By Omosile Ola
When news began to filter in that the immediate past Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim was on the way out of office one question that immediately came to mind. Who succeeds Ringim?
This question came to mind because right now, if one is asked to name the most challenging job on earth, being Nigeria’s number one cop fits the bill. What with the armed insurrection of extremist group, Boko Haram killing people in the north, a couple of months back in the days leading to Christmas robbers shut down the economy of the South-West as banks have to literarily close shop following sustained attacks. The story in the east is not too different with instances of robberies spiced with kidnappings making the area life threatening. Add the battered image of the police, which has not been helped by increasing cases of extra judicial killings, and you have the stuff nightmares are made of when thinking about jobs and the challenges that come with them.
The announcement of Alhaji Mohammed Dikko Abubakar (better known as MD Abubakar) as the Acting Inspector General of Police has however acted to lift the pall that descends on one’s mind while contemplating the security woes of Nigeria as the new police helmsman holds a bright ray of hope. A look at President Goodluck Jonathan’s choice for this difficult task shows that significant efforts must have gone into the consideration of who steps into this office at this time of Nigeria’s history.
MD Abubakar hails from Gusau Local Government Area of Zamfara State was born on May 5, 1958. His first stint with law enforcement was when he joined the Nigeria Police Force as a Cadet Inspector on August 1, 1979. The new police boss, who holds a Diploma in Administration and Criminology, served meritoriously in various capacities as Assistant Commissioner of Police, State CID, Sokoto Police Command; Assistant Commissioner of Police, Federal Operations, Force Headquarters, Lagos; and Assistant Commissioner of Police, Airport Police Command (MMIA), Lagos.
One quote I got from a search I conducted online reads “The Acting IG is a committed Crime Fighter (Operational Man) who served as Deputy Commissioner of Police (Administration), Lagos State Police Command. On his elevation to the position of Commissioner of Police, he served as a substantive Commissioner of Police in charge of many Police Commands across the Federation. Some of these are: Plateau, Abia, Kwara, Kano, Airport and Lagos State Police Commands. Abubakar, while a Police Commissioner in Lagos, was in the habit of paying surprise visits to Commands and Divisional Headquarters at very odd hours. He was also noted for patrolling the city at nights in unofficial vehicles. Sometimes, he disguised himself to be able to catch his men in the act.
Ag. IGP Abubakar
An amiable and intelligent officer, he was promoted to the rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) and he subsequently became the AIG in charge of Zone 2, comprising Lagos and Ogun States. He was also the AIG Zone 5, Benin, comprising of Edo, Delta and Bayelsa States. He was later posted to Zone 6, comprising Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Ebonyi States.” End of quote.
Of course my search on him also returned the not so pleasant White Paper from Plateau state, but the logic I will adopt here is that if he really did something wrong in that state, the Federal Government and the Presidency would have had a rethink about his appointment. We are talking here about a man who stood his grounds in Kano state and refused to let the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rig an election in the era of do or die politics under former President, Olusegun Obasanjo. There is a school of thought within the police that Abubakar’s deployment to Airport Command in Lagos was some form of punishment for his outing in Kano.
The forgoing no doubts explains the “No Nonsense” tag one of the dailies used in its headline to announce MD Abubakar’s appointment just as it also offered explanation to the respect which borders on reverence accorded this man within the police. Also interesting is the humorous yet true remark I heard at a news stand when one man quipped “This man certainly falls in the category of the few IGs without pot belly.” Some people around the stand went on to argue about how having such figure has connections with being disciplined.
The credentials of MD Abubakar suggest his type is what is needed at a time like this given the security challenges identified earlier. The credentials and his no nonsense attitude are however just one side of a complex equation that Nigeria’s security challenge has become. MD Abubakar or any other IGP for that matter will succeed in tackling the problems in Nigeria only if he gets the support of the president and the co-operation of Nigerians, particularly the influential and highly placed ones.
Scenarios where law enforcement agencies arrest suspects, investigate and indict them only for the government or other top shots to step him to prevent prosecution is not in the interest of finding a lasting solution to the problems in the country. If at all these people must step into these cases-regarding terrorism-they should do so by ensuring fair trial and respect for the rights and dignity guaranteed individuals by law and leave the police to do its work.
President Goodluck Jonathan should resist the temptation of the past where the IGP is basically reduced to a card carrying member of the PDP if one were to judge by the utterances and directive emanating from the desk of those who have held that office. Some IGPs spend more time in the waiting room of the President on standby to receive instructions than they spend brainstorming on how to fight crime. Funding of the police should also not be tied to the willingness of the IGP to play ball. Such development had only served to wipe out the credibility these people came into office with-a situation Nigeria can ill afford at this time.
On his part, the Acting IGP must realize that a new Nigeria where the people know their rights and ask for them is emerging and that in the long term he holds the office of number one cop in trust for Nigerians. While his appointment came from the presidency, it is the citizens who would eventually write his report card under the emerging trend. He is the IGP for Nigeria and not for one political party or the other and he must make the men who answer to him to also realize this.
The police helmsman must also bring an end to the era of extra judicial killings, the use of torture to extract information, arbitrary detention, cash for bail, proxy arrests/detention, implicating of genuine informants, abuse of fire arms and police uniform, policemen becoming guns for hire and a host of other actions that debase the force. These shortcomings of the police look insignificant compared to the threat posed by Boko Haram, but these ‘little’ things are greatly responsible for Nigerians’ loss of confidence in the force with the resultant implication that they mostly do not oblige the police with information that would help combat insurgency, robberies and kidnappings.
Today we face unique challenges as a nation, the presidency, the federal government and Nigerians must help address these challenges. They should allow the Acting IGP do his work by giving him a free hand and necessary support. If MD Abubakar fails, he fails as a man but Nigeria would have further slipped into trouble.