“Have you ever heard how they catch monkeys in Brazil, Julie? Let me tell you. They put a nut in a bottle and tie the bottle to a tree. The monkey grasps the nut, but the neck of the bottle is too narrow for the monkey to withdraw its paw and the nut. You would think the monkey would let go of the nut and escape, wouldn’t you? But it never does. It is so greedy it never releases the nut and is always captured. Remember that story, Julie. Greed is a dangerous thing. If you give way to it, sooner or later you will be caught.”
Readers of this page are aware that I am a huge fan of the late British novelist Rene Brabazon Raymond, best known by his pseudonym James Hadley Chase. The foregoing was lifted from one of his novels, ‘The Paw in the Bottle’. The central character, eight-year-old Julie Holland, refused to heed the warning of the lenient judge in a story that ended tragically. To borrow from another Chase cliché, that is usually the way the cookie crumbles, especially for those who elevate greed above cherished principles.
Anybody who has read the National Law Drug Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Police statements regarding the suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Abba Kyari must come to certain conclusions. The way a supposedly ‘Super Cop’ walked into an elementary entrapment is indeed very telling. One would imagine that someone who was already a subject of investigation and indictment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would be circumspect in his dealings. But greed has not only upended Kyari’s career, it has also exposed the rot within the security/law enforcement institutions in Nigeria.
Let’s be clear. In other societies, Abba Kyari would have long been released from the Force to pursue vocations where his talents were more suited: Tailoring, muscleman, showbiz etc. He was certainly not suited for law enforcement. While heading the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Kyari built a reputation for both corruption and gross human rights violations. But a well-oiled media machine and high connections within the police hierarchy and political establishment made Kyari untouchable, despite numerous allegations of impropriety against him. In 2019, both the National Human Rights Commission (a federal government agency) and Amnesty International accused Kyari and the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) he then led of illegal expropriation of proceeds of crime to the tune of hundreds of millions of Naira.
The allegations were casually dismissed by the police.
Such was Abba Kyari’s seeming invincibility that he could even wave off damning details from the FBI about how he was allegedly recruited and paid by an internet fraudster to deal with an opponent. In fact, his response at the time was to post a screenshot from someone else’s social media platform which quoted a lady as saying, ‘Abba Kyari arrested me, didn’t charge me to court but kept me to himself’. And below it, he inserted this message: ‘Hahahahaha. This is the funniest One so far, we are enjoying the Show.’
It is safe to conclude that this tragic saga may finally be coming to a grand denouement. But the fact that an officer publicly displayed as a model to his peers (having received accolades from the House of Representatives among others) is no more than a ‘super crook’ raises questions about our country. Even before this drug scandal, the import of the ‘419’ charge for which Kyari is wanted in the United States can be drawn from the damning Department of Justice (DoJ) statement in June 2020. It read, “Foreign citizens perpetrate many BEC (Business Email Compromise) scams. Those individuals are often members of transnational criminal organizations, which originated in Nigeria but have spread throughout the world.” To now add the fact that our most decorated police officer may also be a scammer and drug dealer can only compound our image problem.
While the link between law enforcement and criminal kingpins has always been hazy in Nigeria, this saga may have connected the dots. Police authorities who allowed a suspended officer to remain ‘on active duty’ are fighting back in a manner that exposes the dirty linen of law enforcement in Nigeria. The import of the Police statement is that if Kyari had not moved against the two drug smugglers reportedly cleared by NDLEA officials, we probably would never have heard these sordid tales. And for effect, the Police added that their “investigation also established that the international narcotics cartel involved in this case have strong ties with some officers of the NDLEA who are on their pay roll.”
What the exchange between the Police and NDLEA suggests is that we have unwittingly created a situation in which many of our law enforcement personnel are no better than mercenaries for hire. Nothing better exemplifies this situation than what happened in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, on Tuesday. Although media focus is on the shocking outburst from the Interior Minister, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola against his erstwhile political godfather, the real scandal is the role of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and Police in the breakdown of law and order during the minister’s visit. Personnel of these two federal institutions expected to keep public peace have obviously taken sides with politicians, given the statements released by their spokesmen. It is this sort of privatization (and politicisation) of security and the corruption it breeds that has foisted on us the DCP Abba Kyaris of this world. It has also engendered a situation in which Nigeria finds itself in the vice grip of criminal warlords.
