Ever since the story broke that a US court had issued a warrant of arrest on Nigeria’s police officer Deputy Commissioner of Police Abba Kyari, who is the head of the special purpose, crime busting Intelligence Response Team (IRT) that operates under the direct auspices of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), on the strength of an investigation by that country’s Federal Bureau of investigations (FBI) Nigeria’s public space has been abuzz with a stream of wild, not so wild and even bizarre narratives, many of which reflect insinuations and permutations that offer scant illumination on the issue. The FBI report claims that Abba Kyari had been operating hand in glove with the now incarcerated internet fraudster Ramon Olorunwa Abbas alias ‘Hushpuppi’, in an enterprise that defrauded unwary victims in the US of millions of dollars. The FBI report features dozens of pages of incriminating evidence which purportedly fingered Abba Kyari as an accomplice to Hushpuppi. So widely has the report been celebrated – given the oracular airs of the FBI, that even the Inspector General of Police Usman Alkali, reportedly ordered the suspension of the officer from duty, while he has also been replaced as head of the IRT. This is just as the Police establishment has also launched an investigation into the entire saga.
In the process, while the man Abba Kyari may have suddenly found himself sucked into a twist of fortunes, the real culprit is the Nigerian state, and its public bureaucracy. There are certain roles played by individuals which in some context profile them as alter egos to their society or country. The FBI-Abba Kyari saga is one of such. Hence while he is at the centre of the storm, the fuller impact transcends his personal career circumstances, but hits at the image of the country among the comity of nations. The actual person in the dock of public opinion is the Nigerian state. And as events related to this development will prove in the course of time, Nigeria will remain in court much longer than Abba Kyari will.
This is so for at least three reasons. First is the international context in which the Abba Kyari saga is situated. Given the sartorial context of international affairs, it is no surprise that many public commentators may miss the point in unravelling the knots in the matter. Nigeria and the US are two sovereign nations, with none subservient to the other. Their collaboration on any matter is usually guided by the provisions of whatever bilateral agreement between them, as well as the dictates of the multilateral fellowships both of them share. Hence the prospects of moving Abba Kyari from Nigeria to the US to answer to criminal charges in court, is not going to be a casual affair but will require significant legalistic effort and time, which can change anything. Interestingly, even the US remains more committed to due process than Nigeria, hence may not be expected to descend in the most unlikely circumstances, to fast track his trip to the US by indulging in an unlikely Entebbe Airport style raid, and whisk the man away. Nevertheless given the seriousness of the matter to the Americans, it should not be surprising that they may deploy every weapon at their disposal – including the threat of visa ban for some officials who may stand in their way, in order arm-twist the Nigerian government to cave into their pressure, and bring Abba Kyari to the US for trial.
Beyond the diplomatic factor, is the low rating of the country and government by the global community in terms of facilitating good governance. It is a mute-point that this is the same officer who had earned the commendation of not a few Nigerians as a distinguished police officer and super crime buster whose name sent shivers down the spines of many criminals. The sudden swing in his fortunes from a high flying policeman with the prospects of becoming the future IGP, to a suspect who is wanted in a foreign country to answer to charges of serious transnational crime, is the issue on ground.
And it is on this note that the blame rests on Abba Kyari himself. It is a golden rule among law enforcement agents that serious crime which involves the unscrupulous rich and powerful, always fights back when confronted by the law, and may do so from angles and sources which its unwary target(s) may not anticipate. It is really ironic that the ‘banana peel’ that is toppling Abba Kyari is from Hushpuppi – whom he could have caged long ago, had his crime busting instincts and discretion been activated appropriately. As things stand, it is his failure to deploy his discretion, as and when due, that is now his undoing.
As is trite in any civilized clime, public service ethos requires that officers at a certain level of leadership are to be judged not by their direct involvement or otherwise in circumstances of misdemeanor. Rather it is their exercise of credible discretion as leaders or otherwise that defines their worth. Hence the hackneyed phrase that constitutes the query for failure in leadership, ‘you should have known’.
Against the backdrop of the foregoing, the lesson from the Abba Kyari affair is that public officers in any position should appreciate the moral burden in the offices they occupy, especially with respect to the company they keep. For as this matter under consideration has illustrated, some company they keep and transactions they indulge in, may seem beneficial and wholesome in the present, but may also constitute poisoned chalices, in future.