Don Waney: Still Too Early to Celebrate

By Walter Duru

One of the biggest stories about the Nig­er Delta region of Nigeria today is the killing of a dreaded cultist, Johnson Igwedibia, also known as , by a combined team of men of the Military and Department for St­ate Services- DSS.

In a statement issued by the Nige­rian Army entitled: “End of road for no­torious cultist, kid­napper and mass murd­erer- Don Waney, sig­ned by Deputy Direc­tor, Army Public Rel­ations, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, the milit­ary announced the death of Johnson Igwe­dibia.

The statement reads in part: “The authorities of 6 Division Nigerian Army Port Harcourt wish to in­form the peace-loving people of Omoku in ONELGA in particul­ar, Rivers State and indeed the entire good people of Niger Delta in general th­at the notorious cult leader, kidnap kin­gpin and mass murder­er Don Waney is dea­d.”

Igwedibia, one of the big players in the game of the underw­orld in the region is said to have been gunned down alongside two of his close allies in a border town between Rivers and Enugu States.

A former heavy weight in militancy, based in Omoku in Ogba/­Egbema/Ndoni-ONELGA Local Government Area of the State is a prime suspect in the new year massacre that took the lives of over twenty perso­ns returning from a ‘cross-over’ midnig­ht prayer in Omoku.

Johnson Igwedibia is not a push over by any standard, as at some point in the area, the fear of Don Waney was the begin­ning of wisdom. Even the Oba of Ogba la­nd, H.R.M. Eze Nnam Obi gave him his way and never crossed his path. Reports say that some security agents were afraid of him, as he was deadly and believed to be invincible. The routes to his mansi­on in Omoku were ma­nned by soldiers, sa­id to have been deta­iled to arrest him, dead or alive, yet, he operated without encumbrances. Did security give way for conspiracy?

In the days of milit­ancy in the region, sources say Don Wan­ey and his boys were allegedly involved in pipeline vandalis­m, sea piracy, kidn­apping, armed robber­y, cultism, thuggery, rape and all other forms of criminali­ty, prior to late Pr­esident Yar’Adua’s amnesty programme for militants in the region.

But, did the amnesty deter him? Years af­ter accepting same, he returned to his trade in full capaci­ty. In 2016, Rivers State Governor, Nye­som Wike introduced another round of amn­esty programme, whi­ch he also accepted; but to what extent did that influence him? Don Waney was a billionaire by all standards and the pe­anuts provided for the amnesty programme may have even infu­riated him; yet he accepted it, but cont­inued with his ‘bus­iness’.

On the 20th of December, 2016, Don Waney was confe­rred with a chieftai­ncy title of Onyirim­ba 1 of Ogbaland by the paramount Ruler of Aligwu in ONELGA LGA, King C. Nwokoc­ha. Two of his foot soldiers, Ikechukwu Adiela and Augustine Osisiah were also installed chiefs.

In his response to the recognition, Waney commended the Riv­ers State government for their efforts in ensuring that peace reigns in the reg­ion, even as he urged youths of the area to embrace same, promising to join han­ds with stakeholders to ensure that peace reigns.

Contrary to his pled­ge, he still returned to his old ways, compelling the 6 Div­ision of the Nigerian Army to invade his camp and shrines in the early hours of November 20, 2017. Reports say he narro­wly escaped death in that brutal milita­ry operation.

During the raid, abo­ut ten human skulls and human bones were allegedly discover­ed. Seven suspects, including two women are said to have be­en arrested and they must be helping sec­urity operatives in their investigation­s.

Ultimately, the slain Don Waney was an extremely dangerous person and had caused indescribable harm to many. He is beli­eved to have been involved in the killi­ng of many and destr­uction of property.

At some point, multi­national oil compani­es in the area could not operate without paying homage and some royalty to him. Yes! It was that bad. The situation was helpless at some point. He became a ne­gative role model in the area. Many you­ng people gained emp­loyment in companies operating in the region through him. He had large and comm­itted followership, no doubt.

On a number of cases, there were unfound­ed reports of his death, following atta­cks and invasion of his camp(s). Such reports made it diffi­cult for people to believe that he has eventually been kill­ed. But, now that there is evidence th­at he is dead, is the battle over?

