The last time Nigerians celebrated a police officer was in the late 1980’s. That was when a policeman called Alozie Ogugbuaja, a superintendent of Police, ruffled the composure of his superiors by attributing coup plotting to boredom in army barracks. For Ogugbuaja, it was boredom among idle soldiers that pushed them into trooping into mammy-market joints to plot coups over bottles of beer and pepper-soup. That was years before Abba Kyari appeared on the stage.
Kyari, 46, needs little introduction. Until his suspension, he was the highly-visible and much-decorated commander of the Intelligence Response Team, a special unit put together to crackdown on crackbrained individuals across the country. As well as giving armed bandits and insurgents a run for their money, Kyari’s team was responsible for the arrest of notorious kidnap kingpins Chukwudi Onwuamadike (alias Evans) and Bala Hamisu (aka Wadume).
For Nigerians to whom Ogugbuaja has become a fleeting memory, there is need for some background information. Ogugbuaja was Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, in the Lagos state Police Command. In that position, Ogugbuaja distinguished himself as a paragon in police public relations. Before his career was prematurely terminated, he was being imagined as an ideal future Inspector General of Police.
Ogugbuaja must have become a person of interest after he bared personal opinions on police welfare and allied topical national issues in an interview he granted to the correspondent of a defunct Lagos evening newspaper. But, even if the authorities began to see the young police officer an irritant, they veiled their inconvenience because the interview was not considered offensive enough to go for Ogugbuaja’s jugular. A peaceful protest by students of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1986 provided the excuse to show him the gate.
On May 23, 1986, authorities of the ABU had invited a detachment of mobile policemen, “kill an’ go”, in local parlance, to quell a peaceful protest on campus. At the end of the pacification campaign, a statement by ABU management that “only four female students were killed” enraged students on several Nigerian campuses. The Ibrahim Babangida administration constituted the Justice Mustapha Akanbi panel of inquiry to investigate the crisis. The Lagos State Police Commissioner sent his bespectacled, young, charismatic, and erudite PPRO, to represent him.
It was not the first time Ogugbuaja represented his boss at public outings, an attestation to the growing confidence his superiors had in his abilities. But to the young officer, appearing before the Justice Akanbi panel was the big stage, which he saw as another opportunity to further warm his way into the heart of his boss and endear himself to his superiors. If Ogugbuaja’s boss was privy to what he was going to say, he least expected the controversy that was generated after the press went to town with Ogugbuaja’s submission.
In a two-hour submission which had panel members and the audience squirming in their seats, Ogugbuaja stuck to his views on police welfare and drew attention to the plight of the junior police officers. He angered the military, ‘the unregistered political party of Nigeria”, whose top brass, Ogugbuaja alleged, reveled in drinking beer and pepper-soup at noon on weekdays, for deliberately starving the Police of funds because “an efficient and effective police force is capable of foiling a military coup.” He was transferred to Calabar where, in October, 1988, he was dismissed after he spoke to a student intern with the defunct Cross River government-owned Chronicle Newspaper. Similar fate befell the intern and the editors who published the story.
Abba Kyari first served in Adamawa state after completing his training at the Police Academy, Wudil, in Kano state. He came to prominence after he led a team to arrest one Ndagi (alias Spirit Spirit) a notorious armed robber who held Numan, the third town in the state, hostage for several years. The budding crime-buster never looked back since then. The icing on his cake was his deployment to the Lagos Command October in 2010 as second in command to the SARS or Special Anti-Robbery Squad and Officer-In-Charge of the squad four months later.
With streets named after him across the country, Kyari probably remains the most decorated police officer in Nigeria alive. In 2018, the Police Service Commission called his promotion to the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police a well-deserved form of encouragement to service delivery. Last June, Nigeria’s House of Representatives honoured Kyari to show, in the words of Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, that “despite the not-too-good image of the Nigerian police, there are very good officers in the Force”.
Ogugbuaja and Kyari shared many things in common. Beyond being newsmakers, both were fine and committed officers who gave their all to serve the fatherland. In fact, more Nigerians began to change their perception about their police as a result of how both officers went about police work. What is more, Ogugbuaja and Kyari enjoyed the goodwill of compatriots who wished for providence to guide them to the pinnacle of their career. No one may know how many young graduates enlisted in the force as a result of the exploits of the two police officers. Still, both men have their differences.
Kyari easily passes for a young, highly-visible, extroverted and upwardly mobile police officer who saw nothing untoward, some say hazardous, in mixing police work with an active social life. When Kyari caused tongues to wag after he was spotted making merry at a lucullan feast at the burial of the mother of one of his buddies, his fans picked the gauntlet and rudely shouted down critics who thought the police officer was unduly courting trouble. Then, Ramoni Abbas, AKA Hushpuppi, came with his damaging allegations which, in essence, may throw Kyari’s job, reputation and freedom into jeopardy.
Hushpuppi’s disclosures have placed a huge question on Kyari’s integrity and intelligence. The fraudster even revealed that he arranged for an all-expenses paid retreat in Dubai for the super cop! How the super cop hobnobbed with, and felt comfortable in the midst of high-risk fraudsters without even bothering to know the sources(s) of their income simply beats the imagination. By the way, what would Kyari have done if, in the course of duty, he stumbled on incriminating evidence against his buddies?
Ogugbuaja was the reflective type. He was a deeply introspective individual with a philosophic attitude toward life. At the gate to his Ikeja home in those days, visitors were greeted by a strange post, “Dog, Beware of Man”, a message Ogugbuaja often said was philosophical. He was an avid reader and, in his quest to be an exceptional police officer, Ogugbuaja constantly invested in his own personal and professional growth. He once told the correspondent of a defunct Lagos weekly newspaper that with books waiting to be read in his library, he had little time for social outings.
It is just as well that two of Nigeria’s finest police officers would not be Inspector General of Police. Ogugbuaja was the quintessential policeman. And because he dreamt of being part of a future people-friendly police force, he forewent exuberance and indulgences and focused on personal growth. Sadly, his ambition was scuttled even before he earned his first promotion in the Force.
Kyari, much luckier; made it to Deputy Commissioner of Police. From the enthusiasm he applied to his work, Kyari too had a dream of a future proactive police force. Somehow, he allowed indulgences to kill his dreams. If lucky to get an all clear, Kyari will just be too happy to limp out of the Force.
Magaji, <234-803-697-9133> <firstname.lastname@example.org> resides in Abuja