By Constance Meju
Mrs. Kamene Titi Okonjo
Mrs. Beauty Ogere Siasia
For some time now, the Nigerian landscape has become scary. Everywhere you turn you face a threat of being assaulted by arm bearing and non-arm bearing miscreants out there pursuing money from the pockets of persons they have offered no services to.
You are either robbed in your home, at work, in the market place, on the streets, in the church and especially on the highway. So endangered are we now that the police, the authorized protectors of civilians from harm, now daily assail you with security alerts telling you routes not to ply, calls not to pick, who to avoid with little effort at apprehending those wanting to harm you.
No place is safe anymore; not the communities, not the cities and nobody is safe, no not all. Abuja, the once very fortified city has been penetrated by hoodlums who, are currently putting residents on edge. Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kaduna and even Katsina, all are under siege by insurgents of varied persuasions.
Royalty is no barrier as traditional rulers are becoming easy prey for miscreants but the most worrisome and wicked, is the kidnap of aged women,mothers being abducted because they are parents to influential citizens and therefore, considered easy route to ransom from the rich family members.
During the Jonathan days, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s mother was abducted in their community, Ogwashi-Uku in Delta State, where her husband was the king. It took public condemnation, demonstrations by community women and a crack team of security personnel drafted to the area, to set the retired professor of sociology free.
Still in OgwashiUku, mother of now retired top Immigration Officer and NNPC staff, Madam Nwabuokei was picked up on her way to early morning service. She was in the hands of the hoodlums for days. Some have died in the course of the kidnap and many are unreported.
Mother of Nigeria’s former Eagles coach, Samson Siasia, Madam Beauty Siasia seems however, to have become a regular attraction for the kidnappers. In November 2015, she was abducted and released after 12 days only to be remembered again in July 2019 with a huge ransom of N50million as demand for her freedom.
Ma Beauty despite pleading ill-health and pleas from Samson Siasia who is facing serious sanction from FIFA, was held in captivity for 76 days. At a point the family raised fear of her safety because of her health challenge but the kidnappers would not bulge.
On her release on , this old woman who ought to be in her home savouring the fruit of her hard labour over the years, described her experience as terrible. “It was terrible” she was reported as saying and from the depth of her hearts she asked a nagging question: Why do they like to kidnap me?”
That single question speaks volumes and resonates in many homes where women like her have been so ill-treated; made vulnerable for giving society something to be proud of. It speaks of her helplessness in the face of unwarranted and unprovoked abuse. Her helplessness before a system of governance that allows hoodlums to run wild untamed.
It speaks to her psychological state-that she is no longer safe even in her own community; that her freedom is at the mercy of others; that she does not belong to the promised protection of life and property guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution and sworn to by the president and governor. No, she is on her own against a force greater than her.
Her fate could have been worse so we are grateful she only suffered the trauma of involuntary confinement, hunger and discomfort. She was spared physical assault thank God. But it means that nurturing your children to grow up right and successful now puts the woman on the danger list and that is scary.
Mama Beauty’s kidnappers asked for a huge ransom which the family could not raise and they showed no mercy in the face of her ill-health nor did her age, 86, strike a drop of mercy in their hearts. She was just a commodity to hold on to for their targeted sum. A risky act as she could have died in their hands. The reverence for grey hair and old age meant nothing; only money counted.
Hear her tell her story:
“I was in my house when they came to kidnap me. They took me to their place. They took care of me. I was sick and they bought me drugs. They cooked and gave to me. They did not beat me.
“There were days when there was no food. Those days they drank garri and gave me garri to drink as well. Sometimes they cooked soup, prepared garri and we all ate. But on Sunday, they told me we had stayed for too long and they were tired of our problem. They carried us on a flying boat and dropped us in a village.
…As I am talking to you, am not well. Before they took me, I was ill. I wanted to go to the hospital.”
There are many more Madam Siasias in this country being constantly targeted because we have a curious security system. A few years ago, a group of bandits stormed a quiet village in the depths of Akoko-Edo Local Government Area in Edo State mostly occupied by aged women and women whose husbands had gone away in search of greener jobs. They raped the women, ransacked and robbed them of their valuables. There was no police station within the vicinity so they had a field day.
The poor violated women could only moan, weep and live with their pain and losses. But they are not alone. Remember the stories of old women being almost serially raped in some Enugu State communities some years back? These are just the few reported cases, many more go on acknowledged to avoid shame while the perpetrators walkaway free leaving the women to face disdain and pain.
This new vulnerability of the aged women being exploited by our youth denotes a deep rooted moral decadence that portends serious danger for the Nigerian society. A nation where girls, women and even the aged are abused and killed at the pleasure and whim of miscreants; a country where highly placed officials who should exhibit decorum unleash violence on defenseless girls and herdsmen waylay, kidnap, rape and kill women in the farm, on the highways, etc., and top functionaries abuse their wives physically, mentally and psychologically and get away with it even though there are laws in place to checkmate them.