I have heard some very kind words said about the new Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu. And, of course, for the entire period that the last IGP, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, was in office, a load of nasty things had also been said about his character and lack of professionalism. Actually, he started his term on a controversial note by taking up a fight with his immediate predecessor, a brilliant and professional policeman, Mr. Solomon Arase. Mr. Arase, a disciplined and decent professional, had served about three IGPs as their Principal Staff Officer with a great measure of civility and merit. From that petty fight with his predecessor over vehicles, Mr. Idris moved on to establish his reputation firmly as a partisan policeman of the most despicable hue. He was actually a partisan politician in police uniform.
Idris took up a needless fight with the Police Service Commission, an institution that is set up by law to handle the appointment, promotion and discipline of all policemen in Nigeria, except the IGP. The reason for the fight was that the commission put its foot firmly down on the issue of discharging its three functions in a fair and professional manner under a decent gentleman, a former IGP, Mr. Mike Okiro. Idris preferred the mago mago way, pushing his favourites into positions of responsibility they did not deserve. The PSC, on a few occasions, rejected his recommendations for promotion, which were based on criteria other than merit.
Even an important arm of government such as the National Assembly did not receive from Mr. Idris the respect that it deserved. Three times the Senate invited him to appear before it, three times he shunned it. The Senate then moved a no-confidence vote on him and declared him “an enemy of democracy.” In retaliation, he tried to frame up the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, as an alleged sponsor of the Offa bank robbery. It did not occur to him that Nigerians have lived through the era of several partisan and unprofessional IGPs before and are able to recognise revanchism when they see it. There was nothing that was too ridiculous for him to do.
When President Muhammadu Buhari ordered Idris to relocate to Benue State in the heat of the herdsmen-farmers’ crisis, he went there for one day, made a cameo appearance and disappeared. It was for many people a mystery that, on discovery that his instruction was flouted, Buhari did not fire him. It was even, for me, a cause for wonder why there was an argument as to whether or not he should stay in office beyond the official date of his retirement. He was one of those who damaged the President’s image by showing that he could defy his instruction without any repercussion. His partisan, unprofessional behaviour definitely did incalculable harm to the image of the police and the President. Appointing him as IGP was clearly a mistake. His exit is the end of that error. Here is a policeman who was impudent enough, rude enough, uncouth enough, to call a state governor a “drowning man.”
It is obvious that every IGP always appoints a spokeman in his own image. Mr. Moshood Jimoh, the Police Public Relations Officer, was by his conduct a bad advertisement for Mr. Idris and the police. His manner of handling the protest by members of the police in Maiduguri over the non-payment of their salaries was very disgraceful. Mr. Jimoh claimed, despite the publication to the contrary by several mainstream media, that there was no protest by policemen. He lied that the policemen only went to the office to inquire about their salaries, as if the procedure in the police force demands that policemen must go every month cap-in-hand, knees on the floor, to ask for their salaries. But the least said about Idris and Jimoh the better because they served as excellent examples of what professional policemen should not be.
Why did the President not ask Idris to go on January 3 when he reached his 35th year in service? Why did he have to wait until he clocked 60 years? The rule in the public service is that an officer must retire either at the end of 35 years of service or at age 60 “whichever comes first.” So, Idris’ correct retirement date was January 3. Anything beyond that day was an illegal extension of service. President Buhari rode into power on the siren of change. He must walk that talk. When the tenure of public servants comes to an end, they must go. There must be no extension of service because no one is indispensable. To extend the service of those who have reached retirement age is a disservice to the nation because it blocks the advancement of other people still in the service. This had happened during the President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan years. It is a habit we should abort and who best can do it if not the man who came into the office with the change slogan: Buhari. The President tried to rationalise why the service of the Armed Forces chiefs has had to be extended but the explanation that you can’t change war leaders in the midst of a war is unconvincing. During the Nigerian civil war, General Yakubu Gowon tinkered with the leadership at the various war fronts and it worked for him. You may not change a winning team if it is winning but you are obliged to change a losing team. There is no excuse, strategic or tactical, not to do so.
Another bad habit of Nigerian leaders is that of picking either the Armed Forces chiefs or the police Inspector-General from a rank lower than the rank that is next to that of the incumbent. The new IGP was an Assistant Inspector-General of Police. Now he is elevated above six or so Deputy Inspectors-General of Police who may be asked to retire prematurely from the service. This is grossly unfair to the DIGs and unfair to the nation that spent a lot of money to train them. Couldn’t the President find one of the DIGs suitable for the top job? If that happened, the remaining DIGs would still feel able to do their jobs without feeling done in by imposing a subordinate on them as IGP. What I heard about the new IGP is heartwarming, so the above remarks do not refer specifically to him. I am saying this as a rule of general application for future decision makers. I am not so naïve as not to know that decisions at the level of the Armed Forces leaders and IGP are political, not just professional. But politicians who take these decisions must also look out for people in the appropriate ranks who meet the requirements of professionalism and political correctness. But in all circumstances, the overriding consideration ought to be more of professionalism and less of political correctness.
Mr. Adamu, the new boy on the block, knows that the police image was badly damaged by his predecessor. He says the police under his watch will be apolitical and professional. He says also that the police will provide a level playing ground for all politicians and parties, especially in this season of campaigns and elections. Such remarks are heartwarming and are likely to send the right signals to all policemen. However, such remarks may not sound sweet in the ears of partisan politicians who would like to use him and his policemen for their dirty jobs during the elections. He must bear in mind that his reputation and that of the police will be shredded if he takes the police into the dungeon of partisanship. Other police officers had played the partisan card before. Dr. Chris Ngige, Governor of Anambra State, was kidnapped by policemen during the Obasanjo era. Mr. Ayo Fayose, Governor of Ekiti State, was blocked last year by a senior police officer at his official residence and put under house arrest while voting was going on in the state he governed. In the rerun elections in some parts of Osun State, some voters were blocked and prevented from going out to vote by the police. Senator Dino Melaye may be seen by some people as a rascal but the ill treatment he is receiving in the hands of the police shows the police as grossly unprofessional. Mr. Melaye is by our laws innocent until a court of competent jurisdiction convicts him. His ill treatment is a very despicable show of unprofessionalism and bias by the police. This makes us, all of us, a laughing stock in the eyes of civilised people within Nigeria and outside it.
Mr. Adamu must pay special attention to SARS. That group had become the new kill-and-go gang. Their savagery is very well documented, their corruption is monumental, their extra-judicial killing must be halted. That group was initially set up to deal specifically with armed robbery. As other more serious crimes emerged, their assignment was expanded. There is the need to look into their modus operandi and ensure that they do their jobs with civilised rules of professional conduct. Yes, let them fight crime, but with established rules and acceptable best practices.
The coming elections will be the litmus test for new IGP Adamu’s professionalism. His performance during the election will tell us whether he is merely a preacher or a faithful practitioner of what he preaches.