End of the road: kidnap king pin, Evans, is led into an uncertain future by security men
His name is Chidumeme Onwuamadike. But his accomplices in the underworld and the uninitiated who are you and me, know him as Evans. To you and me, he was a good citizen; one of the very best. He paid his tithes in his local church, helped the poor and generally did all the things many Nigerians do today to appear to be good. His goodness even extended beyond the shores of the country as the Nigerian embassy in Ghana and his Ghanaian hosts saw him as the ideal citizen with an unparalleled philanthropic spirit. But the bubble would burst when the law enforcement officers penetrated his façade of goodness and exposed his criminal underbelly, a development that stunned his neighbours, members of his church, his community and all those who saw him as a role model.
The arrest of Onwuamadike, a.k.a. Evans, occupied newspaper headlines for days. He was described by the police as the most intelligent criminal in recent memory. Unlike most of his kind would do, he lived in affluence right in the midst of his victims. It was such that the police kept looking for him in far off places, little knowing that he was the typical devil within.
Evans is a notorious kidnap kingpin. He was as cunning as they come. He was also mean, brutal and dogged. Thus he could keep his victims in captivity for many months, ignoring their pleas until they paid up to the last kobo as demanded. But when he was caught, he cut the picture of a lamb in the mouth of a lion.
He turned meek overnight and started asking for forgiveness, something he never extended to his victims. The image he cut was in contrast to the reputation that preceded him. Perhaps that is the way of most notorious criminals.
Even the most notorious of them all, Lawrence Anini, displayed same meekness when he was arrested in 1986, even pleading with the soldiers as he faced the firing squad, not to scatter his body.
Well, Anini is gone and Evans is going. Their fates prove that crime doesn't pay; at least not for long. Despite all the pretences and false bravado, one day, as they say, monkey go go market and e no go return. Evans has gone to that market and he won't be returning; not in a long, long time, if ever.
He is not alone in pleading for leniency. His family was said to have uploaded their picture on social media where they begged for mercy with tear-filled eyes. But how could the wife hope for one when she had known all along, the husband's business? How could she hope for mercy when they denied same to their victims?
But the story of Evans is the story of a warped society. A society that breeds evil because questions are no longer asked. This is one place where a jobless man wakes up one morning and starts throwing money about and people will clap, cheer, hail and eulogise. No one will want to know the reason behind the sudden wealth of the person in question.
Before long, invitations will start flying from left, right and centre. He will be begged to have chieftaincy titles by his community. His church will beg him to become a knight. From there, some people will ''beg'' him to run for an elective office. He will become everybody's messiah.
The good citizens in Nigeria today are those who have money and throw it about. Because Evans played the good citizen by throwing money about, nobody wanted to probe into his background; no one wanted to know what he does for a living. Perhaps, that was because he is not a politician belonging to another party outside the ruling APC. We all know how the APC-led federal government investigates members of the opposition, how they want to know how every kobo was earned. But I digress.
Happier times: Evans family were all smiles when the going was good
Evans is a product of a failed society; a society which has lost core values. A place where the right kind of hard work is regarded as anathema. Mind you, I said ''the right kind of hard work''. Kidnapping and armed robbery require hard work too. The perpetrators even work harder than those in genuine business. What with the time spent in monitoring potential victims, tracking them and eventually kidnapping them. Then comes the period of negotiation and avoiding the long arms of the law and the most critical time of collecting the ransom without being seen. For sure, crime is a tough business any day. But the hard work I mean is the honest one which gives honest money.
Sadly, however, that kind of honest hard work is frowned upon by our society. A truck pusher who after a hard day's shift cleans up and attempts to integrate himself in the society of his more illustrious friends will hardly be allowed into the core group because of his known background.
But a ritualist, armed robber or kidnapper who makes money from those nefarious means is literally begged to join the elite group in his neighbourhood. He sits in the front row in the church, receives chieftaincy titles and influences things and people around him. To be affluent in Nigeria is to be king. To be poor is to be despised, maltreated and to die.
But the fate of Evans has shown that such is temporary. His arrest once again proves that the average criminal hardly exceeds five years in the business before either being arrested or killed. This was what Evans told those still in the business shortly after his arrest.
But despite what he told them and the known fact that their time is short, many are still in the business and many will still join. Why not? For as long as the bad people are treated like heroes by society, many more bad ones will continue to come up, having seen from the attitude of the populace that honest work does not pay.
In Anambra State, the demolition of kidnappers' dens has been going on but it hasn't deterred many of the bad boys. Some other states have borrowed the Anambra example. But if anything, that type of crime seems to be on a continuous rise. Is it that the punishment isn't tough enough, or that the culprits have no other choice than to continue, having blown away their opportunities in life?
Methinks the answer may lie in the latter. Many people who are into crime are those desperate to survive. They are victims of our crazy society. They are driven by the fear of failure and thus they strive to get rich at all costs, knowing that the end will justify the means.
It is not until our society returns to the days of old when people queried others' behaviour, that some element of sanity will prevail.
Now coming back to the topic, I really don't know what the federal government intends to do with the property owned by Evans. Will they be demolished or sold in auction?
The bubble bursts and Evan's family are in tears, begging for leniency: it is too late. The law is not emotional
Whatever the case, I suggest that they be sold and the proceeds given to those known to have fallen victim to Evans in his heyday. No matter how small the proceeds from the auctioneering will be, it could go a long way in assisting those people to recover, at least emotionally. Those victims have a right to their money. Government will do well to remit some of the proceeds to the victims. They deserve no less. We don't want to hear any talk of the proceeds going into the government's coffers.
As the saga of Evans winds down, we owe it a duty to prepare the young ones adequately for the future so that they won't grow up believing that the likes of Evans are the lords and masters of everybody.
We should let them know that the true citizens are not among those who throw money about, but those who silently work for the interest of everybody. Is that day far off or so near? Perhaps only time will tell.