The return of the Igbonla Six (6) as the abducted students of the Model College, Igbonla had become known was a soothing relief. The news of their release after a harrowing 64 days in custody of hoodlums triggered spontaneous jubilation in Lagos State and, indeed across the country. They were accompanied by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State who handed them over to Dr. Idiat Adebule, Deputy Governor of Lagos State, having been released by their abductors in Ondo State.
The kidnap of the boys on Thursday, 25th May, 2017, barely seven months after an earlier abduction of students and staff of the same school, was no doubt an anti-climax to the joy of the children of Lagos State who had been participating actively in the Lagos @ 50 celebrations.
The Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode responded immediately promising that the boys will be brought back unhurt and that the state government would stop at nothing to ensure that Lagos children got the best of deal from the government Lagos State in terms of qualitative education.
Expectedly, the kidnap generated mixed reactions from parents, civil society organizations and the general public. The consensus was a cocktail of appeal to the conscience of the kidnappers and a call to the State and Security agencies to rescue the students from their abductors.
Some issues were raised then that I thought were better not discussed until the boys are back and everyone is happy such that emotions would have little role to play in the discussions and no one’s sensitivity would seem to have been toyed with.
First, there was a school of thought that queried why the school was located in such remote area and suggested that it should be relocated. Such people, I guess did not know that the school has been in that community close to three decades, having been founded in 1988 by the Administration of Rear Admiral Okhai Mike Akhigbe.
Since then, there was no security threat or breach in the area twenty-nine years before the first kidnap in the school took place. The fact of the security situation today is that location of school does not deter hoodlums from penetrating evil. Kidnappers are known to have plied their trade on highways as well as highbrow areas of major cities across the country. Therefore, eternal vigilance and being a step ahead of the criminals is the name of the game.
Others also opined that, the State Government and the Security agencies were being complacent, doing nothing to sooth the nerves of the affected parents because the children involved were not offspring of powerfully connected persons. This obviously cannot be true of the administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode that is predicated on inclusive and non-discriminatory approach to governance. The central philosophy of the Ambode administration is fair play and justice for all. This has been clearly demonstrated in its various accomplishments across the state.
Today, we all know better as revelations later showed that not only was the Lagos Police Command and the State Government were working, the presidency and governments of the littoral states of Ogun, Ondo and Delta formed a synergy to ensure the captives were rescued alive.
It needs to, however, be stated that the viewpoint, which its proponents might have probably put forward to hasten the search and rescue efforts of the government, was neither good for the morale of security operatives nor the psyche of the parents and relations of the affected children. That, the abductors were said to have shifted base three times after the kidnap was an indication that they were not comfortable with the heat the security agents turned on them.
Truth was that as the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Mr Fatai Owoseni said severally, the matter was a serious security challenge and information must be properly managed to ensure that we don’t play into the hands of the men of the underworld by disclosing the strategy of security forces.
Now, that the state government has made good his promise to reunite the students with their parents, peers and relations, it is important to appeal to the public especially parents of our various model colleges to repose confidence in the state government as well as the various security agencies to see to the safety of not only our students in school but all Lagos residents at large. As a proactive measure, the state government has beefed up security in the affected school and all other vulnerable schools while more measures are still being put in place to forestall a recurrence.
There is no gainsaying that our public schools under this administration has offered a lot and still doing so much to ensure that qualitative knowledge was imparted in the students and they have a lot more to benefit going back to their schools. Our improved performance in external examinations, various science competitions both at national and international levels, representing the country in international contests including World Robotic Olympiad 2017 speaks volume.
Prior to the wicked intrusion into the citadel of knowledge located in a remote part of Epe, the children of Lagos State as represented by the school pupils and students had been showing the public that the future of the State and Nigeria is save in their hands.
The exhibition stands at the Science, Arts & Craft Exhibition and Talent Hunt organised by the Lagos State Government for the students to showcase their science inventions, their art and craft works and exhibit their innate talents in music, drama etc, two days before the abduction was an indication that we were moving in the right direction.
On the day of the abduction, the Lagos Schools’ Debate Season VIII was in top gear and the students were exhibiting knowledge of the topic of discussion, brilliance and confidence in public speaking when the shocking news of the second round of abduction in the college crept in. What a way to demoralize students who were looking forward to a brighter future. This is what we must all resist; evil must not be allowed to triumph over good.
Meanwhile, it is crucial that every segment of the society embraces collective security by supporting the state government and all security agencies so as to ensure effective public security. An effective public security cannot be obtained without the vigorous participation and support of every section of the society. This is because public security is the duty of all individuals, groups, communities, organisations and other component parts of a given society.
It needs to be emphasized that criminals are not spirits, they dwell in the society. We must, therefore, carefully watch and report every odd movements and activities in our neigbourhood to the appropriate authorities. It is only when we develop collective fortitude towards public security that the huge investment of the state government in security could be effectively harnessed.
Ogundeji is Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Education, Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos