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2 months ago | Pop Culture

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Don Wani: Notorious crimelord was a product of the society he grew up in

Don Wani may be dead, but the same system that produced him is producing more potential crime lords and murderers.

Yesterday, The Nigerian Army announced the death of infamous kidnapper and crime lord, Don Wani in a raid on his hideout in Enugu State.

The crime lord was allegedly responsible for the New Year’s Day massacre in Omoku, Rivers State on January 1, 2018.

23 persons died in the massacre, including women and children.

After a long, intense manunt, Don Wani was killed at his hideout in Enugu, alongside two members of his squad, in a joint operation by operatives of the Department of State Security and soldiers of the Nigerian Army.

Before his demise, the lean-bodied figure had cut a hard reputation as a fierce leader in the Niger Delta militancy and then as a “king of boys”.

Don Wani was a product of his immediate environment. Nigeria’s South-South has become plagued by armed militancy and gang violence. Most of it is perpetrated by young adults with slightly older men as leaders.

The Niger-Delta is a pressure cooker

A fierce fighter with a menacing presence that even in photos, gives a sense of foreboding, Don Wani, or Igwedibia Johnson was a notorious fighter who rose through the ranks to become one of those leaders.

At the height of his power, he commanded a force that was hundreds strong, made up of youths loyal to his anarchist cause and the pursuit of their goals through brute force.

ALSO READ: Security forces kill notorious kidnapper, Wani

Most of these people were available for the lack of a better option. The story of the Niger Delta is one that is well known.

Since oil was first discovered in commercial quantity at Oloibiri in the 1990s, the area has been xxx by oil companies and the Nigerian government.


Oil pollution is perhaps Niger-Delta’s biggest plague. The waters and oil, once the main source of the people’s livelihood, have been rendered useless.

In places like Port Harcourt, crippling poverty watches on as oil money drives by in entourages of expensive cars.

It is this environment that produced Don Wani.

It has produced (and is still producing) generations of angry, young men with limited options and a culture of survival that encourages hyper-masculinity and devalues life in their eyes as they chase sustenance.

Don Wani’s reach and power were so wide that at the height of his power, he was one of Nigeria’s most feared militant leader with his hands deep in kidnapping, political violence, assassinations and just about everything that could be done with a gang and a considerable cache of weapons.

ALSO READ: Here are 5 gangs that have terrorised Nigerians

When he eventually took advantage of the government's amnesty plan for militants in 2016, there was widespread celebration.

Someone always suffers for the corruption

How did the people celebrate?

On December 20, 2016, shortly after he accepted the amnesty, the ex-militant leader was conferred with a Chief Editortaincy title of Oyirimba I of Ogbaland.


On that eventful day, the paramount ruler of Aligwu community in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA of Rivers state, King C. Nwokocha, in his palace, placed royal beads and a cap on a known murderer for the simple reason that he laid down his arms and ammunition and embraced the amnesty offer of Wike’s government.

Foreign corporations may have exploited the Niger-Delta but it is its own people who have now created the perfect breeding ground for the militancy and violence that now plagues them.

The politics of power and wealth in Rivers, for instance, is well documented.

Whenever it is election season, the people brace up for waves of violence that begin with isolated assassinations and end with riots on election day.

There are claims that Don Wani worked for some of Rivers’ most prominent and powerful politicians during his reign.

It may be the reason why until he was declared a wanted man at the end of 2017, Don Wani enjoyed life more than most high-standing members of community.

When there are no options, people create theirs

In November 2017, members of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, and other security agencies raided his camp at Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA.

ALSO READ: Militants demand $1 billion to develop Niger-Delta

Wani had left long before the first soldiers came knocking but at his home, they found a palatial residence. within his camp, there was a massive main mansion where he lived with his wife and young daughter, and several smaller outhouses, which on their own, were relatively large homes.

In this space, Wani housed his closes to accomplices, his lieutenants, support staff and proteges. It says much that with his ill-gotten wealth, the crime lord was able to sustain such a large force and live in splendour without attracting ire for that long.


Among other things, a number of personal shrines were also found in Wani’s compound. When the soldiers went in, they found human skulls and decomposing bodies, some only weeks old.

You could call Wani a monster and you would be right, but the sad truth is that we live in a country that is producing people like this.

Life here is difficult, even for those with some form of sustenance. For those with very little, the survivalist mentality dominates their thinking such that all they can focus on is getting by for the next day, and then the day after that.

Nigeria teaches people that plans and hard work are worth very little if you are not desperate enough to dispose of others for your own good, or take advantage of the situation to your own advantage.

It is what we call our spirit of resilience, but is actually a toxic, manipulative culture fo outing ourselves first.

It is a culture that has produced various forms of the same self-oriented Nigerian who will do whatever it is they need to survive, from the Yahoo boy to the oil bunker to the runs girl.

It is something that Wani learned, and sadly, many like him will continue to live by till their final breath.

Faith Obadan Photo

Faith Obadan is a Associate at Meets Media, a digital journalist who reports on Pop Culture and some other section of our website.

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