by Shaka Momodu
It is no longer news that the police high command had in the aftermath of the General Ibrahim Babangida bombshell, declared wanted, Kassim Afegbua, spokesman to former military president Ibrahim Babangida. When I first saw the news trending online, I ignored it thinking it was a joke. But alas, it was not after all. There was an actual statement issued by the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, wherein the IG Ibrahim Idris declared Afegbua wanted. His offence? “For making false statements, injurious falsehood, defamation of character and for acts capable of inciting public disturbance throughout the country,” said the statement.
My first reaction when I saw the official statement was shock, disbelief and indignation. Then I burst into a fit of laughter. Don’t mind me. Since strange things started happening in our country in the last three years, I have learnt to laugh off our troubles to maintain my sanity. The magic spell cast on Nigerians that saw even educated and otherwise intelligent people behave like jellies was taking too long to wear off.
By the way, here are some posers: did Babangida send a petition to our overzealous Inspector General of Police to complain that his spokesman had issued a statement he did not authorise, demanding an investigation? Did Idris even contact the former president to ascertain whether he authorised issuance of the statement by his spokesman? He could have done that so easily either by calling the former president on the phone or better still, sent the Niger State Commissioner of Police to go straight to the former president’s Hilltop mansion to ascertain the veracity of the statement.
Rather, our busybody IG rushed to issue an arrest order against Afegbua and went further to declare him wanted without even the courtesy of inviting him for a chat. Did the IG’s men even think it necessary to contact Afegbua at all? Why the rush to declare wanted, someone that was obviously not a fugitive from justice? There seems to be somewhat of an erotic glee on the part of this IG to stir up a needless controversy, which in a way seemed to fuel his hubris. He strikes me as someone who acts before he thinks. Come to think of it, what was the false statement and injurious falsehood that Idris alleged against Afegbua?
Does this IG not have anything serious to do? I would have thought that he would be more preoccupied taming the killer herdsmen wreaking havoc on lives and properties in Benue, Taraba and other parts of the country, than concern himself with a harmless spokesman to a former president.
Folks, Nigeria has become such a joke in recent times, it is frightening how quickly we have turned back the hand of the clock. Dimwits now head important sensitive institutions across the land. Their utterances and actions betray their pervasive ignorance; their medieval world view and feudal instincts have become front and centre of our national tragedy. We are now force-fed daily doses of poisonous comedy and outright disdain to the structures that keep our fragile unity as a country. If it had stopped at that, it would not have looked so bad, but we are now told bluntly to our faces that our lives are worth less than the lives of cows; that herdsmen can take the lives of humans as recompense for stolen or lost cows has now been given an official imprimatur by both IG Idris and Nigeria’s Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali.
Idris’ conduct – a mixture of folly and overzealousness – since assuming office is no doubt troubling, and constitutes sufficient due process violation on many grounds. His recent contradictory statements on the security situation in Benue State ravaged by Fulani herdsmen were so pervasive, unfair and did little to engender confidence in an impartial resolution of the crisis – a process the police is a vital part of. First, he claimed it was communal clashes and not herdsmen, but later on, he reversed himself saying that it was the state’s Anti-Open Grazing Law that caused the killings. Idris was merely re-echoing the official position of the Buhari government as stated by Dan-Ali while briefing journalists at the end of a security council meeting mainly populated by a particular ethnic stock and presided over by the president.
According to him, “You see, whenever a crisis happens at any time, there are remote and immediate causes. Look at this issue (of killings in Benue and Taraba)… Since the nation’s Independence, we know there used to be routes that the cattle rearers took because they are all over the nation. If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen? It is just like going to block the shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crises. But the immediate cause is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with each other. Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave, finish!” Did you hear that? “If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen?” I was literarily left speechless. Fellow Nigerians, we are in big trouble, if people with this mindset are the ones presiding over our affairs. How do these people sleep at night?
The defence minister spoke so casually to us about premeditated killings of fellow Nigerians? Clearly, this man took the side of the Fulani herdsmen and their cows. Oh my God! Who are these strange people in public offices?
Such a statement would have been funny, if it weren’t so stupid, reckless and murderous or perhaps at best, made some sense if Dan-Ali was the Minister of Defence of Fulani herdsmen. But he is the Defence Minister of Nigeria!
The haughtiness and official justification of the killings was unmistakable and requires a strong denunciation! This blurs all the distinction between organised criminality and a mere protest over an anti-grazing law. It is more so shameful that those appointed to uphold the law of the land have shown a remarkable willingness to aid and abet those breaching it.
As provocative as this irresponsible analysis by Dan-Ali and Idris maybe, let us pose this officialdom some questions: If the immediate cause of the killings was the Anti-Open Grazing Law, was it the same law that was only just enacted in October 2017 also responsible for the Agatu killings in 2016? Hundreds of innocent people were massacred in an unprovoked violence by herdsmen in Agatu and other communities across different states of the federation. By the way, how many states have Anti-Open Grazing Laws in the country? Is a non-existent Anti-Open Grazing Law responsible for the killings in Enugu, Anambra, Imo, Abia, Plateau, Kwara, Bayelsa, Ondo, etc? Is a non-existent Anti-Open Grazing Law responsible for the kidnapping and torture of Chief Olu Falae and the several attacks on his farm in Ondo State? Is it Anti-Open Grazing Law that led to the sacking of Akure South Local Government secretariat just a few days ago? C’mon, please give me a break!
