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Of drowning men and national security - Reuben Abati

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Jimoh Moshood, the current Police Public Relations officer in Abuja is probably the most unprofessional occupier of that office since 1999.  His lack of professionalism and ready capacity to perpetually say the wrong thing at the right time is the reason why he should be relieved forthwith of that important position.  He obviously loves the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris more than Ibrahim Idris loves himself.  When subordinates are sworn to that kind of oath of sycophancy, they do more harm than good.

 

So it is with Jimoh Moshood who went on Channels Television this week to declare that the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom is a “drowning man”.  Governor Ortom’s offence is that after the initial killing of 73 Benue citizens by criminal herdsmen, followed by more killings by rampaging herdsmen in other states – Taraba, Adamawa, Ondo etc., the Governor had accused the Federal Government of lack of interest in the welfare and security of the people of Benue State.  Ortom apparently called on Abuja for help.  He got no quality response.

 

It is now a matter of public record and one of the reasons for the growing objection to the present administration that rather than address the criminality and the impunity of herdsmen, killing farmers and destroying communities, the Federal Government took the curious position of insisting that herdsmen, even when they kill should be accommodated. The Inspector General of Police, who had previously raised questions about his own style in the Senator Isa Misau case, simply dismissed what had been declared an act of genocide against Christians and farmers as a “communal crisis”.  He was later ordered by President Buhari who had himself been accused of negligence in the herdsmen/farmers conflict to relocate to Benue state and put an end to the killings. Idris made a cameo appearance but the Governor was not impressed. The attacks continued, right in the presence of the police. In one sorry instance, a police officer announced that they could not arrest the killer-herdsmen, but that the matter would be addressed later.

 

I know Samuel Ortom. He was a Minister in the Goodluck Jonathan administration (2010- 2015).  He served as Minister of State for Industry, Trade, and Investment and for a brief period, as Supervising Minister for Aviation.  He was one of the very quiet ones at Council meetings. Even when he acted occasionally as substantive Minister, or made presentations on behalf of Minister Segun Aganga, he did so quietly and so modestly without struggling to seize the stage. The whispering campaign about him was that he actually started his career as a motor park tout, who later became a professional driver in the same park, and who eventually sent himself to school and developed himself to the level of a Master’s degree from Benue State University.  You can’t truly know a person’s worth until you give them opportunities. As the Peoples Democratic Party imploded in 2015, Ortom joined the All Progressives Congress. He ran the race for Governor of his home state Benue, as an APC candidate and won, thus becoming Governor.

 

In this new role, Ortom has shown a depth of character, a high level of confidence and such capacity previously unseen. This much was tested when Fulani herdsmen overran over 23 villages and constituencies in his state. Ortom stood up, spoke out, and drew international attention to the killings.  He declared, wisely, that he was elected to serve as Governor over the living, not the dead. He accused the police, the military, the Presidency and the Federal Government of condoning genocide against his people.  He took on the police in particular, and accused its leadership of negligence. He went to the Presidential Villa where he paid obeisance to the President and again pleaded for help. His situation exposes a serious flaw in the Nigerian Constitution.

 

Whereas Governors are described as the Chief Security Officers of their states, and they preside over state security meetings, they are in reality paper tigers, because they have no control over security in their states. Governors are also members of the Police Council but that body is more or less moribund. The various security units and their bosses report directly through their own bosses and headquarters to the President.  In the event of any security crisis in any part of the country, law enforcement agents have to wait for “orders from above”. Those orders are not always forthcoming in a timely fashion, and this alone has been responsible for the loss of too many innocent souls.

 

Since the current crisis began, Ortom has found the courage to condemn this anomaly. He has repeatedly reaffirmed the legal and divine parameters of good governance by insisting that the duty of a government is to ensure the security and welfare of the people. His boldness has been so unmistakable, many have wondered if he still plans to remain a member of the ruling APC. In the heat of the moment he even reached out to all prominent persons in Benue state, irrespective of their creed, faith or political affiliation to come home and come together to rescue their state.

 

The only significant response he seems to have received, is not a Presidential visit, but a churlish rebuke from the Police PRO who declared on international TV that Samuel Ortom is “a drowning man.” CSP Jimoh Moshood, the Police PRO, is a spokesperson for a public institution, a law enforcement agent and of course, he is not a political appointee. It is not part of his brief in that capacity and as a serving civil servant, to make political statements.  There are persons in Nigeria who believe that one of the biggest lies in the Nigerian public space is the declaration that the “police is your friend”.  Moshood just confirmed that, and by so doing, he put his boss on the spot!   

