The sad story of Evans

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Evans aka Chukwumeme Onwuamadike, 36, drug dealer, armed robber and top notch kidnapper who has been a fugitive from justice for years has now been evicted from his cozy world of crime. He is in the net of the police and he is now singing like a nightingale. This man with his criminal tentacles in Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa has by his own account amassed a humongous wealth, acquiring exotic cars, top of the line telephones and built or bought choice mansions in choice estates ordinarily reserved for the high and mighty. With his opulence this small, half educated man makes crime look sexy.

Evans hails from Nnewi in Anambra State, the home of Nigeria’s foremost fabricators, foremost entrepreneurs a state where you will probably find the highest collection of millionaires per square kilometer in Nigeria. So Evans probably wanted to be like them, drive exotic cars, yes he did; own five star apartments, yes he did; have a string of mistresses, yes he did and live like a billionaire, yes he did. His route was wrong, the fast lane, that is why he crashed.

Evans who says he was disowned by his father on allegations of stealing and threw him into the wilds where he met young men of high vice who mentored him in the school of high tech crime. He says he participated in three bullion van robberies that fetched him and his gang about N400 million. He says he was introduced to bullion van robbery by a guy with the appropriate name of “Too Much Money.” But he didn’t tell him that the other name of the gang members should also have been “Too Much Trouble.” In his free-wheeling conversation with the media he filters his words and calls his crimes a “job” and a “business.” This is an exercise in euphemismation, permit the coinage. Well, the underworld business is addictive. From drug dealing he graduated into armed robbery and then he went for his Ph.D in crime by settling for big time kidnapping of big businessmen whose wallets are bursting with dollars. Since there are shops that sell their goods in dollars in Nigeria why should our kidnap king not get his pound of flesh in pounds or dollars?

Evans selected his victims, or targets or clients, if that turns you on, carefully. They must be extremely rich, rich in all colours of foreign currencies or those who could pay the equivalent of the dollar conversion in naira. By the time he was arrested he was no longer looking for money to feed his family. He had gone past that humdrum level. He had joined the big league of those who can spend a billion naira or more on their children’s wedding or who can buy rows of houses with Nigeria’s money for their young children or those governors who can steal 20 exotic cars from their state government at the end of their tenure as a parting gift.

Even though Evans was not raised in the embrace of high society he wanted to be seen as a club member of high society. He is a small man so he didn’t have a huge presence about him but as a man who had no qualms about killing anyone that stands on his way to the billions he wanted, he exuded a frighteningly huge aura, an aura that was sustained by the awesome finality of the bullet.

This half literate man has the nimble brain of a software engineer. He arranged his gang members in two separate groups, neither of them knew that the other existed. He had a sim card making machine and several cell phones some of which were satellite phones that were difficult to track. He put his money where his mouth was. He showed generosity to those who supplied him with information about potential clients. He organised his movements discreetly using huge cars, small cars, taxi cabs and motorcycles as the need arose. This man seems to have the organisational genius of a field marshal.

Evans lived with neighbours. He made his life look as normal as possible. He played loud music in his car but he generally cultivated the philosophy of good neighbourliness. He was a neighbour to people who never truly knew their neighbour’s occupation, that their neighbour was a high profile kidnapper. The anonymity of urban life, the mind-your-own-business philosophy of the urban elite made it possible for this man to live in the midst of other people without being defrocked. Even though Magodo GRA is inhabited by many rich people he never plied his trade there. He merely used it as his sanctuary, his hide-away, his sanctum sanctorum. He never did his dirty “business” in Magodo GRA maybe because he believed that it would be silly to defecate in your dining room, or because the security in the estate is tightly organised by the residents themselves or simply because there is a police station and several armed guards serving the movers and shakers who live there or he was trying, speaking tongue in cheek, to be a good neighbour or a good resident.
Evans is the poster boy of kidnapping but he did not invent it. If my memory serves me well it was a man called Vincent Duru who started it or brought it to prominence in 1996 in Owerri, Imo State. Duru came to be known as Otokoto because he operated from a hotel called Otokoto Hotel in Owerri. Duru and six of his gang members drew attention to themselves when they kidnapped an 11 year old groundnut hawker, Innocent Ikechukwu Okorokwo, on September 19, 1996. They cut off his head for rituals and buried his headless body in the premises of the Otokoto Hotel. The boy’s head was recovered from them. They were charged to court for murder. Justice Nwosu Iheme sentenced them to death. The residents of Owerri, infuriated by the creeping horror of kidnapping, showed their anger by setting aflame the properties of the convicts. Before now kidnapping was a hush-hush affair in which the children of rich politicians and businessmen were the prime targets for ransom. Since then this novel method of money-making has gained traction.

Evans has now raised the bar and taken the business to its apogee. We must acknowledge the ingenuity of a secondary school dropout for crafting such a daunting evasion scheme that enabled him to escape arrest since 2013 when he was declared a wanted man by the police, and which enabled him to deceive his neighbours and his family for so long. He is the real evil genius. We must congratulate the police for eventually getting him by the balls. Now he has been castrated.

From a journalism perspective this story has all the rich ingredients of a riveting narrative: horror, spying, manhunt, betrayal, wealth, pathos, sex etc. The press even in the midst of a competing story of ethnic conflict that can destabilise the country, has dutifully sunk its entire keyboard of teeth into the Evans story making each reading day a feast of opulence. The media have got Evans to flip his memory file and he is offering us the meat of his odyssey in the world of crime. He knew that he was walking the knife-edge of danger but marabouts and sorcerers, that inevitable gang of fraudsters that play an ignoble role in our politics, business and lives told him he was safe from arrest. He did not know what is called The Chrisholm Effect: “when things are going well, something will go wrong.”

Now Evans is cooling his feet where his victims can now come to mock him, a reversal of roles. As he tells his stories, true or false or a mixture of both he feels cheaper than tattoos. He says he wants to die. The media have done a great job by x-raying every aspect of the Evans’ story in its depth and breath. The media also spoke to his father, his wife, his neighbours, his relations, his guard, the whole nine yards. This is good for our education about the dangers that abound around us, dangers that do not present themselves as dangers. This alerts us to the need for circumspection, vigilance and apprehension. Don’t tell me the media have already tried and convicted him. Don’t tell me the media are glamourising crime.

Crime is glamorous in itself because of the ingredients of cruelty and deprivation of people’s lives or lucre or livelihood. And the press must do its duty as a surveillance manager of the environment for the benefit of those who cannot. Evans says he wants to die. He has already convicted himself by his own words which I suspect are freely given to the media. In the last four years that the police were on his trail he had three choices: to fight, to flee or to surrender. Now he has been caught like a chicken and all his choices have vanished. What he wants now is irrelevant. His fate is no longer in his hands. It is in the palms of the law. He now knows that after the feast comes the reckoning.

Every criminal always thinks he needs to do one more trip before he quits. He does it and he doesn’t quit because crime is like alcohol: addictive. He makes another promise to quit but doesn’t until the long arm of the law handcuffs him as it has handcuffed Evans the Terrible. Now Evans knows that there is something called The Chrisholm Effect: The hard way.

Culled from TheGuardian