We were in church—though I was about leaving. I attended the first service, which had just ended; the second was in session. I was having a small chat with a friend when I heard footsteps behind me. I turned. Here he was—another friend. Since the COVID-19-induced lockdown was lifted in July, our paths had not crossed. So we greeted warmly—within the pandemic protocols. Apparently, he anticipated what I would say. It had to do with someone he consistently finds fault with. Guess what! He finds fault with almost everyone. Before I could complete the statement, he fired his.
I asked: “What did Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba do to you people that you had to burn down his country-home?” My friend is from the senator’s constituency. My question did not imply that he was among the gangsters who engaged in the criminal act.
Of course, he wouldn’t! But before I could finish asking the question, he fired his: “See what it means to chop alone? You suffer alone!” Was I shocked to hear that from him? Absolutely!
I looked him straight in the face; with undisguised contempt in my eyes. Even if this was a joke, I was not in the mood for it! I replied: “I hope you are joking because I didn’t expect to hear that from you. What happened to Chief is something we should not wish even our enemies. He does not deserve it.” The disgusting tone of my voice and the look on my face must have pricked his conscience. Perhaps, to demonstrate that he was actually joking, he added: “Those youth applied the wrong method to settle whatever scores they had to settle. It was terrible. I’m trying to keep my suspicions to myself. I suspect they were sponsored”
For the benefit of those who may not be aware, Calabar—usually called Canaan City—is the capital city of Cross River State. It was one of the places that turned hellish with flames of destructive fire, demonic looting and extreme vandalism during the recent nationwide protest tagged: #EndSARS. Among the victims was Victor Ndoma-Egba—known simply as Victor by friends and colleagues. My relative closeness to this man dates from about 1986. My beloved friend, the late Richard Ebri, was his partner in law practice. I call him Chief—even before he became a senator. I still keep it that way.
Victor, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), was called to the Bar in 1978. He served as a commissioner in his early 20s. In 2003, he was elected a senator and he served for 12 years before some dirty political manipulations thwarted his continuity. He and his state governor at the time, Mr Liyel Imoke, were not the best of friends. Thereafter, he was appointed Chairman of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Victor has always considered himself “too old” to seek the governorship of his state despite all attempts to drag him into the race in the past. His desire has always been to be condemned to the Senate. As a ranking senator, he served as the Senate Leader—a position, which in the United States Senate, is more influential and prestigious than that of the President of the Senate.
The question then is: what did he do wrong to deserve what has befallen him? Was he hiding the much-sought-after-COVID-19 palliatives in his house? What motivated the attack on his property? Is it possible that if he were at home, they would have killed him? I agree that Victor was not the only victim in the protest that went sour. But the manner of attack carried out in his private residence has raised more questions than answers.
You do not need to quote me on this. I don’t even have any tangible evidence to support it. But I’m highly suspicious. My instinct tells me that the destruction in Calabar—especially as it affected Victor’s house—was not a part of the #EndSARS protests. It must have been pre-planned and even sponsored by certain political principalities and powers in his state. In fact, it was daylight robbery, scripted and executed with such amazing, demonic success. While it lasted, all the security agencies in Calabar came under a spell of inactivity. But who cast the enchantment?
Victor was out of the country within the period. Before then, he had lost two people very close to him. He also had a confrontation with some health issues. Add this to the lockdown and you will agree that it was natural for him to take a rest after the burial. Reports show that at about 2am, UAE time, on Saturday 24th. October 2020, he received a text message from an informant revealing that there were plans for attack on his residence by unidentified hoodlums.
The informant named two other senators from Cross River State—Senators Gershom Bassey and John Owan Enor as being on the list of the hit squad. What Victor did next was to promptly forward the text message to both Bassey and Owan Enor. Next, he called certain security agencies in Calabar to inform them of the information at his disposal. He was not ignorant of the rampage unleashed on Calabar and its surroundings the previous day when peoples’ shops and other business premises were broken into in a mad search for COVID 19 palliatives. So, he took the information at his disposal quite seriously.