  

Under the watch of Ibrahim Idris as Police Inspector-General, the impression that the Nigeria Police is not “a friend of the people” has been confirmed on many occasions, resulting in what seems like widespread perplexity about the police. Ordinarily when any citizen has a problem bordering on personal safety or a breakdown of law and order such as we have in Benue, the first port of call should be the police.  Moshood calling a sitting Governor, a  “drowning man” is like a family calling on the police to rescue them from an armed robbery attack only for the police spokesperson to tell them that the police has no business with drowning people!  

 

In other societies, the police help people and save them from drowning. In Nigeria, by the police spokesperson’s logic, whoever wants to drown can jolly well drown. This is one of the many reasons life and property have become unsafe in Nigeria. It is also the reason there has been a persistent call for state police, to grant state Governors a certain level of control during emergencies and to strengthen the country’s security architecture. Samuel Ortom’s reaction in this respect is a sobering reflection of the state of the nation. On Wednesday, February 7, he replied in like mode when he said on radio that the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris is actually the “drowning man.”

 

His words: “It is the IGP that has failed to do the right thing that should be called a drowning man, it is the IGP that should resign, I am not a drowning man; I am doing what I was elected to do. Over 90 per cent of Benue people are with me. I‘m acting their script, so nobody should try to intimidate me. The IGP should resign because he has failed woefully. He doesn’t have the capacity. There are many good police officers who can take over that job and perform creditably by turning around the security architecture of this country and make things work and protect lives and property. That man has no business being IGP.”

 

Ortom added that Ibrahim Idris is “the mouthpiece of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore” – quite a straight-to-the-chin, unkind cut, but even the President has been called worse names in the unfolding saga. The pervasive opinion is that the Nigeria police now conducts itself as a branch of the Buhari campaign team. A partisan police force can only become a tool of aggression and division.  Ortom’s solution is that the people of Benue state should “defend themselves and not make themselves easy prey to be killed in their homes.” He asked them to do so by “lawful means” but how exactly can a resort to self-help be lawful especially as the Governor has told the people “not to wait for the Inspector General of Police to do it”?  Ortom’s remedy is a prescription for chaos. When Chief Security Officers in the states begin to urge their people to resort to self-help, what stronger proof do we need of the failure of the state?  

 

Ortom’s help-yourself-clarion-call is not the solution. It further compounds the problem. It is to prevent this I believe, that the House of Representatives resolved on February 7, that the Inspector General of Police should apologise to the Governor of Benue state, and that the tough-talking Police PRO should be relieved of his position. Ortom doesn’t need the IGP’s apology. He needs the IGP to act professionally and avoid politics. With the way he has conducted himself so far, not too many Governors will be comfortable with Ibrahim Idris as the IGP to oversee the 2019 elections in their states. Consider a situation whereby a Governor or the opposition runs to the Police Headquarters to complain about rigging or electoral irregularities. Would the best response from the police be: we don’t deal with drowning men!

 

By the way, is Jimoh Moshood from a riverine community, given the imagery he has added to the confusing grammar of politics since 2015? I share the view that he should be removed as the chief spokesperson for the police, and assigned to the level of responsibility he is best suited for. He will do much better in my view in the VIP protection unit, preferably as bodyguard to the wife of a local government chairman where he would be happy to carry Madam’s bag, escort her to the market and act like a rented able-bodied man and sycophant! As for the IGP, he should begin to think of how he would love to be remembered – so far, his tenure has been characterized by avoidable somersault and controversies.

 

This is unfortunate considering the fact that Ibrahim Idris assumed office as Inspector General of Police with strong credentials. Degrees in two disciplines: agriculture and law, and years of service as a police operations man, rising to become commissioner in two states, and AIG Operations. He is also a Member of the National Institute (mni) and a PSC (Passed Staff College). Soon after he assumed office as Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris declared an impressive agenda. He told us: “The Nigeria Police Force will henceforth be guided by the international core values of policing with integrity, ensuring that the rule of law prevails in our actions and activities, and to respect diversity, courage, compassion, and professionalism. The Nigeria Police also would operate within the principles of Democratic Policing, which is an institution that is responsive, representative and accountable to its citizens at all times.”

 

In case he has forgotten these declarations, this piece should serve as a timely reminder.

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