• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

A generic column that may or may not be about Abba Kyari

Abuja court rejects Abba Kyari’s bail application

There is a relative of mine whom I like very much. He is a well-mannered, golden-hearted, sweet-tempered 20-something who just completed his education and is now starting his dream job. I should be over the moon for him, and honestly I generally am. Even if we did not share a grandfather, I would still like him very much for the person he is, but the added bonus of being 1st cousins makes our bond even stronger.

The trouble is that this cousin’s dream job is in the Nigeria Police Force, and he has just been commissioned as an ASP after graduating from the Police University.

As I look at the gleaming shiny photos of his graduation and commissioning ceremonies, I can’t help but wonder – how much longer will he remain the person I know and love? He is a truly great guy and even if he were to become the infamous CSP James Nwafor of Awkuzu SARS in future, it would not change the fact of the family bond that we share. But I do wonder – how long until the systemic reality of the criminal organisation he has joined overwhelms the individual character and basic conscience of my loved one? This feeling of unease refuses to go away – and with good reason.

Read Also: IGP appoints Tunji Disu to replace Abba Kyari as Head of intelligence team

Abba Kyari is terrible – And that’s beside the point

Over the past few weeks, several people have asked why I have not offered a column or a deep dive into the travails of Nigeria’s so-called ‘supercop’ Abba Kyari. From being the subject of a fawning, hagiographical documentary by BBC Africa in July 2019 to being named as a central figure in a transnational electronic fraud ring by the FBI, his transition from fame to infamy has been swift and ignominious. A year after I wrote a stinging non-obituary for his deceased red cap namesake in Aso Rock, the expectation was that I would sink my teeth into another Abba Kyari.

This is a completely fair and reasonable expectation to have, because his FBI indictment is objectively the biggest story in Nigeria at the moment. Apart from the drama surrounding the “Will they, won’t they” extradition circus, his indictment is also prima facie evidence of a very senior police officer actively aiding and collaborating with the very criminals he supposedly exists to fight. It would be so satisfying and cathartic to wear the literary equivalent of a steel-capped boot and give this disgraced dirty cop the kicking of his life as he lies on the ground. It would be so richly deserved, wouldn’t it?

A “clean” officer is by design prevented from making it anywhere near the top because, their presence would be a threat to the plethora of dirty cops at and around the top

And that is precisely why I will do no such thing. You see, expanding on the steel-capped boot analogy, giving Abba Kyari the kicking he has so richly earned would be the equivalent of flying into a tackle and breaking a hated opponent’s leg during a football game when your team is already 3-0 down and out of time. It would certainly make one feel a bit better, but it would ultimately be meaningless because the only type of win that matters is the one on the scoreboard. Moral victories against individuals mean nothing. Systemic victories against institutions are the real ticket. And that brings us back to my cop cousin.

The structure is always the issue

Anyone who has anything more than a passing understanding of how promotion and postings work in the Nigeria Police Force, knows that without making the right friends and alliances, one is liable to get posted to Damaturu and have a stalled career while one’s contemporaries from the police university shine and shimmer their way up to the Force HQ in Abuja. To build these friendships and alliances, one has to “play ball” with superiors and powerful outsiders including politicians. In other words, to rise to the ranks of DCP Kyari and everyone above him, you must have skeletons in your closet. A “clean” officer is by design prevented from making it anywhere near the top because, their presence would be a threat to the plethora of dirty cops at and around the top.

In this context, going after DCP Kyari would be utterly redundant because he is not the problem – he is merely a symptom. He is only suffering this full and total immolation because he chose to do favours for a fraudster whose type of fraud involved taking Uncle Sam’s money. If Ramon Abbas had been less of an utter buffoon by poking a hand into the US government’s eye and expecting the UAE to protect him from their close ally, Kyari would probably still be in his arrest-for-hire and Yahoo-Boy-debt-recovery business without any problem. We can be very confident that as you read this, several hundreds of senior NPF officers are doing similar activities for less obnoxious fraudsters and politicians.

Will my cousin become one of them one day? I honestly do not like to think about the answer to that question very much, and it is not a conversation that I have ever had with him. The truth after all, is that every man must chart his own independent course in life, uninhibited by the opinions and positions of those around him. So I choose to hope, because that is all I can do.

There is a possibility that Abba Kyari was also once a fresh faced idealist, beaming in this ASP commissioning photos as he looked forward to a glorious career. That he has become what he is now is a function of the very nature of the Nigeria Police Force. The system will always prevail over the individual.

Abba Kyari is a dirty cop and an awful human being, but honestly, who cares?