The controversial killing of Terwase Akwaza, better known as Gana, has been hashed and rehashed all across the country and I needn’t go into all that here. Suffice to say that regular readers will know that I am very much against unnecessary taking of human lives. I also do not celebrate the death of any human being, even if I neither mourn them nor miss their nefarious deeds. I have also severally pointed out that the federal authorities ought to install measures to prevent extrajudicial killings, even if not for moral or legal purposes, as a matter of practicality because, frankly, it does more harm than good.

As an aside, the Benue state governor, Mr Samuel Ortom, has quite disappointed me with his response. I honestly believed he had more spine than this. Gana (and the boys) was granted amnesty by the governor and his State Security Council, which, please correct me if I’m wrong, includes most branches of the military as well as the police, civil defence, etc. According to the reports, Gana was on his way to meet this same group in an official Benue state government vehicle when the convoy was brought to a forced stop by soldiers who cherry-picked individuals and left the scene with them. Honestly, if I was the governor the first thing I would do would be to expel every member of the military branch involved from the State Security Council until such a time as an investigation team comprising my commissioner of police, a director from the National Human Rights Commission, civil society groups (including Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria) and possibly an observer who is a retired investigator (think distinguished retired African Interpol officer), is allowed full access to conduct an investigation and bring perpetrators to my attorney-general for prosecution. Obviously the state governor does not have the right to close his state off from the military (nor would he want to, really), but you’ve got to take a stand, regardless if it’s mostly symbolic. Honestly, as a state governor, you would have every right to be angry if members of your council who were sitting in the very same room with you when this incident took place potentially betrayed such sensitive information in a bid to undermine you and murder a surrendering captive. And you would be right to use every legal tool at your disposal to have justice swiftly done.

But Back to the Matter

So anyway, in this piece, I am going to look at the killing of Gana from the point of view of a Nigerian terrorist. After all, what’s that old saying about knowing your enemy?

“Know yourself; know your enemy; in a hundred battles you will never be defeated.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

For newcomers, it may be worthwhile to point out that virtually all Nigerian terrorist groups begin life as political thugs (nope, not past tense).

The Nigerian system is purposefully broken in order to provide politicians of every class calibre with cannon fodder to hurl at each other and terrorise innocent bystanders. These barely-educated youth who have little to believe in are conscripted, sometimes armed, and deployed to cause maximum mayhem, often while security agents are encouraged to be elsewhere.

It makes logical sense if you take the time to observe Nigerian politics in all its sickening glory. And because there is no honour amongst thieves, the political thugs do not receive the gratification they feel they deserve once the political cycle is ended. After all, from a politician’s point of view, it’s cheaper to discard them and simply hire new “boys” in another 4 years. Who keeps thugs on a retainer anyway? Another reason is that, in Nigeria, we have a culture of, shall we say, “teaching men to fish.” It’s why we send children to other countries, ostensibly to pursue an education, and then refuse to provide the promised financial support, insisting instead that they “hustle”, a Nigerian metaphor for swindle. We also create government agencies at will, with no thought of sustainability. Think it’s conjecture? Take a look at the bills of the national assembly, freely available on their website, and ask yourself how many “creations” will have to find “creative” ways to pay themselves.

And so what’s a man to do when the one thing he has been able to do with rabid success is terrorise innocent civilians and now he’s left with neither pay nor work? Naturally, if you have any kind of charisma then you take the new skills you’ve learned, call up the boys, and this time there’s no leash to hold you back.

And Now Today

Now that we have established the progression from unemployed youth to political thug and, finally, to terrorist, let’s imagine what a terrorist who has gone through this progression will be thinking upon reading (they can read, you know) about the killing of Gana.

The first message you (as a terrorist) would understand is that there is simply no point in accepting any kind of amnesty from anybody other than the president himself. Even if your activities/operations are restricted to one state of the nation, you can now clearly see that no state governor can guarantee you anything. Thus, to raise your group’s profile (bigger profile = bigger bucks), a single state is small fry. It also makes you easier to contain. You will also believe, of course, that there was an “order from above” for Gana to be killed. You might speculate on whether he was about to reveal his sponsors (everybody has sponsors, even ex-ministers), because paranoia is key to being a successful terrorist.

Keeping in mind that the political thug-cum-terrorist already knows not to trust the Nigerian government, there is also another level to this. They also understand politics a lot better than you or I (unless you’re a politician, in which case I doubt you would have read this far unless…Happy Retirement!). So, as the terrorist, you will carefully consider the various amnesties that have been offered to different groups at different times and come to one inescapable conclusion:

In Nigeria, everything is about connection.

If your brother is the president, you can kill and terrorise as many Nigerians as you like – you will get paid and not even be asked to surrender your weapons.

If you have connections in the presidency, you might be asked to surrender your weapons, but you will probably get paid handsomely for it (and possibly even get jobs and study abroad programs).

Gana’s capital mistake then, in the eyes of the watching terrorist, was not continuing his rampage until such a time as his kinsman had a foothold in the presidency.

That, in my view, is how a terrorist would read this situation and is also why the current approach will not suffice, assuming, of course, that your intention is truly to provide some semblance of security for innocent citizens.