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Bizzare: How General Iron killed witches, wizards in Cross River

He was mean, nasty, callous, cruel, despicable and dreadful. He literally competed with God for power, and in fact, until his death on Thursday, August 26 in controversial circumstances, he was a tin-god, whose appearance in public stirred up fear and trepidation. Thomas Obi Tawo, who was popularly called “General Iron,” was feared by all in his village, Oku Bushuyu, his local government area, Boki and indeed, the entire Cross River population. His name not only rang a bell, but he was also the chief tormentor of all the “witches and wizards” in Boki local government area, especially the Western Boki axis.

One recalls that Tawo who called himself a “freedom fighter” and who had “surrendered arms” in 2018 in Boki to the state government, was quoted then as saying; “We cannot fight with the government, because we’re under the government.

Today, I surrender to the leadership of Cross River State.” However, after surrendering in 2018, Tawo joined in campaigning for Governor Ben Ayade in 2019 and was eventually made Special Assistant on forestry by the governor. Once in government, Tawo picked up arms and began to fight for and was able to take over the Borum oil palm estate in Borum, by force.

Not satisfied with just intimidating people into submission, Tawo went berserk, harassing people in his environment of Boki and ensuring that even traditional rulers were kept under check, and anybody who had a voice before was either silenced or driven out of town. In fact, “Iron” was the only person who claimed to have had the power to identify who was a witch or wizard, would grab the person, transport him to his dedicated shrine somewhere in Oku forest and burn him. Iron was above the law.

It is difficult to know-how many men lost their lives in Oku- Bushuyu village, after being accused of having the features of wizards, while about twenty-four women received various degrees of burns for the same allegation. For instance, in 2019, three chiefs in the community, including the former Manager of Boki Oil Palm Estate in Borum, Chief Benard Kekong, Edward Kekong and John Otu were killed on allegation of being wizards. The attacks were hatched and carried out by “General Iron” who derived pleasure in seeing tears on the faces of his people. A source had told our correspondent in 2019 thus: “The elderly victims accused of being witches and wizards, were brought out from their homes and burnt. Three have died while those still alive are writhing in pain. Those in pain could not get medical treatment anywhere, not even in Okundi, as the political appointee warned that whoever treated those suffering from burns would suffer the same fate.

“The police in Okundi also could not do anything about the situation because the troublesome political appointee warned them to stay away from Oku. Villagers have fled to neighbouring communities on self-exile to avoid being attacked by the man and his boys. Even the clan head, Bernard Nku is also on the run.” Also at that time, the Permanent Secretary, Office of the State Security Adviser, Sir Alfred Mboto, had told Journalists: “I have been able to reach my SSA (State Security Adviser, Central) and my SSA has been able to make contact there.

He will give me a full briefing. But what they said was that some youths of the village decided to take on elders claiming that those elders are witches and wizards and one of the youths was using mirrors to show them who is this and that. “But it is true that some properties have been destroyed.

I want to get the raw facts because some people are even telling me that some people have been killed. We have to send our security informants to get the right information. However, if that happened, I have set in motion plans to arrest those who carried out the action along with the person who carried the mirror.” Neither “General Iron” nor the “mirror carrier” was arrested, thus given him enough space to bully, torment, persecute, oppress, torture and hound, hunt and maltreat his people. Government and security agencies knew that “General Iron” was a star cultist and they did nothing about it. Not even experiences traditional rulers had with him could bring out the power of government or security officials to clamp down on him. On October 23, 2019, seven persons were feared killed in a cult-related war. No less than seven people have died after some cultists and Okunde. Our correspondent had gathered then that due to the activities of the Tawo led cultists in Okunde, the entire Osokom community under Okunde held a meeting to check their activities. However, the plan leaked to the cultists and they infiltrated the community, killing one Joseph Bukie Bankong.

The cultists were alleged to have camped in the Apostolic Church in Okundi, close to Boki Boys’ Secondary School only to strike and kill one Bankong who was said to have been opposed to their activities. He was hacked to death. But it seems that his time on earth was ticking fast and he was determined to take the infamous route to Golgotha. His madness, as dictated by his charms and talisman, got him into trouble early this month when he masterminded the attack on immediate past Special Adviser on Administration to Ayade, Barrister Mark Obi who curiously was his cousin. Fortunately, Mark only visited the other world and returned, to the amazement of his loved ones because of the depth of machete cuts on him and the level in which he was beaten and left to die. Immediately after the attack on Mark, the governor relieved him of his job. Mark’s eldest brother, General Moses Obi who had commanded UN mission in Dafur then organized soldiers who stormed Oku Bushuyi in search of “General Iron” to take a pound of flesh for crossing his line to attack his younger brother, Mark. Ayade, in a press statement issued in Calabar and signed by his Senior Special Adviser on Media/Chief Press Secretary, Mr Christian Ita, early this month had shown Tawo the exit door. The release, dated August 6, 2021, read in part, “The governor, Prof Ben Ayade, has approved the sack with the immediate effect, of Mr Thomas Obi Tawo, aka General Iron, the special adviser on forestry security. “Consequently, he is hereby directed to hand over government property in his care to the office of the Chief of Staff to the Governor.” But on Thursday, August 26, Thomas Obi Tawo alias ‘General Iron’ was beheaded and amputated after being killed. Tawo was killed by a vigilante group in his community during a fierce gun duel. He was not only beheaded but his dismembered was smashed into pieces and there was wild jubilation within the length and breadth of Boki. It is important to note that after staying for a week in Oku Bushuyu without getting Tawo, the soldiers were withdrawn but the local vigilante took it upon themselves to go after wherein there ensued gun battle. The vigilante won and today, like one of the chiefs, said in celebration, “We in Boki have regained our freedom and we can only pray that a monster will no longer appear in our firmament to send us again into general prison.”

 

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