Among the most painful of the public places ransacked and burnt down was the library of the good old Nigerian Chronicle. That library was set up about 1975/1976 when Ray Ekpu was the editor of the Nigerian Chronicle. By what could be described as divine arrangements, Ekpu and Nyaknno Osso had met in the Calabar Library—for the first time. They struck a personal friendship. Osso was in Calabar to assume duties at the University of Calabar Library having been granted a leave of absence by the University of Ibadan where he worked as a library assistant. He was invited over by Professor Donald Ekong. But when he met Ekpu, there was an instant change of plan.
Osso—regarded as the best brain in media research and documentation—built the Nigerian Chronicle Library from the scratch. It became one of the best media libraries in Nigeria—compared only to the legendary Daily Times Library of that era. Two weeks ago, during the protest, news got to the hoodlums that the State Emergency Management Agency had its warehouse within the vicinity of the Nigerian Chronicle office. The place was promptly invaded and every item in the warehouse carried away. Another robbery!
Then someone suddenly remembered that the newspaper house should be punished for hoarding such commodities within its premises. Of all the vulnerable places, it was the library that they chose to burn down. As you read this reflection, that beautiful edifice—a storehouse of select intellectual properties of some of the best journalists this country has ever produced—has been burnt down. Can any of those youth offer any justification for that destructive act? It’s so painful that all my newspaper cuttings assembled since July 29, 1985, which I have been planning to recover from that library, have also been destroyed.
From the above information, it is clear that the impending attack on Senators Bassey, Enor and Victor was of public knowledge. Victor himself has confirmed that after the initial text message, other people called him to express fear over rumours of the attack. He said, “Thereafter I kept calling the security agencies by the hour when, in spite of the assurances that they will secure my house, there was no evidence of any security personnel in the vicinity of my house. I understand, the times were indeed confounding for everybody.”
At about 2pm, after several warnings from sources, the intruders broke into Victor’s house and looted it to the ground leaving only the bare floor. From what we saw in the video that went viral, the toilets, baths, pumps and whatever you could imagine that Victor had in his house, in terms of fittings, were removed. They carried his clothes and those of family members, and all items of furniture. The most painful part is that they carted away what will never be useful to them: a huge collection of out-of-print books, documents and historic photographs.
The congregational robbery took so long that they had all the time at their disposal to remove the windows, railings, family pictures and burglary proofs. As a Catholic, Victor treasures his private chapel anywhere he is. This was equally vandalised. From the video, you could see his cars burning. Some parts of the building were also set ablaze. Victor believes that among the rampaging intruders could have been electricians, plumbers, carpenters, motor mechanics, panel beaters and other such people who helped made the removal of fittings easy. The whole incident was an organised massive robbery.
There are several questions begging for answers here. Who was behind this attack? Really, not just the protesting youth! How come, for almost four hours of physical attack and robbery, it was not possible to arrest anybody; throw teargas or make any effort at all to rescue the building and the vehicles from being burnt? I believe—as Victor does—that the destruction was clearly premeditated, wanton and unjustifiable. It demonstrated the emergence of an environment “that is breeding armies and possibly generations of understandably frustrated, angry and bitter youths that are often exploited by unscrupulous political jobbers.”
Calabar, for all we know, has not faced this kind of situation since the end of the Civil War—if it ever did. Not only were individuals attacked without any provocation; public places were invaded and properties destroyed. The capital city was physically and psychologically defaced. I’m surprised that Governor Benedict Bengioushuye Ayade, has not wept publicly over this evil-minded incidents. What happened deserves executive tears—to help soothe the tension and cleanse the land, which has been desecrated. Even His Royal Majesty, the Obong of Calabar, reacted in a very unusual but deserving manner. He spoke boldly as a father—without fear or favour.
Just one question: Who did this to Victor Ndoma-Egba—who sent those hoodlums on an evil errand? The world is waiting for an answer to this question. Certainly, this attack did not just happen. Victor does not hold any public office at present. He is not a government contractor. He has since retired to private legal practice. So what attracted the hoodlums to his private apartment located deep inside the city—a house he built since 1991! The whole thing smells of local politics gone sour. We may have seen the hands of Esau in action; but does Jacob think his voice was completely disguised?
. Akpe is an Abuja-based journalist.