As unconfirmed reports begin to trickle in last week, many people didn’t believe he was the one killed by troops on the evening of September 8. While some in their characteristic pessimistic tone tagged it an audio killing, others were dumbfounded on how a man seen a few days earlier in the company of traditional and community leaders would be neutralized by authorities. To heighten the suspense, the Army kept mum. Then emerge the gory image of his bullet-riddled body. The reports were true all along. Terwase Akwaza, alias Gana, Benue state’s most notorious terror kingpin who made life unbearable for residents of his native Sankera and travellers who ply the federal highways along the Benue-Taraba-Nassarawa axis had been killed.
The daredevil was said to have been intercepted and later shot dead by troops of Operation Whirl Stroke as he travelled in a convoy of government officials, traditional rulers and clergymen headed for Markurdi, the Benue state capital, where he was supposed to be granted amnesty for the second time in 5 years.
Immediately after the confirmation of his death, certain politicians began fuming and started bashing the military. With such an open sympathy for the criminal, many Nigerians began asking the following questions: Why are these politicians mourning the death of a notorious criminal when a few years back they were the ones begging the Federal Government to help bring an end to insecurity in Benue state? Was Gana a political pawn and why was he offered amnesty twice despite reneging on the first and returning back to crime? Was this second amnesty offer a ploy for him to escape at a time the military is closing in on him and his men? How many of the atrocities committed in Benue under the guise of herdsmen were actually carried out by Gana and his gang of menacing marauders? And most importantly, was Gana one of the many undeclared ethnic militia leaders in central Nigeria sponsored by politicians and backed by traditional leaders to defend certain interests and fight perceived enemies?
Although killed in a controversial manner like the controversial he lived, to this author, the vigorous attempts to vilify the Army and whitewash Gana’s unforgivable crimes and paint him as a hero of some sort at the expense of his victims appears problematic.
First, Gana was no Robin Hood. Neither was he “the defender of the Benue Valley” nor the much-touted repentant gang leader who wanted to become a man of God. But rather, Gana was a vicious criminal who terrorized communities and paralyzed socio-economic activities in the Sankera region, comprising the three LGAs of Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Logo.
He killed and maimed his victims without remorse and turned entire towns into ghost towns. From government officials to traditional rulers, from lecturers to farmers, from traders to travellers, none was spared from his brutality. Even Katsina-Ala’s famous yam markets were decimated by his murderous activities.
According to reports, he was so ruthless that sometimes he kills his kidnapped victims even after collecting ransom. He was also said to have buried many of his victims alive while at other times asked them to dig their graves before killing them.
Certainly, Gana lived by the sword and died by it. His killing by the Nigeria Army special forces has brought some respite to the people who couldn’t go to their markets in peace; to those whose relatives were either killed or kidnapped on his orders and the many widows and orphans, his reign of terror produced.
So now, contrary to the whitewashing, Gana the monster is gone. And he’s gone for good.
Jos, Plateau state.