To put it mildly, the enablement that the state apparatuses provide these herdsmen has made them so pompous, lawless and perplexingly daring. It is now such that the association of herdsmen, Miyatti Allah has the temerity to threaten the government of Benue State.
Apart from the danger in the insane logic of comparing humans to cows and placing a higher premium on cows than the lives of fellow humans, the gleeful display of violence and savagery towards people deemed to have committed any infraction against their cows by their warped logic is befuddling. Watching videos of dead bodies – all victims of herdsmen, drove me numb. How can this be happening in Nigeria of the 21st century? And of course, the sheer audacity and brazen effrontery of the leadership of the association of the marauding herdsmen – Miyetti Allah, beggars belief.
For God’s sake, how can the life of a cow be more precious than the life of a human being? They justified the killings as if they were in the right; and with such condescending callousness and casual cruelty that leaves you at a loss for words. They even exhibited this provocative attitude in the presence of the IG, with all his accoutrements backed by the force of office and other security operatives who have so far done absolutely nothing to enforce the law – call it unbelievable abdication of responsibility and scandalous betrayal of the oath of office. It is this reluctance to act and apply the full weight of the law against these killers and the cold silence of government officials that is raising articulable suspicion of official connivance. And buoyed by this official enablement, there is now a constant contemptuousness to the behaviour and attitude of the herdsmen that give one a chilling feeling of unease that danger lurks even more and more menacingly by the day.
I first noticed Ibrahim Idris in March 2015, a few days after the presidential election when he was the Kano State Commissioner of Police. It was not for his investigative skills or valour in the battle with criminal elements, it was not for his erudition and grasp of policing, neither was it for his observance of due process, nor respect for the professional ethics of his job. It was the manner he handled the investigation into the death of the then Kano State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Alhaji Munkaila Abdullahi, his wife and two daughters in a “mysterious” fire incident. Idris “ruled out sabotage” almost immediately the incident occurred, even before investigations were concluded. I was alarmed by the ease with which he foreclosed any foul play.
He captured my attention again when he was unmeritoriously appointed the IG of police in June 2016. Several senior officers trained with huge public funds had to be retired to pave the way for Idris. Since then, he has remained a nightmare to the nation. An ex-cop and now a serving senator, Isah Misau had made serious allegations of corruption, clannishness, overzealousness, abuse of office and professional misconduct (romantic relationships with junior officers) against him. What was the IG’s response? He immediately declared Misau wanted for forgery and the federal government filed fraud charges against the senator. Until now, nothing had been heard of those allegations; he was obviously given the deodorant treatment by Buhari.
Also, his overzealousness and tendency to court controversy were on display when a few days to the Anambra governorship election last year, he suddenly withdrew Governor Willie Obiano’s security detail. It took the intervention of the president for Idris to restore Obiano’s security. That singular action was particularly revealing of the partisan motivation of this IG.
Now compare Idris’ deafening silence on Governor Rochas Okorocha’s assault on the rule of law with his zeal to declare Afegbua wanted over a harmless statement. Some guys who allegedly slaughtered 23 innocent people in Rivers State on New Year’s Day were declared wanted by the Rivers State government. They reportedly fled to Imo State to take refuge and were curiously granted amnesty by Governor Okorocha. Please remember that these suspects opened fire on innocent people returning from Church in a totally unprovoked attack. Okorocha’s amnesty to these suspects is one of the most egregious assaults on the rule of law and the people’s quest for justice. We now have a situation where a state government knows the whereabouts of suspected murderers, and is frustrating the quest for justice by its connivance with these suspects to evade justice. It is simply inconceivable that a governor would do what this unconscionable Okorocha has just done. It is beyond satire, and beggars belief. And the repercussions are simply too frightening to contemplate. I tremble at the thought of what these leaders are turning this country into.
Is this the change they talked about? Where is the APC leadership? Where is President Buhari? Where is the human rights community? This should outrage any normal civilised society. Where is Rotimi Amaechi? In the aftermath of the killings, he didn’t hesitate to play up the incident by calling on Governor Wike to resign. Why has he not condemned Okorocha and asked him to resign for granting amnesty to the suspected killers of those same innocent people? Is it now okay to do this? What is the value of human life to Governor Okorocha and his ilk? If the Governor’s family members were among those killed, would he had given the suspected killers amnesty? Would Nigerians now accept this as the new normal? Is this the meaning of progressivism? Where is Bola Ahmed Tinubu? Is this his idea of moving Nigeria forward, where suspected murderers and kidnappers are shielded and protected from prosecution with state amnesty? I am surprised that this has not provoked public outrage in the media. Is it because Okorocha is an APC governor? We should never see issues like this through the coloured lenses of partisan politics.
Imagine for a moment that the lad who just massacred 17 people in Florida, fled to New York to take refuge, and the governor of New York for whatever reason granted him amnesty. Is that ever going to happen in America or any other sane society in the world? The answer is NEVER! But here in Nigeria, strange and bizarre things are happening with grim regularity.
The cold irony here is that those on the run for killing 23 people in Rivers were not declared wanted by Idris while a man who was not on the run was declared wanted over a statement he issued on behalf of his principal.
Why didn’t Idris consider Okorocha’s action a threat to peace and justice which is “capable of inciting public disturbance”?
Under Idris’ watch, kidnappings, incessant killings and other forms of lawlessness have become the new normal. Who knows, perhaps, he idles away the time watching television and reacts impulsively when he sees bad news about himself or the president like he did on the IBB/Afegbua statement.
- This piece was written by Shaka Momodu/Thisday