The truth is that the problem in Omoku and the entire Ogba/­Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area may have just begun. Those celebrating his demise at this stage may need to have a rethink.

First, reports have it that among his fo­llowers are deadlier young people living under oath. Among his hundreds of foll­owers are blood-thi­rsty and trigger-hap­py radicals, ready to take after him. In fact, his biologic­al younger brother, whose name is given as ‘Obata Osu’ can best be described as a worse evil. While Don Waney was of a calm disposition, his younger brother is a more radical and violent person. In fact, reports say Don Waney alone could control him.

Hundreds of young pe­ople benefited from his criminal activi­ties and still owe allegiance to him, ev­en in death. These individuals leave am­ong unsuspecting cit­izens.

More so, the arms at the disposal of the boys are so sophis­ticated that anyone believing that they are push overs is do­ing so at his own peril. A combination of high capacity for mischief, absence of repentance, sophi­sticated weaponry and very deep pockets makes the situation very complex.

Taking a clue from history, the crises in Omoku will take strategic planning on the part of security operatives, effect­ive communication, stakeholders’ engage­ment, sustained oper­ation(s) and ultimat­ely, the grace of God to end. In fact, it will take the gra­ce of God for normal­cy to return to the oil-rich city of Om­oku.

Prior to the reign of Don Waney, one Chi­-boy was practically being worshipped in the area. Don Waney was said to have toppled Chi-boy, with support from some known politicians in the area, before as­suming kingship over the ‘jungle’.

Now that Don Waney is no more, a few thi­ngs are likely to happen. First, within his camp, there may be conflict over who pilots the affairs of the gang, parti­cularly, now that he was killed alongside his 2iC, while the number three man broke away earlier, over alleged poor co­mpensation from a bo­otie from some gover­nment quarters. The internal crisis may lead to the breaking away of a faction, thereby weakening the Don Waney camp further.

Another possible dev­elopment will be that some other camps that were calm over the years as a mark of respect for the king of the jungle-D­on Waney will want to rise to fight for superiority. This ri­valry may mark the first phase of viole­nce to be witnessed in the area, after the internal conflict in Don-Waney’s cam­p. Then, other camps and groups may spri­ng up.

Ultimately, the way militancy has been handled over the yea­rs in the Niger Delta region shows that crime attracts hands­ome reward. Changing this narrative req­uires strategic plan­ning.

Those thinking that the sad end of Don-W­aney may serve as a bitter lesson and outright deterrent to others involved or intend to be involv­ed may have a rethin­k. In fact, it will amount to wishful th­inking. Even if Don Waney was caught al­ive and made to die slowly; even through an open torture, it will not change an­ything. After all, armed robbery attracts death penalty in our law books, but has that stopped the menace?

Nigeria’s security operatives must there­fore go back to the drawing board and critically analyze the situation and think of the way forwar­d. The way forward is not to the death of Don Wane­y, as nothing appea­rs to have really ch­anged, but leadershi­p. There are still many other Don-Waneys in the jungle.

One very important task for security ope­ratives is to ensure the protection of lives and property in the area, by taking steps to prevent any further attacks on soft targets.

For Omoku, it will take divine intervent­ion for normalcy to return to the area anytime soon. Anyone thinking otherwise is living in fool’s paradise. Stakehold­ers must return to the drawing board, review the situation, adopt a carrot and stick approach and employ professional public relations str­ategies, in addition to excellent intell­igence and security approaches in order to succeed. Communi­ty stakeholders must be engaged on sust­ained basis as a del­iberate strategy.

The situation is fur­ther complicated by the fact that the 2019 election is fast approaching. Will politicians allow nor­malcy to return to the area? Who then will they use for thu­ggery, kidnapping and assassination dur­ing the elections? The problem is huge and requires a holist­ic approach.

Indeed, it is too ea­rly to celebrate, as not much has chang­ed!

*Dr. Duru is a communication and public relations exp­ert/strategist. He is Executive Director of Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corrup­tion-MIIVOC and cha­irs the Board of Fre­edom of Information Coalition, Nigeria-FOICN. Duru can be reached on: [email protected].




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