At 57, the Niger State-born lawyer-turned-police officer has every reason to be grateful to God. Since joining the Nigeria Police Force as Cadet ASP in 1984, the man has held several command positions and taken part in some foreign missions. And he proved his mettle. Now, all other things being equal, he would soon be confirmed as the substantive 19th Inspector General of Police (IGP). His resume portrays someone specially favoured by God.
Sadly, rather than being thankful to his Creator for the special favours he has received, the man decided, very early on his beat as the Acting IGP, to substitute his middle name with ‘Controversy’. Yes, if you substitute Idris’ middle name with ‘Controversy’, you would have had a perfect profile of a man who believes witch-hunting is an act of, and should be an axe for policing. He carved that ignoble niche for himself after spending just 26 days in office as the Acting Inspector General of Police.
On Sunday, July 17, 2016, Idris bared his fangs and clutched at his benefactor and predecessor’s jugular with the same ferocity a hungry lion would prey on a hapless antelope. In doing so, he defiled one of the timeless principles of African traditional beliefs that a dog does not, and should normally not eat another dog, no matter how belligerent it might be. But in a world that has turned on its head like a bat, Idris and his irks have shown the world that it is fair game for dogs to not only devour fellow dogs but to aim to wipe out their legacies, and lineage, where possible. To them, all is fair in war. However, the good news is that it’s not every member of the canine family that sees others as fair game.
In case you are still wondering what I am talking about, it is about the needless war that Idris launched against his former boss and predecessor, Mr. Solomon Ehigiator Arase, on Sunday, July 17, 2016.
Arase, Nigeria’s 18th IGP, had retired and handed over to Idris, on June 21, 2016, having attained the mandatory age of 60. Exactly 26 days after he mounted the saddle, Idris, without self-restraint, and in complete egotism that sent Nigerians riveting in shock, told the world that his predecessor had gone away with 24 cars belonging to the Nigeria Police Force. The ‘stolen fleet’, according to the Acting IGP, included two BMW 7 series cars, one of them, armoured.
“If you look through the windows of my former office,” Idris was widely reported to have told journalists at a press parley, “and from the report from my (Force) transport officer, you would see cars. But a week to the day I would resume, all these cars disappeared.
“When I took over, there was no vehicle, even the vehicle I would use. I discovered the last IG went away with 24 vehicles; the DIGs, some of them eight, some of them seven. The IG’s vehicles included two BMW 7 series, one armoured; and he left me with an old car.”
Based on that, the Acting IGP announced that he had constituted a special investigation panel (SIP) “to investigate vehicle purchases, contributions to the police and the distribution of those vehicles in the last three years.” He also promised to review all the “irregular promotions” made by Arase.
Arase, currently on holiday in London, promptly debunked those weighty allegations and advised the Acting IGP to go and read the handover note he gave him.
Twenty-four hours later, the media was awash with reports that the said vehicles were not missing but were perfectly under police control and custody. Vanguard newspaper threw more light on the controversy, revealing that “the armoured plated and bullet proof car, and the spare staff car, both of which are BMWs, were sent to an auto repair shop for total and comprehensive repairs for (the) use of the next IGP.” The report further disclosed that while the auto shop, Auto Computers, located in the Jabi District of Abuja, had finished repairs, repainted and delivered the spare BMW car the same day Idris held his press conference, the armoured plated Staff Car was still in their workshop. Its repairs, according to the newspaper, were yet to be completed because some of its parts had to be imported. Vanguard also reported that the remaining vehicles were intact and the Police authorities had record of their locations.
Perhaps, I need to clarify some things here before I proceed. First, I’m not holding brief for Arase. I’m not his PR consultant. But I believe in justice and fairness. I believe fair should be fair. Second, I’m all for whatever would help Nigeria kill corruption because the cancer is the reason our country is still crawling when we should be flying. It is the reason we are all struggling to survive in the midst of abundance. But I do not believe we should put innocent necks on the guillotine without having proved the case(s) against them beyond all reasonable doubts. I believe the principle of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty should apply in all cases, and not in selective instances.
On the roiling car controversy between Arase and Idris, I think there is more to it than meets the eye. The whole episode smells of vendetta. It smirks of a deep-seated hatred between an officer and his benefactor. It has all the hallmarks of a man biting the finger that once fed him. That is why I have chosen to defend Arase until he is proven guilty.
From what we now know, coupled with the facts in the public domain, it is apparent that Idris was too much in a hurry to roast his predecessor, for whatever reason. It is clear he didn’t do due diligence on the issue before calling that ill-conceived press conference. And because he was in such a terrible haste to get the ‘job’ done, he flouted the most fundamental rule of investigation: get all your facts correct before you draw any conclusions, or make arrest, as in the case of law enforcement. But the crack cop chose to put the cart before the horse, slamming damaging allegations on his former boss before diligent investigation.
