Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari is an officer that has for about a decade, and under the command of at least five Inspectors-General, carved a niche for himself and gained a larger-than-life personality in the fight against criminals, first as Officer-in-Charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), (2010-2015) and then Commander of the IGP’s Intelligence Response Team (IGP-IRT), at the Force Headquarters, Abuja.
This is why his entanglement in very damning allegations by an infamous and glamorous Yahoo-boy, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas commonly called Hushpuppi, who is facing charges of internet fraud and money laundering in the United States, has spread like wild fire.
When the news broke on Thursday, July 29, 2021, that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI has fingered Abba Kyari in the fraud case against Hushpuppi, the Nigerian Police Force first admitted its receipt of the correspondence from the FBI and promised to investigate the allegation. In less than one week, far reaching steps have been taken by the police high command. Kyari has been suspended and a Special Investigation Panel, SIP, has been constituted headed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Force Criminal Investigation Department, Joseph Egbunike. The Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba has also gone ahead to appoint another deputy commissioner of police, Tunji Disu as the new head of IRT Unit. So far, the Police Service Commission has endorsed all actions taken by the IGP.
It is on record that in the past few years, Abba Kyari has become synonymous with any major success story of the Nigerian Police. Since his graduation from Nigerian Police Academy, Wudil, Kano in 2000, as Assistant Superintendent of Police and serving his one-year mandatory attachment at the Song Police Division under Adamawa State Police Command, the 46-year-old cop rose steadily, serving as Divisional Crime Officer, (DCO) in Numan and later as Unit Commander,14 Police Mobile Force, Yola all in Adamawa.
His posting to Lagos State Police Command as 2IC and later Officer-in-Charge of the dreaded and disbanded, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), where he served for five years, (2010-2015), brought out the best in him as a super cop who was able to mobilize men and technology in tracking high profile criminals involved in armed robbery, car theft, kidnapping, gang clashes, sea piracy and terrorism.
Indeed, it seems practically impossible to talk about any major operation to arrest a wanted kingpin or decimate, eliminate any criminal non-state actor without direct or indirect mention of Abba Kyari and his team. They were the ones who arrested high profile and notorious billionaire kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwaumadike aka Evans, most wanted Boko Haram commander, Umar Abdulmalik and eight other terrorist gang members; captured 22 terrorists responsible for the kidnap of Chibok school girls in 2014, the rescue of Magajin Garin Daura from kidnappers in Kano among others.
It is Kyari’s outstanding performance that earned him national and international recognition, perhaps, unequalled in the history of the Nigerian Police.
Also in public domain, are series of awards and commendations that the super cop received for his policing style and gallantry. From the National Assembly to Nigerian Police Force to major media organizations, socio-cultural groups, student organizations, Kyari is today one of the most decorated police officers in Nigerian history. Some of these awards include: Presidential Medal for Courage from President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016; House of Representatives Award for Gallantry, triple IGP Commendation Medal for Courage (2012, 2013, 2014), Triple Lagos State Governor’s Award for Gallantry, Leadership and Service Excellence (2011, 2012, 2013), Best Police Officer of the Decade among others.
In a country yearning for role models and heroes, Kyari became the rallying point of young and old, men and women, and invariably attracted cult-following from Nigerians across the nation. With a police bedeviled with negative public perception and trust deficit, Kyari turned out to be the poster boy and face of result-oriented Nigerian Police.
Expectedly, being a super cop in the age of social media, it was also easy for millions of Nigerians to connect with Kyari on the virtual space through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram among other social media platforms.
But as Kyari basked in the euphoria of his status, many Nigerians, including yours sincerely, had qualms about the negative impact and likely consequences of his over exposure on media – especially the social media space. He gained prominence for his patriotic commitment and exemplary show of bravery, but was unable to draw a line between his role as a super cop, which requires discretion, as opposed to being a celebrity and hero on social media. The buzz around him on social media does not fit the profile of a super cop, but that of a celebrity, an actor or actress, or anyone in the entertainment industry.
I find it strange that an officer heading a special unit – and in the age of unconventional warfare when the enemy is among the people and also uses social media as a battle space – would see nothing wrong with posting his pictures and those of his team members during operations. It is also surprising that Kyari had no qualms sharing pictures of his immediate and extended family members on social media; or being seen in company of people who consider publicity as the oil that lubricates their brands. But the system he served, the Nigerian Police Force, should have called him to order.
Examples abound of many officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces, whose heroic performance at various operations at home and abroad, were not known to the public until they paid the supreme price. There are many military officers and men who showed uncommon gallantry and bravery and never personalized their achievements. For example, late Brigadier General Maxwell Khobe, served four tours of duty in Liberia and won ECOMOG Liberia medal for each one (He was also Nigerian Commander of ECOMOG Peace Keeping Force in Sierra Leone and later the country’s Chief of Defence Staff) ; late Lieutenant Colonel Abu-Ali; Colonel DC Bako (promoted posthumously in 2020); late Captain MM Hassan among others won Chief of Army Staff Commendation Award for gallantry, but never made personal effort to promote themselves in the traditional and social media.
There have been instances when soldiers of the Nigerian Armed Forces were called to order when the military high command discovered they have crossed the red line. Indeed, I reliably gathered that a senior officer in Nigerian Army lost his command for over-celebrating the Chief of Army Staff Award in 2019. Just recently, I gathered that Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo, Alfa Jet fighter pilot was called to order by the Defence authority when he almost got carried away by his heroic escape from an unsecured ground.
Kyari is a promising officer who is still just transiting from tactical command to operational command of the service and would have been saved from himself long ago.
Whatever the outcome of the investigation, for me and indeed many Nigerians, the Police as an institution should be blamed for not protecting Abba Kyari from himself for too long. As has been noted already by many pundits, for allowing the super cop to act like a celebrity, rather than the police officer that he is, the Nigerian Police deliberately cut short the promising career of a future inspector general.
Beyond the Hushpuppi saga therefore, Nigeria and Nigerians must draw the right lessons: that it is not and should not be every issue that is viewed from the prism of politics or religion.
More importantly, leaders in all arms of government and within security circles should realize that when it is time for hard decisions to be taken on any public servant regardless of his status, national interest must be the uppermost consideration.
Additionally, it should also be noted that in a democracy, there is civilian control of the security apparatus, which means that certain decision is squarely the responsibility of political leadership. And here, I don’t mean the President and Commander-in-Chief alone- in this case, there is the Minister of Police Affairs, Chairman Police Service Commission (the current Chairman, Alhaji Musliu Smith is a retired Inspector General of Police) and the IGP, who are all political appointees of the president as well as member of the National Assembly, particularly Senate and House Committees on Police Affairs.
And ultimately at the highest level of National security in Nigeria, is National Security Council that have many members who should be able to comment to the right quarters (it is possible that some members may have made observations at the right quarters)when things are going wrong.
It is my sincere hope that a puppy’s ruse should not be the end of the brilliant career of an illustrious policeman, whose greater exploits we still wish to see.