Opinion: Lest We Forget – 7 Lessons From Abba Kyari, Hushpuppi & The FBI – By Victor Anazonwu
If a poll was conducted today, a good many Nigerians may not remember who exactly Abba Kyari is. Many more will not care. Many many more would not insist that he faces justice to either clear his name or serve punishment. Time ravages the Nigerian memory.
If Nigerians individually forget often, Nigeria as a nation suffers spectacularly from collective amnesia. It takes only the next breaking news for everyone to ignore the tragedy of yesterday and focus almost exclusively on the events of today. Vital lessons are thus lost in an orgy of endless public debates that go nowhere.
And so I decided, before the Abba Kyari-Hushpuppy-FBI saga fades into familiar oblivion, to extract a few lessons – hopefully for our collective upliftment:
1. Policing is a job for smart, patient & painstaking men and women.
Not brash, brainless, gun-toting brutes in uniform. For a few years, the FBI carefully, secretly and methodically followed the activities of the con artist popularly called Hushpuppi. When they openly went after him, there was no escape. They had done their homework according to the law and legitimately hauled him away.
Even after netting him, they meticulously unraveled his game and his links. As everyone knows, criminals almost never work alone. After gathering good evidence, they began spreading the dragnet on all those criminally connected with him. And on any door they knocked, there was genuine trepidation because they had done their homework.
2. The Nigeria Police Force rarely operates with the globally-acclaimed policing templates.
There is neither the discipline nor orientation to follow a case silently, professionally and patiently. Our policemen simply go in a truck to arrest suspects and innocents alike. Everyone in the vicinity of a crime or suspected criminal is in deep trouble – including babies and the unborn. Our police parade all they can lay their hands on in front of TV cameras and news reporters. By this act of media trial, suspects are presumed guilty even before trial! It would probably be the last you hear of it.
Thereafter,”suspects” are thrown into detention and their relatives hounded until they part with various sums of money to buy back their freedom or let them die in detention.
Thorough investigation is a luxury. Real evidence is hardly ever gathered. Of course, cases very rarely proceed to court. If they do, they almost always falls flat on their faces due to lack of diligent prosecution. If a case proceeds expeditiously, it is almost certainly because someone is paying dearly for it behind the scenes. You can say that both justice and injustice come at a very high price in Nigeria.
3. Many are needlessly killed, maimed or otherwise wasted in the process called “police investigation.”
In these parts, crime cases are hardly ever conclusively solved. Real criminals are rarey apprehended (except when they have no more money to buy their freedom with). And genuine lessons are rarely learnt and disseminated for public enlightenment and safety. Our society has totally lost confidence in those recruited, paid and equipped to protect it.
4. Police work does not start and end with arresting suspects and criminals.
It actually starts at that point in most cases. It continues with proper investigations; the diligent trial or prosecution of all those with a hand in the crime – not just the prime suspects; the freeing of all innocents and the sentencing of the guilty.
Here, our police force lacks the appetite to go beyond the surface and get to the root of most crimes. Especially if the rich and influential are at the receiving end. Our officers prefer to sacrifice the street urchins and spare the barons behind their crimes. This is a recipe for endless cycles of crime.
5. Law enforcement officers are themselves not above the law.
They are even more wholesomely under the law which they espouse and are forsworn to protect. This is a universal principle that is nevertheless strange in these climes. Here, the police uniform is a license to commit even the most heinous of crimes. “I will waste you and nothing will happen” is a statement most Nigerians are familiar with. Especially those who regularly ply the roads or have had the courage to ask questions in the face of flagrant power abuse. How sad!
6. Law enforcement work is by nature among the conservative professions.
Just like being a teacher or judge. It is not suitably done under the klieg lights and in front of media cameras and microphones. It is best done away from public view by humble, diligent people whose only wish is to rid society of crime and see justice done. Those who crave a life in front of cameras and blinking lights will do well to join the movie or music industries where their talents would be better appreciated. They are misfits in the world of crime fighting.
7. What goes around comes around.
The hunter will one day be hunted. The man or woman of authority today will someday become an ordinary citizen, under the authority of others. The men in uniform who today go around with guns and security convoys shall someday adorn only their pajamas and walking sticks. That is, if they live long enough.
Therefore, it is wise to wield power and influence lightly, humbly, professionally and with the fear of God. This point is often missed in the giddiness of office, starched uniforms and influence, to our peril. Those who have ears let them hear.
– Victor Anazonwu, a journalist and author, writes from Lagos