Tuesday 27 June 2017

Evans: From fame to shame

Nothing in him gives him away as a felon. His gentle mien, slender physique and innocuous looks could make you vouch for his innocence. But all these, as it has turned out, belied his notoriety and bestiality. His name stands in contradistinction to the path he followed. Chukwudubem, an Igbo name, means "God, lead me". His second name, Onwuamadike which appears to be his family name, means "death knows no king".

Placing his two names side by side gives him out as one that lived the opposite of his first name while the second, as striking as it sounded, never sobered him nor left him in deep cogitation as to the weight and significance of the name. He simply carried on his devilish escapades without sparing a thought for his victims.
He was not the kind of kidnapper to collect pittance. From thousands and millions in crispy mints, he stepped up to collecting ransom only in dollars. He dollarised crime.
In his confessional statements, he said, with a tinge of remorse on his face, that he used to collect ransom in naira but later changed to dollar. He also told a bewildered public that he was not one to beat down price when it came to ransom. To him, when he says N10 million, there's no going back. He had no pity on his victims. His aim was money and money he got.
For donkey's years, he swam in opulence. He evaded arrest. He was slippery. Law enforcement agencies were left to wonder and wander. Chukwudubem was sly, smart and elusive. At no point did he ever think that a day will come when all his ill gotten wealth will not just vanish, but have him thrown behind bars to share a space with "common criminals". Alas, today, he has plunged from fame to shame. The Holy Book talks of vanity upon vanity.
This scripture found no place in him despite claims by his wife that her husband read the Bible and prayed daily. Maybe, his love for Psalm 23 as the wife claims, engrossed him to the point that he did not notice that scripture. We are now told that he has been reading the Bible voraciously in cell since he was taken in. Good. If it's true, then, somehow, he may stumble on that scripture. That will help him think deep and long.
If and when he reads it, he may come to appreciate the vanity in all his wealth. His houses scattered across the country, two imposing mansions in Ghana, his connections, free money, too much money, excess wealth, stolen money, a coterie of women of easy virtue and gold diggers, the wine, exotic cars and what have you.
Already, he is begging for mercy and pardon after gutsily asking the Federal Government to help raise his children. Not a few Nigerians were outraged that a man who ravaged and savaged families could beg for mercy. Does it not contradict a man that robbed, kidnapped and left families in tears and sorrows? As he gloried in his felonious expeditions, did he know that a word like mercy was in existence? If he did, did he show mercy? How did he show it? Was it by forcefully creaming off money from people who toiled, moiled and sweated to keep body and soul going?
By all means, Chukwudubem was a terror to many. His stamping grounds were Lagos, Anambra, Edo, everywhere - wherever he could catch a prey or hide them plus himself for safety.
In the Magodo Lagos estate that he lived, he had neighbours but he was not neighbourly. Embargo was placed on visitors. If the wife must host anyone, any hotel would do. No visitor visited him and he visited nobody. He did not understand the language of fellowship.
From all we've read and heard from him, it's clear that Onwuamadike loved the good life. If not, he wouldn't have always insisted on the amount he placed on his innocent victims. Many who go into crime do so for filthy lucre. The craze for riches in this parts has driven many to do the bizarre, the unthinkable. Honest but poor people are treated with degrading levity. In village gatherings, their opinions do not matter. When they summon little courage to air their views, they are ordered to sit down. When they insist to be heard, people turn a deaf ear, the scribe slips his pen into his book, he writes nothing even as the less fortunate fellow blabs away.
In contrast, when a wealthy man shows up, he's welcomed with pomp and fanfare. There's pumping of air, pleasantries are exchanged sheepishly, the meeting is suspended momentarily, all attention, gaze is on him. When he speaks, everyone listens with rapt attention. It doesn't matter if he's saying nonsense. If you dare challenge any of his points, the gullible crowd shouts you down. You are called names.
Poor man. Good-for-nothing-man. Enemy of progress. You're envious and all that crap. Where the wealth comes from, nobody cares.
In Church, he is an elder. In his community, litany of titles adorn his sartorial ensemble. Eze aro 1 of Isukwuato. The Eagle. The Lion. Omego 1 (money machine). Ntanta ofiong. Unwana ofri owo. Name them.