While the Abba Kyari drama is still on, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) reportedly secured from court the final forfeiture of proceeds of corruption from a military officer. “The 24 property scattered across Kano, Kaduna, Borno and Cross River States, comprise land, shopping complex, gas station and fuel stations cumulatively valued at N10,935,000,000,” according to the EFCC. Yet this military officer with such ill-gotten wealth running into millions of dollars has no name! This is, of course, a story for another day.
Meanwhile, such is the level of cynicism in the country that social media is replete with stories that the entire NDLEA expose is contrived to give Abba Kyari a ‘free pass’ so as not to be extradited to the United States. That people believe such a ridiculous proposition depicts a level of distrust harmful to any society. Abba Kyari was originally declared wanted in the United States for internet fraud, and I am sure the Americans will be even more desperate to get him. As someone who once headed the police anti-robbery and anti-kidnapping units, he must know a lot about such crimes. And given his alleged involvement in internet scams and now drug dealing, that makes him a human asset American Intelligence would love to get hold of, to mine information.
I hope President Muhammadu Buhari will see that this matter is beyond the career of one man. He must take special interest in how the investigations proceed as well as the request by the United States. The tragic Abba Kyari saga is at the root of law and order in Nigeria and has international ramifications.
Atiku and the Zoning Cross
Against the backdrop of the clamour in certain quarters that the next president should come from the southern part of the country, the disputation on (presidential) zoning by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has continued to generate controversy. Speaking at a meeting with supporters recently in Abuja, Atiku (who is seeking the ticket of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party) said: “Fundamentally, the Constitution says all of us can run. The Constitution has not barred any one of us. There is no zoning in the Constitution; there is none.”
On the face value, it is difficult to fault Atiku because there is indeed nothing in the law or for that matter convention that precludes anybody from seeking the presidency of Nigeria. The crux of the matter is whether Atiku is speaking in good faith. On 21st November 2010, the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) led by the late Mallam Adamu Ciroma settled for Atiku as the consensus candidate from the region to fly the flag of the then ruling PDP. The committee met with all Northern contenders, including General Ibrahim Babangida and Dr Bukola Saraki. Their mandate was to prune the list to one. Once Atiku was endorsed, the others were asked to withdraw, and they obeyed. The argument at the time was that the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had left a vacuum that only a northerner could fill.
In accepting the ‘northern mandate’ and leading a campaign for then incumbent President Jonathan to shelve his bid to contest, Atiku said: “The unity of this country, equity and justice require that existing agreements freely entered into by individuals and groups be respected…We are a diverse people who recognized early in our history that national unity, fairness and equity require that we share positions of power among our diverse peoples. That is what we call zoning/rotation of public offices.”
I admire Atiku’s sagacity as a politician who is at home across the country, and I subscribe to the view that nothing stops him from seeking the presidency. I also believe that the times we are in demand that we seek the best possible hands to run our affairs regardless of where they come from or what faith they profess. But Atiku seems to suffer from a crisis of message every time he runs for presidency. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with zoning even when I am also aware that the current clamour by most southern politicians is hypocritical and dishonest. If they mean what they are saying, the clamour should be zone-specific: The presidency should go to the Southeast, just as the military did for the Southwest, albeit with a sleight of hand, in 1999.
Overall, I agree with Atiku that in 2023 we need a president who can untangle the multitude of problems we face in the country. I also agree that attempting to stop Atiku on grounds of ethnicity, sectionalism or religion is not only illegal but antithetical to the equity we seek to promote. But Atiku should also understand that when politicians pick and choose where they stand on issues based on expediency rather than principle, they inevitably run into trouble. It is the self-serving card Atiku dealt President Jonathan 12 years ago that has now come back to haunt him.
Adieu Magajin Garin
It was less than three weeks ago (on 30th January to be precise) when I held him from the back, hiding behind his huge frame to see whether he would recognise me. When he began struggling to free himself, I said, “why don’t you just guess who I am?” He laughed and said, “Segun, you have just given yourself away.” It was therefore with shock that I learnt last Saturday that Hassan Dambaba, the Magajin Garin of Sokoto had passed away. Hassan was a jolly good fellow. May God comfort his family and grant him eternal rest.
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