By Sunny Awhefeada
There is something decidedly Nigerian which is deeply rooted in hypocrisy and the inability to admit our foibles until they are pointed out to us by outsiders. Bound to this consciousness is our laid back attitude and tendency to celebrate half measures usually camouflaged as achievements. We are daily pushed away from values which should drive our aspirations and around which a national consensus can be constructed.
The capacity or desire to interrogate issues has taken flight and in its place is a feeling of ennui that pardons and embraces anything goes. We have been reduced to a nation of “forgive and forget” or “leave everything to God”. These are the reasons we have fallen into the cesspit from which we are struggling to exit in vain. Everybody seems to be involved in a rat race to the extent that we neither see no hear evil.
The appetite to live has muffled the essence of values and virtues. So, we continue to recede into the cesspit of the malaise that has plagued us from that moment when we became an independent nation.
The recent revelation that Nigeria’s crime buster, DCP Abba Kyari has been acting hands in glove with the fraudster, Hushpuppy, shouldn’t have come as a surprise. But in a nation where things are topsy-turvy, many people still expressed surprise and even came to the defence of Abba Kyari. Of course, the guy is innocent until proven otherwise, but what the American FBI raked up against him is rather water tight. The allegations are a product of rigorous investigations that threw up even the most minutiae of Abba Kyari’s dealings with Hushpuppi. What both of them, the crime buster and the criminal, did “hush hush” has now come to the public domain with a bang. Unlike the Nigeria Police or the Department of State Services (DSS) that tells the world it is investigating “so so and so” and even disclose its strategies, the FBI discretely carried out its investigations before coming out with the damning and embarrassing report including a request to extradite Abba Kyari.
The Hushpuppi-Abba Kyari phenomenon can only happen because we have become an unsuspecting and unquestioning people. Even when we know that something is wrong we look the other way or just keep mute. And the Hushpuppies and Kyaris of Nigeria continue to have their way and grow their ranks. Abba Kyari’s fame derived from his perceived role as a crime buster. It is part of our diminished and unfortunate social condition that it is only in Nigeria that somebody doing the job for which he is remunerated is hailed and celebrated like a rock star. Abba Kyari attained the status of an untouchable as a result of certain deeds ascribed to him. He was said to have been very effective as the officer in charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Lagos. He moved on to become a member and later head of the Intelligence Response Team of the Inspector General of Police at the Force Headquarters in Abuja. So much has been said about Abba Kyari’s arrest of Kidnappers Evans and Wadume. But the question is, was he not doing his job?
The public is also aware that the crime fighting facilities available to the Intelligence Response Team are sophisticated and that anybody so trained to handle them will burst any crime come what may. Why then were more of such facilities not acquired and deployed to the states or even the area commands to fight crime? If that had been done, criminality would have been reduced in Nigeria. Instead, such facilities are hold up in Abuja and Abba Kyari and his boys are deployed to any part of the country where criminals are having a field day. With the aid of their sophisticated weapons, the team often overcomes the criminals and return to Abuja to be celebrated as crime busters and heroes. It was this tendency that clothed Abba Kyari in borrowed robes.
The Hushpuppi and Abba Kyari experience is not new to Nigeria. Such incidents did happen before. We cannot forget or pretend. The saga of Lawrence Anini has a major plot dominated by a tough cop known as George Iyamu. Anini was a daredevil armed robber thought to have supernatural powers that made him vanish and made his body impenetrable to bullets. But that turned out to be untrue.
It was discovered that Anini’s invincibility was made possible by George Iyamu, the police officer in charge of anti-robbery who fed him with classified information about police strategies. So Anini was always many steps ahead of the Police because of Iyamu’s complicity. Both men were later executed by firing squad. Our collective memory cannot forget the dalliance between DIG Fidelis Oyakhilome and Jennifer Madike.
Oyakhilome was a senior cop deployed to head the then dreaded Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), while Madike was a drug baroness. Both were partners who complimented each other in crime and in love. The bubble got burst and the nation was aghast.
The Anini-Iyamu saga, Madike-Oyakhilome tango and now the Hushpuppi-Kyari collabo, will not be the end. The Police in Nigeria cannot be divorced from increasing criminality.
The disbanded SARS was largely made up of elements that were worse than armed robbers. Abba Kyari has a SARS background. The SARS officers broke into people’s homes, they extorted innocent people at gunpoint on the road, they abducted people and what do armed robbers and kidnappers do that SARS didn’t do? Many Nigerians have sad stories to tell about their experience in the hands of SARS officers. The testimony of the young businessman, Afeez Mojeed, on how Abba Kyari extorted N41 Million from him was not taken seriously until the FBI blew the lid on his involvement with Hushpuppy.
The truth is that the Police and other security agencies have very many Abba Kyaris among their rank and file. Many officers are on the payroll of criminals. They are regularly paid by internet fraudsters. The case of Kidnapper Wadume who had an Army Captain at his beck and call is still fresh in our memory. The security agents provide criminals security and we see them on our roads. A boy of less than eighteen who just made good money through yahoo was heard boasting that he would soon have a police escort. The next day, he stormed a birthday party with two armed policemen in tow as his body guards!
We need a new security arrangement as much as we need a new Nigeria. This was where the ENDSARS incident failed to achieve what it should have achieved. But it is not too late. Nigeria will stir again and for good reasons. We shall have the country of our dream where the Police prevent rather than encourage criminality.