In situations like the above, one is left with little or no option than to jump on the bandwagon since he can't beat them. He wants to belong hence going to any length to make it becomes the way to go. In our time, many have fallen prey to deceits and the allure of wealth. To make, it, they have sold their souls to demons, sacrificed their future on the altar of lucre, kissed satan, sucked the breast of perdition, slept with anything just to be seen as mega men, happening men, men that matter, the caterpillars, timbers and what have you.
We live in perilous times so much that the scriptural admonition that says having a good name is better than all the wealths and vanities of this world cuts no ice with us. The same Holy Book talks about being poor and honest than being rich and dishonest. In all these, the bible dismisses all as vanity upon vanity. In riches, Onwuamadike sought for financial security, the tag of a millionaire, transient fulfilment, joy, happiness and comfort. It's not altogether wrong to seek all these. No one is averse to the good life. But one should not stoop to the level of being dubious and devious to get all these. What shall it profit you to gain everything, wealth, easy women, posh cars, top notch buildings, power, yet lose your life. No matter how long you reign in iniquity, you'll die someday. When you depart, nothing, I repeat, nothing of you will follow you down six feet. So, why all the evil desperation, killing, kidnapping, et al? Think!
Today, it's Evans. Tomorrow, it may be you. You that think you're invisible, uncatchable, strong, treacherous, hardman, armed with one cheap charm or the other, know that a day comes when all that will fail you. It failed Evans. He saw the emptiness in all that. In a moment, his seeming extraordinariness became ordinary. All his schemings, hitech stratagems, years of well calculated escapes and reign of terror ended in a flash. Just like that. He was shocked to his marrow. Speechless. Transfixed.
As it is said, all days for the thief, but one day for the owner of the house. For Evans, the time was up. He admitted it. Fame gone. Wealth gone. All acquisitions gone. He became a celebrity. Not in exemplary conduct but as a criminal. Cameras beamed on him as if he were a president. His face and story found good space in front covers of newspapers. Evans became a national figure in ignominy.
Claims and counter claims have been made by his wife, father and mother over Evan's lifestyle. His wife says she did not know the business Evans majored in, the father too. The mum, we learnt, knew her son was into drugs peddling. She is said to have warned him severally against the trade but Evans continued. The father said for years, he never spoke or knew Evan's whereabouts. Many stories. If you look critically at all what his family has said of him, you'll come away with the point that there was a gaping disconnect between Evans and his immediate family.
I only feel for the innocent children he groomed with stolen money. May his sins not be visited on them. They knew nothing about thier father's source of wealth. They contributed nothing. May they not suffer on account of a rougish dad.
It all dishes out a great lesson for us. For parents of today, how well are you training your child? Evans dropped out of school in JSS 3. He never went back. Learn a trade, he did not. Instead, he found solace in crime. How many parents have taken the pains to nurture and train their children to becoming good and disciplined citizens? Today, we spare the rod while the children rot away. We care less. If he can't stand the rigours of education, let him learn a trade. Get him busy with productive ventures. An idle mind is still a devil's tool. Have we forgotten?
How about wives? How many know the nature of thier husbands' business? If they aren't sure, how many care to know? Do they ask questions even when 'oga' says he's a business man, exporter, importer. What is he importing and exporting? Some women dare not ask. Not in this age of madness for wealth. So long as she wears the latest aso ebi (ceremonial dress), gold bangles, earrings, Brazilian, Russian, London weavons, the latest make-up, perfume, drives the latest car, the man can do anything for all she cares. Some will quip with resignation: "e no concern me abeg". We are doomed!
All said, Evans and his ilk should not be allowed to walk free in our streets. If he's let off the hook, he may do worse. We shouldn't be cowed by his remorse 'after the event'. No one caught in crime fails to repent. The law must take its course. He wants equity but he has not come with clean hands as the law demands. Those campaigning for his release are mischief makers. If any of thier relatives was a victim of Evan's devilry, would they embark on such misguided and patently hollow campaign?
If freed, it will give impetus to others like him to hit extra gear in criminality, but if the law is allowed to prevail, it will serve as a befitting deterrent to other criminally minded folks. We've barked for too long. Let's bite, please! Can we?

* The writer, Kenneth Jude is an award-winning Akwa Ibom based journalist. 

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