First, I find it inconceivable that an individual could move out 24 vehicles from police custody and control in one fell swoop without the system raising the red flag. It could only be possible if the individual pooled the cars from different police formations around the country and warehouses them somewhere. Even if we assumed, for academic purposes, that it was possible for Arase to extort those cars in that manner, is it also practically possible for him to have quickly returned them after learning that his successor was about spilling the beans? Again, that seems like mission impossible. Even if it was possible, how come nobody raised an alarm to knock the bottom off the alleged fraud? With his unfettered access to the Works Department and the Force Transport Department, why did the Acting IGP fail to check and double-check with them to substantiate the alleged malfeasance?
All these negatives, in concert, point to one direction: vendetta; a crude attempt to rubbish the retired IGP willy-nilly. It is tantamount to the dog-eat-dog rule of the market place. It is a huge misstep by Idris; and it is capable of ruining the reputation of the office he holds.
The truth must be told, this is one war Idris needn’t have started, granting the fact that the nation is still groaning over the huge cost of his ascendancy to power. His anointing as Acting IGP led to the sudden death of the careers of 21 Assistant Inspector Generals (AIGs), and seven Deputy Inspector Generals (DIGs). Imagine the enormous cost taxpayers had to bear to train those officers to the positions of DIGs and AIGs. Yet, the system had to axe them not because they committed any offence, or they were unfit either physically or mentally to continue on their respective beats, but because a subordinate had been appointed as their new boss.
And what was the first major assignment of the anointed one? To put the head of the man who promoted and decorated him as AIG only last year on the guillotine. Like I said, there is no other name for this; it is vendetta. Bad belle!
The question that has been playing on the lips of most Nigerians since the car saga broke is: why would Idris be so bitter against his former boss? Legitimate question. I learnt that the only known ‘iniquity’ Arase committed against the Acting IGP was his audacity to order a query issued to Idris when he travelled to Yobe State, early this year, without due authorisation from his DIG. After the query, he appeared before the force disciplinary committee which merely admonished him and told him to go and sin no more. But rather than heed that advice, Idris allegedly went about smearing Arase, telling whoever cared to listen that the then IGP and ‘his collaborators’ were working hard to block him from becoming the next IGP.
Unless the spirit reveals it to him, how could Arase have known that Idris had been anointed as his successor when he, as the sitting IGP, was completely shut out of the selection process? But judging from his reaction to the query, it means that Idris knew he had been anointed as the next IGP. Yet, under normal circumstances, it would have been impossible for Idris to emerge as the new Police helmsman. Reason? Of the 25 AIGs that served under the outgone IGP, the Acting IGP was number 23, senior to only two of the top officers. This was why Idris’ sponsors in Aso Rock kept the appointment top secret. And this was why they had to gore seven DIGs and 21 AIGs to premature retirement.
Despite the irregular nature of his ascendancy, the new top cop also reportedly promised, at the said press conference, to review “all special promotions” made by the recently retired IGP. I don’t think he has any moral ground to describe any appointment as irregular. To pretend otherwise is to lose sight of all the negatives that his irregular appointment has brought to the force.
CHANGE is good when its positives outweigh the negatives. But change could also be detestable if it comes as a result of an anachronistic convention, like we have in the military and quasi-military establishments. Under the antiquated convention, superior officers are forced to kiss their jobs bye once their subordinates are appointed as head of the force. This so-called convention has long reached its apogee and ought to have been buried with the old order. Shockingly, it still thrives under President Muhammadu Buhari’s CHANGE regime.
The jaded convention is what Maya Angelou would describe as the rust of the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult to Nigeria’s taxpayers and a colossal waste of the country’s investment in the retired but not tired officers. It is one tragedy this CHANGE administration should not have allowed. It is the cruellest blow a warped system could inflict on a hapless nation.
Its destructive effects on the force, and enormous cost to a nation which economy is slipping into depression, are legion. It breeds nepotism; and corruption-a cancer that the Buhari Administration is struggling to kill. It murders merit, fairness and justice, just as it promotes mediocrity, and unhealthy rivalry among officers. A nation fighting deadly insurgency in the north, militancy in the south, as well as kidnappings, corruption and sundry crimes, can ill-afford a divided police force.
The Presidency and the Police Service Commission (PSC) must begin to recalibrate the requirements for leadership in the police force. They would do well studying the recommendations, made in 2012, by a Civil Society Organisations panel on reforms within the force. According to the panel, “appointments into the Nigeria Police Force are determined largely by seniority and representation, and influenced by nepotism, political patronage and regime interests and preferences. As a result, organisational management and leadership development have been lacking, leading to organisational ineffectiveness.”
To redress this, the panel canvassed a constitutional amendment that provides for an open, competitive and transparent process for the appointment of an IGP. The position should be widely advertised and the criteria clearly spelt out.
Interested candidates should apply through the PSC, which will screen the applications and refer all qualified candidates to the Senate for another round of screening. Then, the Senate would forward shortlisted candidates to the Police Council; and the body, which has all the State Governors as members, would make a recommendation to the president to appoint an IGP for a “five-year non-renewable term of office…in order to ensure a one-year overlap with an incoming political administration, or guarantee a three year term which will be renewable only once.”
If adopted by the powers that be, these recommendations should help Nigeria end the kind of absurdity we have witnessed in the past one week. And put over ambitious officers in check.
Shola Oshunkeye is the Founder and Lead Consultant at Omnimedia Nigeria Limited.