ONOVO IN OPERATION END – KIDNAP
As at Thursday, the Inspector General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo, was in the third state in the South East, his zone and homeland.
From Umuahia, Abia State to Aba, the nerve centre of commerce and the hotbed of the evil of kidnap, he had gone to Owerri, and later departed for Awka where he was Thursday afternoon when Saturday Sun spoke with someone in the IGP's team on the situation of things.
The police chief is literally on his knees before his own people to plead with them to see reason to save him and themselves from a debilitating shame and scorn of being the worst crime-prone part of the nation.
Onovo dropped some extent of officialdom to get to the minds of his people. He drives his gospel in the Igbo language to create that familiarity a man needs to get to the heart of his brother or sister. At some point, he talks tough at them as the top cop who has the powers of security and enforcement on his hands. His audience knows too well like they say in that part of the world that Onovo holds the knife and the yam tuber all in his hands. He can call the shots or refuse to.
Ogbonna Onovo is today a victim of kidnap himself as an Igboman and he also has the unenviable duty of being the man at the helm of affairs when his part of the country has decided to rubbish themselves and smear their identity with an act so ill and sickening as taking human beings as goods of trade from which money is squeezed out of others at the threat of death and annihilation. You would always wish you were not Onovo, the man in a fix and dilemma over his duty to the nation.
He has just one appeal to his kinsmen - to feel touched by the damage they are doing to themselves within their homeland and without. The source told Saturday Sun: 'This is a case of the hated hating himself. This is a zone that had been neglected and regarded as wasteland. Instead of the people finding a way of rescuing themselves, they have rubbed salt into an injury to create a worse menace to their limping growth and stability. What the Igbo man made from his personal effort over 40 years after the war has been eroded by some set of rascals and criminals with the connivance of some security officers and shameless elders and so-called leaders. Aba that used to be our lifeline has been captured and the economy ruined. Onitsha is not spared and that is how we returned to another war unleashed on ourselves.'
Onovo's plea to his people is that they should return to commonsense and the ethos of being brother's keeper, rekindle the communal existence the people are known for and extend it to combating crime.
At Aba, he had a parley with community leaders, traditional heads and business people where he enjoined them to shun vices and work with security men to combat the terror. The chief cop could not understand why the problem would escalate now in the East even when he is the IGP, and, in fact, the first from the zone to be an IG after so many years.
'He had a warm interaction with the people of Aba where the people bared their minds that the police they have in their domain were part of the problem. He promised them to handle the police aspect and urged them to play their role as members of the society and there will be an end to the problem', Saturday Sun source in his entourage revealed.
The same scene was re-enacted in Owerri on Wednesday where the IG visited the governor, traditional, community and religious leaders to drive home the same mission and message. The scene in Owerri was not different as the people listened and made him promise they don't want him to suffer the shame of coming from a zone that made his job tough and unbearable. The people of Imo State promised him all the assistance to bring to an end the kidnap scourge. 'Onovo was close to tears when he addressed the people and even reminded them that the people who started kidnap had a reason of fighting for a claimed denial. Even when they had dropped it and moved on, the South East took it over to undo themselves and dent the imagine of the people of the zone.
He asked them if the development was a deliberate effort to remove him from the office or they want him to remain there as disgraced IGP who could not control crime in the nation. He made them understand that the only support they can show him is to work with the police to report the kidnappers they know who live among them. He also advocated the importance of proper orientation to the people involved in this at the local level.'
Awka Women Centre was the Anambra venue on Thursday as he relayed the same message that brought him to the zone - that the people should change or face the music; that the parents and leaders should call their people to order or the police would unleash full force on them.
He didn't hesitate to make them understand that since his visit is to fashion out a cooperative arrangement to champion a full fight involving the people and the police, his office would hold responsible any leader in a domain where kidnap is reported as recurring.
Some minutes past one, Thursday afternoon, Onovo's sensitization train left Awka for Enugu and to move down to Abakaliki on Friday. It is the same message and reprimand that would be re-enacted in Enugu. It would be the same charge and admonition of cooperation or the police axe. In Enugu, the tempo of the reprimand changed a little as Onovo was impressed with the police command for acting right and handling the kidnap saga with dispatch and professionalism. He urged them to move to stamp out the ugly saga in the state as a sample to others in the area. The mission would not change by the time Onovo gets to Abakaliki where his teacher is the governor.
As the IGP employs diplomacy and reason to win over his people and make the society crime-free, he has not forgotten that he has the power on his side to fight crime not minding who is involved. While he canvasses police/community understanding and liaison for effective crime control, he sometimes drops the line that whoever intentionally flouts his appeal to play a role that perpetuates the problem would get the other side of him. That other side is the ability of a top cop to crush dissidence and factors that breed crime in the society. He informed them in these gatherings his resolve to enforce that whoever dares him and the police will have a raw deal from him and the force. Because it is community policing now to tackle the menace, the leaders of the communities who he addressed are liable to some level of punishment if the arrangement fails from their end. He reads his riot act to them very clear that no failure or compromise would be tolerated.
As an instance, while in Awka, two policemen who had been taken in for complicity in kidnap matters in the state were presented to him. The two are facing questioning. He also promised in Aba that the Area Commander would be reposted while the DPO of Obingwa will face the same fate.
Onovo's pattern is to address the people and later talk to the police where he makes clear his position on kidnap and what any policeman's involvement would entail.
'I have been with the IG and some other IGs before him, I have never seen any IG talk to the police in very plain language like Onovo did in Aba. It was strictly for the officers with the exception of some few close persons. He gave them the message hard and pointedly. It was indeed a moment for very deep and frank interaction. From what I witnessed, I think the kidnap of the journalists signaled the end of this shameful cases that have crippled the zone. I can't imagine any policeman or officer or community leader that would not be wary if stepping into the trap of the police high command. I know the visits would pay well. It was a very practical way to bring policing closer and personal to the people', Saturday Sun was told.