While all of these are going on, the media has been suffused with a lot of hitherto unheard allegations and complaints against Abba Kyari. It reminds of that profound Yoruba adage which tells us “it is a festival of glittering knives and gleaming machetes, the day an elephant falls to the ground.” Pre-independence Nigerian poet Adeboye Babalola, serenades the creature in his iconic translation titled “Salute To The Elephant.” He acknowledges that it both humongous frame and luminous in size, to underscore its preeminence in the comity of creatures. From the lady who claimed on cyberspace that Kyari arrested her, failed to charge her for any offence, but rather kept her for himself, to the man in Maiduguri who alleged that Kyari offered him a compensation of N70 million to have his house knocked down to accommodate a driveway to Kyari’s ongoing residential development, so much stuff is being poured out about Kyari that we never knew about.
Kyari’s name has also been mentioned at the Lagos State Judicial Panel on the #EndSARS riots of 2020. Afeez Mojeed a businessman has alluded to how officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), under Kyari’s watch, broke into his house in 2014 and manhandled his pregnant wife in the process. Mojeed said he was whisked away to the SARS detention facility and brought face-to-face with a certain Edward Obinna who the SARS operatives alleged Mojeed had duped of N97 million. Despite all the cash and valuables taken from Mojeed’s home during the raid, he was forced in the presence of Kyari to wire the sum of N41 million to Obinna’s account. Mojeed alluded several times, to the manner of thuggish lawlessness the SARS officials unleashed on him.
I’m not about to join the mob baying for Kyari’s blood, neither am I going to join any form of media trial of my compatriot. In the coming days, weeks and months, we can expect many more allegations and recriminations against Nigeria’s once venerated super-cop. Public breeze will continue to blow at the backside of the hen. This has remained standard practice when issues involving public officers get to the market square of public discourse.
There are aspects of Kyari’s life and comportment, which leaves more to be desired. You should not, and you cannot be dancing so animatedly to the performance of the Yoruba “fuji” music crooner, Sule Atawewe, at a downtown gig in Lagos, the way Kyari was in a three-minute video clip, which is trending on the social media. Not with the kind of security and intelligence agency you are serving in, not with your rank and not with your special brief in that service. Your job demands that you are ever sober, discreet and alert, sometimes even anonymous. The last time I checked, Kyari had not been deployed as commander of the police band and public service rules consider such displays as his “Sule Atawewe” outing as gross misconduct, with prescribed punishments and sanctions.
Kyari was over-immersed by public and institutional recognitions, adulations and commendations he received over the years for courage and bravery, that it overwhelmed his sense of reasoning. He assumed the media was not doing enough to project him and therefore imposed on himself, the narcissistic responsibility of blowing his own trumpet such that even the deaf would hear. He was unduly active in the media, ever sharing photographs of his exploits and images of his office, which walls droop with shields, medals and mementos. He forgot the “Igbo” wise saying popularised by Africa’s legendary story teller and writer, Chinua Achebe that “those who had their nuts cracked for them by a benevolent spirit, must learn to be humble.”
Kyari indeed has been favoured in the police force, earning special promotions for his good work, which should be humbling in itself. Unfortunately, former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration was culpable in the introduction of this trend, to profit specific officers above others. The pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for instance, was catapulted from his rank as DCP to Assistant Inspector General (AIG), under Obasanjo, to accord him leverage to function properly on his beat. This action was to bring the said officer into collision with the police high command, under IGP Mike Okiro. Okiro refused to recognise the rank when he attended the graduation ceremony of participants at one of the courses of National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Plateau State, at which event the said AIG also graduated.
A serving DIG, similarly savoured the same manner of meteoric elevations under President Goodluck Jonathan, where his contemporaries are most probably DCPs today. These are the manner of aberrations, which have disincentivised several senior officers and engendered low motivation, in the force. Kyari by his present rank, had already overstepped his course mates in the police academy by as much as two ranks. His contemporaries are still Chief Superintendents of Police, CSP, while he is further up on the rungs of the police hierarchy.
In a polity which has become accustomed to blatant nepotism and demagoguery, IGP Alkali Baba, has been brave to set up an inquiry into “Kyari-gate.” Kyari, by the way, is from the North East of Nigeria, like his boss. While Kyari is from Borno, Baba is from Yobe. The IGP has not acted deaf to reason, the way the President did concerning the very sensitive issue of the complicity of one of his ministers, Isa Ali Pantami, with tangible religious irredentism and collaboration with terrorist groups. The minimum Nigerians expected, was for the President to ask Pantami to step aside, while the matter was reviewed. Secondly, the choice of the chairman of the investigation panel from the South East, on paper creates the impression that Baba intends this to be as dispassionate as possible. Baba has also moved to keep Kyari out of the system for as long as the assignment of the inquest lasts. Literally, these look like good moves from an IGP who has been described as independent-minded.
While Nigerians in particular and the world at large, anticipate the findings of the probe panel on Abba Kyari, vis-a-vis his indictment by the FBI, the Nigeria Police Force has a unique opportunity to be introspective and to attempt a holistic makeover of itself. How can the force be reformed, reorientated and refocused to fulfil its primary, statutory responsibility to protect lives and property? Is the remuneration of members of the profession commensurate with contemporary market trends? Can we have a police force whose officers and personnel can look the other way even when they are being teased with sundry gratification? Can the accommodation infrastructure of the Service be improved upon, away from the decrepit eyesores regularly beamed in our faces during special reports by television stations? Is the police provided with adequate working tools: arms, ammunition, bullet shields, even automobiles to do its job? I have heard on good authority elsewhere, that essentials as simple as tear gas are oftentimes unavailable.
Are the various schools and training facilities of the police in functional state? Are policemen regularly trained and retrained to keep them up to speed with contemporary policing trends? What is the agenda of the police for the discovery of personnel with special skills and aptitude who can be the next Abba Kyari or Tunji Disu? Can the Force create a level playing field for people to flourish, such that desk-bound personnel and those in the hinterlands also get opportunities to prove their mettle? Is the Nigeria Police worth dying for? What manner of emoluments are due the families of police personnel who die in the line of duty? Do their families always have to go through the furnace of bottlenecks and bureaucratese while processing such entitlements? Can Nigerian policemen proudly and confidently don their official gears and not be victims of mob action because of perception and misgivings by the public? IGP Baba needs to add answers to these posers to his “to do” list in his plan of action for the Nigeria Police Force and diligently review the issues, every day.
Olusunle, PhD, is a Member of the Association of Communication Scholars and Practitioners of Nigeria (ACSPN).