Former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu was replaced last Tuesday while on official assignment in Owerri, Imo State, inspecting the damage done to the Police Command Headquarters by arsonists and unknown gunmen. He was to retire last February but was granted a three-month extension by the president in controversial circumstances described by the Police Affairs minister, Muhammadu Dingyadi, as an opportunity for the presidency to carry out a ‘robust’ succession plan. That plan came to a brutal and abrupt end on Tuesday as Mr Adamu inspected the burnt Imo police headquarters. But basking in the tenure extension granted him in February, the former IGP had told the Federal High Court, Abuja, hearing a suit filed by Maxwell Opara challenging the extension, that in fact his tenure could be interpreted to lapse either in 2023 or 2024 in line with the Nigeria Police Act 2020.
Mr Opara, an Abuja-based lawyer, had on February 3 sued the president, the former IGP, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), and the Nigeria Police Council (NPC) over the extension. In their joint response, both the president and AGF had also argued that the Police Act appeared to grant the IGP tenure extension till either 2023 or 2024. On February 5, Mr Dingyadi had also implausibly defended the extension by expansively interpreting the Police Act. As he put it, “Mr President has decided that the present IGP, Mohammed Adamu, will continue to serve as the IG for the next three months, to allow for a robust and efficient process of appointing a new IG. This is not unconnected to the desire of Mr President to not only have a smooth handover but to also ensure that the right officer is appointed into that position. Mr President is extending by three months to allow him to get into the process of appointing a new one…”
A little over two months into the extension, however, Mr Adamu’s stay in office was rudely terminated in a most demeaning fashion. He was on official assignment in Imo State when a new IGP, Usman Alkali Baba, was appointed. What went wrong for Mr Adamu that he was not spared the embarrassment of being replaced while on official assignment? Mr Dingyadi’s explanation is not convincing. According to him, the replacement process was simply completed. But that does not explain the indecent haste, nor why the three months extension could not even be honoured. When Mr Adamu got his extension, it was roughly the same time the service chiefs were replaced and made ambassadors. Had he got a similar soft landing, it would have been honourable. Had the three-month extension been honoured, his dignity would also have been preserved. But in any case, the least of his expectations was the three-month extension; he was in fact scheming for 2023 or 2024. His backers had apparently assured him of a continuous stay in office.
Neither Mr Adamu nor the former service chiefs were, in the estimation of Nigerians, as effective as the country desired, nor quite what the country needed to adequately respond to mounting security challenges. It would have been more dignified had the former IGP honourably retired in order to spare himself the ordeal and humiliation that ended his service. He will probably now require many months, if not years, to live down the humiliation. In the alternative, he should also have lobbied for ambassadorial posting, a largesse inconsiderately dispensed to the service chiefs by the presidency as if a nation of 200 million people was their private estate.
The humiliation of the former IGP is a clear reflection of the power play and intrigues that characterise the presidency, as cabals and powerful individuals jostle for influence and position themselves for the 2023 presidential election. As the Buhari administration cowered in its first few months behind ethnic shield, it was obvious it had no desire to placate the ancien regime of electoral and administrative powers in the country. Mr Adamu’s three month tenure extension was probably a preparation for a lengthier extension pursuant to the Police Act. In Mr Adamu’s humiliating fall, somebody or a cabal in the corridors of power obviously lost out. They will of course not give up, and may seek out new alliances. The new IGP’s backers may not be immediately known to the public, but they are there in the corridors of power pulling strings and pulling their weight. The consolation is that the dynamics of the power play that enthroned the new IGP will not stay hidden for too long.
It is, however, difficult to say that lessons have been learnt. Once in office, especially with the impunity and imperiousness that accompany key offices in Nigeria, their occupants are less likely to respect the rules, obey the constitution, reject any ploy to use them for nefarious individual or group goals, and are unprepared to relinquish power either as a protest or at the end of a tenure. It is a culture that is alien to Nigeria. But much more, having made a habit of playing intrigues as their directive principles of state policy, members of the Buhari administration will not stop the game of thrones until 2023. Mr Adamu was just collateral damage. Worse damage should be expected in the months ahead.
It is not clear where he got his figures, but former head of state Abdulsalami Abubakar filled Nigerians with dread when he disclosed that about six million weapons of all kinds were in the wrong hands. Millions had been displaced, and some 80,000 people killed as a result, he lamented. Gen Abubakar, who is also the chairman of the National Peace Committee (NPC), disclosed these facts during a dialogue session between the NPC and stakeholders. The likelihood of the weapons being retrieved from those wrong hands is remote, and stanching the flow of blood, at least in the short run, is also far-fetched. The government at all levels will have to think and strategise their way out of the quagmire.
But how to remedy what has clearly grown into a national crisis is proving even more complicated than ever. Indications of the national dissonance in resolving this crisis appeared during the 2nd Annual Colloquium of the Sultan Maccido Institute for Peace, Leadership and Development Studies held at the University of Abuja last Wednesday. While Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State advised his governor colleagues to establish Amotekun-like outfits to combat insecurity and restore peace in their states, the conservative Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, who is also the chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum, suggested that strengthening the police was a better way to approach the crisis. His Southeast Governors’ Forum counterpart, the vacillating Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State deferred his diagnosis to when his region’s governors would deliberate on the matter. In short opinion is split among the governors, from North to South.
The federal government has never been sure what to do, even though in its hands the crisis has festered badly and is proving even more intractable. The country teeters on the brink, and old, unworkable methods, not to say infantile appreciation of the issues surrounding insecurity, have not worked. Until revolutionary methods are embraced, and until they have a better and deeper understanding of insecurity in Nigeria, the country will continue its relentless march downhill. The governors may not agree what to do; what is, however, not an option is the paralysis that has engulfed the federal government, and its deliberate and exasperating inertia in the face of increasing and more violent and audacious threat to the peace of the country. The problem is finding the people who have the ear of the president to spell it out to him that his options are shrinking.