
Against the backdrop of Alkali’s waterloo being the Dura Du pond, lies the fact that the country is strewn with such secret killing altars in virtually every corner. The astronomical rise in instances of kidnapping and associated ritual killings across the country cannot but enjoy a strong link with the proliferation of shrines, groves and other evil altars, some located in the heart of urban centres in Nigeria. Tales and testimonies of escaped victims who survived the harrowing experience of being nearly-sacrificed, provide copious evidence of the macabre syndrome. In a country with questionable attempts at experimenting with non-descript interfaces such as those between ancient and modern lifestyles, orthodox and traditional medical practices, as well as religious and secular values in formulation and implementation of social policies, the room for deviant conduct by any smart, criminally-minded, loose cannon who is so disposed is wide, leaving the mode and timing of actual participation a personal preserve.
That is why beyond the pain of Alkali’s death lies the need for a change in the country’s security architecture. Long touted as an expectation, it is now an imperative – an imperative of a new resolve by the country, to address itself to the challenge of making every case of assault, kidnap and missing persons a matter for summary resolution.
It is not an impossibility. Whoever is in doubt should simply recall the heroic enterprise of some Police officers who cracked the case of the ‘Odozi Obodo’ cult of Abakiliki in the mid-1950s, or even the more recent case of the infamous ‘Okija Shrine’. It was the now retired AIG Felix Ogbaudu, who as then Commissioner of Police in Anambra State on August 3 2004, led a team of crack police officers to the area, demystified and demolished the infamous ‘Okija Shrine’, in Anambra State, arrested over 40 native doctors and recovered over 70 human bodies as well as skulls.
General Alkali may be dead, but if his death leads to a change in the country’s security architecture and higher security of life and property for both big and small as well as the powerful and the weak, then he would not have died in vain.