Friday, August 6, 2021 10:09 am
By Semiu Okanlawon
First, let me express pity for Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari. He came into our collective psyche as a “super cop” doing the yeoman’s job in a policing system that we all consider bedevilled by rot.
It is often said that when the Nigerian police want to work, burst crimes, they do with speed and precision. Abba Kyari has come to symbolise and epitomize that rare confidence and doggedness in crime bursting. He is the hero, the myth that is drafted into most knotty cases from Gusau to Enugu, Ibadan to Uyo, Zaria to Aba, Ogoja to Nguru.
His panache has been thrust on us as the type of policeman we need; the one that would reject $2million from the notorious kidnapper, Evans. The one that would turn down $900,000 offered by the owners after the recovery of a stolen Bureau de Change’s $1.8million which also had a bank official as an accomplice.
So, no country would want to be in a hurry to throw under the bus or celebrate the fall of such a guy who Femi Fani-Kayode celebrated as “A super cop that has risked his life protecting us from kidnappers, murderers and terrorists all these years and that has arrested more criminals than any other.”
Honestly, very few would dismiss Fani-Kayode’s accolades because Kyari’s exploits, until this bubble, were marvellous in our estimation.
Sadly, the more we struggle to disbelieve, the more helpless we become in the face of the choking stench of revelations by the United States court where Nigeria’s notorious Internet fraudster, Ramon Abbas (Hushpuppi) is having his days after his empire of crime was busted in June last year.
Now that Hushpuppi has pleaded guilty to the charges against him; made a deal with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to divulge critical information on his gang’s modus operandi; co-conspirators and all that, we are being told that the cop we all love to celebrate as a good example out of the many is the real deal guy; seems like a security backup for the nefarious activities of Hushpuppi, his accomplices and possibly a whole clan of yet-to-be-named gangsters who know their ways to the vaults through the internet.
Oh! How we wish in the end that these are not so and that Kyari by some elements, can sail through without sinking! But that, as many would say now, appears to be some extreme kind of optimism. Things are not looking good for our man.
The debate became inevitable a few weeks ago when Kyari showed up at Oba, Anambra State where money was celebrated and adored by those who have it in abundance and in different denominations.
No one denies a public officer’s right to private life, personal enjoyments and engagements. But then, the obscenity on display at the burial of Obi Cubana’s mother could not have been the type of entertainment a nation’s most celebrated crime bursting king should want to be identified with.
It is not for nothing that public officers such as those in the Judiciary, police are confined to some kind of conservative lifestyle. Not that those who sit in judgments in courts do not desire some level of social life and entertainment. However, the weight of the imposed duties that they carry often make such impossible unless they want to continually fall prey to the conflicts that must necessarily arise from such relationships, exposures and social engagements.
A magistrate friend recently narrated how she encountered, at a shopping mall, an accused person over whose case she once presided. She told me how the encounter turned out to be a threatening one that suddenly reminded her of the real reasons judicial officers of her category must be carefully selective how they mingle and interact with the rest of the society.
For such categories of public officers, there are always very high possibilities of conflicts of interest that are capable of standing in the ways of fairness in the discharge of their duties.
Now, you don’t need a lie detector to conclude that there is more to the relationship between Kyari and Hushpuppi that is being suggested.
I have asked this question elsewhere. Would Kyari have left a suspect off the hook on the strength of an explanation, the type of that he presented through his social media account while trying to rationalize his relationship with Hushpuppi?
One would have expected a more robust, fact-filled and straight explanation of whatever links he had with the notorious fraudster. Indeed, some are of the opinion that the explanation Kyari offered did more damage to him and further exposed certain hidden agendas, with the conclusion that his silence would have been more helpful in the present circumstance.
Kyari claimed that Hushpuppi called his office two years ago to lodge a complaint of a threat to wipe out his family in Nigeria. And he wants us to believe that this was the genesis of the relationship?
Eagle-eyed social media users have accused him of editing his post on Facebook about 12 times. What would he have done to a suspect whose statements keep changing at the police station counter? Inconsistency, investigators are quick to tell us, is one of the signs of a guilty conscience.
If our celebrated cop claimed that Hushpuppi called his office two years ago, we must be quick to remind him that the internet fraudster had become notorious well enough more than two years ago for Kyari not to know this was a character to be kept at arm’s length by even ordinary citizens and to be trailed, tracked and brought to justice by him, as a law officer.
I once read Kyari in an interview where he said, “We don’t just rush people. We must gather enough evidence before swooping on them.”
It does appear that in this case, America’s Federal Bureau of Investigations seems to have done the same on him. It did not rush him. It gathered enough evidence before now swooping on him to warrant this extradition request from the United States.
The Hushpuppis of this world are the very targets of his office as the Commander of the Police Intelligence Response Team. Kyari, using his own words, should have “gathered enough evidence before swooping on them” instead of linking his native fashion designer with a man whose penchant for Gucci luxuries are more than legendary.
And why do I share some sympathy with him? Like many other grass-to-grace stories, he has a beautiful story to tell; the sort of story which would make you fall in love with him, especially with the breakthroughs he has recorded in Nigeria’s convoluted security system.
In the police force with a low rating, he naturally comes across as a hero in the face of many bungled and compromised investigations. As stated above in this piece, Nigerians know that competence is not really the issue in the country’s policing system. It is the political will; the sense of duty and fairness to do the right thing no matter whose ox is gored that is at the heart of many unresolved murders and other criminal cases.
It is also an open secret that the cult of crimes in Nigeria and elsewhere is often backed by compromised officials who serve as ears and eyes within the law enforcement agencies and are quick to play the moles and tip-off when dangers are coming.
On his appearance at the Oba extravagance, someone had asked if those heavily moneyed young men had any other thing to fear in the law with well-known security personnel of Kyari’s status in their midst.
Kyari, coming from a large polygamous family, supported his quest for education by riding a commercial motorcycle (okada) as a secondary school student and even up till his undergraduate days.
In love with being a detective from childhood, he once told a newspaper how he emerged the family detective who knew how to navigate his ways to detecting the guilty even among family members.
This was the zeal he took to the police at age 24 while completing his National Youth Service Scheme and was posted to Adamawa State where he first served as a police officer.
He has not done badly for himself. Some would even argue he appears more celebrated than the Inspector General of Police. With his exploits in Lagos as Officer in Charge of Special Ant-Robbery Squad (SARS), the fear of Kyari was the beginning of wisdom among Lagos criminals.
Who would not love his gallantry? Last year in the heat of the endless kidnappings along the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway, Kyari entered the bush and smoked out many from their hideouts in an onslaught that temporarily got the kidnappers retreating from that route.
But now, hasn’t the Hushpuppi saga tainted his records of previous arrests? With the wind blowing up the rump of the hen, are we sure that there have not been cases of selective punishments on the grounds of who had more dollars to pay?
But one thing is clear. This promises to throw up more surprises as we all wait for how the episodes unfold.
*Semiu Okanlawon. +234-1-8023139893