THE EVIL THAT MEN DO…
– by Femi Olugbile
In 2019, a gem was added, without fanfare, to the books that tell the ‘inside Story’ of the Nigeria project ‘from them horse’s mouth’. Given the personality who wrote the book, and the disclosures within its covers, it is curious that both the general public and a normally oversensitive officialdom have appeared to find its contents ‘under-whelming’.
The book is titled ‘One Step Ahead – Life as a spy, detective and anti-graft czar’. The author is Farida Waziri, lawyer, former Assistant Inspector General of Police, and former Chairman of EFCC, among other distinctions.
There are not a great many books written by Nigerian policemen, or women, who are also self-confessed spies to boot.
No, this is not a review of Farida’s book, though will probably someday, in the normal course of things. The author has the deceptive smoothness of a storyteller, even if the language is ragged in places. Some really heavy stuff is dropped on the reader with a casual, almost indifferent ease.
Even on the cover, there is a verbatim quotation of a conversation she recalled as a police officer.
‘Are you suggesting I should kill your son?’
‘Oh no, not you. Police officers know how to do it. They will simply take him along to some place and return a few hours later to say ‘we shot him while he was trying to escape’. Do whatever you want with him. I just want him dead. And name your price.’
From her quarters at NEPA Close, opposite the Bar Beach, she noticed the swirl of a huge crowd moving towards the beach one afternoon. Word of mouth had it that some armed robbers were to be executed by a firing squad. The crowd was agog with excitement. Armed robbers were a menace to society then, as they are now, and the general sentiment was that they deserved no mercy. She found herself a vantage position to watch the drama. And then who would step out of the Black Maria and be tied to the stakes but General Bisalla and other top Nigerian military officers. Yes, the people convicted for a coup attempt. Her excitement, it could be imagined, went sour as she watched a soldier tie the General to the stake with particular gusto, tying him from head to foot so his head could not even droop down after he was shot and long dead.
And yet another story, the one that is relevant to this piece.
Fast forward to the Abacha days now. Some officers and civilians had been arrested, accused of plotting against ‘the goggled one’. There was a determined effort to extract ‘confessions’ from many of them. The unquestionable doyen of those whose duty it was to make grown men ‘sing’ was a man named Frank Omenka. He seemed to have been born to the job. From this point it is best to quote Farida verbatim
. ‘…Many things have been written about Omenka by those who crossed his path…Omenka was harsh in his methods…He enjoyed the misery he inflicted on suspects. I hold the conviction that he was a full-blown psychopath…After a vigorous interrogation session…he’d go into his office and dance to loud Makossa music. If you happened to come into his office at the time, he would invite you to dance with him. I always declined…’
It can be assumed that many Nigerians still live today with the evidence of Omenka’s handwork on their bodies. After Abacha, and with the advent of democracy, he quietly disappeared from public view.
It is the genre of people represented by this Makossa-dancing gentleman that forms the subject of this piece. They are all over the world, in different countries – from China, to Russia, to – yes, the USA. Often, they are cast in the role of defenders of established order. Sometimes they are even lionized as heroes and patriots. They are men, and women, and they are not only soldiers but people of different skills and capabilities who deploy their skills and talents to breaking the spirits and bodies of other people. They are able to go to sleep with perfect peace of mind at night because they have no empathy for the people who are their victims, or, more egregiously, because they believe they are helping to maintain ‘Law and Order’. They are the ‘specialists’ who ran, and perhaps still run the American ‘Rendition’ programme in satellite countries. They were the German doctors who performed ‘scientific experiments’ without anaesthesia on living human subjects during the NAZI era. They were the psychiatrists who ‘treated’ political prisoners in USSR. The sole evidence of ‘mental illness’ in the victims was that they were opponents of government. And other psychiatrists who carried out ‘conversion therapy’ and ‘brainwashing’ experiments on human subjects in the service of the state. They are the specialists who run the ‘reeducation’ camps that have existed in China from the days of Mao and are used to ‘convert’ Uyghur dissidents in the present day.
For most of these ‘specialists’, whether they use physical torture, or chemical or electrical ‘mind-bending’ techniques, whether they use the indescribably crude techniques of the Omenkas of this world or ‘waterboarding’ or other refinements favoured by Americans and ‘Westerners’, they are merely doing a job. Some find that job distasteful, and over time, the sufferings of other people at their hands wears them down and turns them into nervous wrecks, so that they become alcoholics or drug addicts. Some even kill themselves, unable to bear it anymore. But some take an uncommon relish in the job, and hurting others for them becomes not just work but a passion and a source of pleasure. They may not dance Makossa like Nigeria’s Frank Omenka. They may express their relish in other ways and even display a certain braggadocio about their power and achievements.
Torture is forbidden in human society, according to the United Nations.
On this day, early in a new year, it is good to spare a thought for the reality that these sorry, shadowy specimens of the human race are still carrying out their vile work in different parts of the world as we speak.