By Emmanuel Yawe.
I found myself at the Maiduguri airport some time in 1983, a hungry, frustrated and sick man. I had just returned from Chad where I trailed General Buhari’s 21st Armoured Brigade. I never saw any other reporter with me on that youthful adventure.
Ordinarily I ought to be in a joyful mood. I had a big story which I knew my newspaper, the New Nigerian would celebrate. In that year, Chadian soldiers invaded and took some Nigerian villages, killing some of our soldiers and about 19 civilians. Gen Buhari, then the General Officer Commanding 3rd Armoured Division in Jos was incensed.
Pronto, he ordered soldiers under his command to hit back. The Nigerian villages were quickly liberated and the drug addicted Chadian soldiers brought to heel. He then embarked on the internationally accepted policy of ‘hot pursuit’. He captured a large chunk of Chadian territory and raised the green white green flag. I was on their trail.
Back to Maiduguri, I was a sad man. My bowels were in revolt. I must have eaten some contaminated food in the desert where millions of flies swooned everywhere. The telephones in Maiduguri (four digit analogue) were all dead. I could not get the big story out. At the airport, I was ready to take a flight to whatever direction – Kaduna, Lagos, Kano. But no Nigeria Airways flight was available. There was I in the airport lounge an unhappy man. Then a flight came.
It was not a Nigerian Airways plane but a private jet. On closer look, it was conveying big time politicians of the Nigerian Peoples Party NPP stock. The Great Zik of Africa was there, followed by his lieutenants; Solomon Lar, Jim Nwobodo, Sam Mbakwe and many others. The Governor of Borno, Mohammadu Goni was on hand to receive them.
Then the drama started. The NPP had planned a grand rally in Maiduguri to demonstrate it’s growing strength nationwide. Zik and his followers were to enter Maiduguri in strength, driving in a long procession from the airport to the Shehu’s Palace, to the Governors office and then to the rally. The police Commissioner in the state would not allow that.
Since the people were in town to hold a rally, they were allowed to proceed straight to the rally ground and no diversion was allowed either to the governor’s office or the Shehu’s palace.
The police chief then proceeded to capture and hold the dignitaries as hostages. He ordered them to follow him to the rally ground and not dare detour to anywhere if not the rally would be cancelled. The leaders were outraged; Solomon Lar spoke in Hausa and so did Jim Nwobodo. The man was adamant. Then, the great Zik himself.
He educated the poor policeman that he was Zik, the man who fought for the freedom of Nigeria and Africa. That he was Primer of Eastern Nigeria (1954–59); First Senate President of the Senate of the Federation (January–November 1960); First indigenous Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria (1960–63); President of the Republic of Nigeria (1963–1966). It was a moving speech delivered with all the oratorical skills of Zik. The policeman was not bothered. “Why are you denying me and my colleagues freedom of movement and association when it was me and others who fought for all these rights for all Nigerians?” Zik asked. The policeman suddenly became deaf and dumb.
It was a day of disgrace for the Nigeria Police. That police commissioner allowed himself to be used as a party thug by the ruling NPN. It is a measure of his infamy that I cannot remember his name now. But it is not only me, nobody remembers the name of that little minded policeman in Nigeria again except when reference is to be made to what a good policeman should not be. When the Buhari government came into office the following year and started purging the police of bad eggs and undesirable elements, his name was number one on the list.
Not too long ago, another senior police officer demonstrated his political partisanship and incompetence to the whole world. I wouldn’t have said so if I did not personally experience Hafiz Ringim’s unusual style of policing. Sometime in 2011 my friend Charles Ayede was gunned down as he drove between Lafia and Makurdi. The manner of his killing was suspicious and Prof Stephen Ugba the ACN gubernatorial aspirant at that year’s election in Benue said so loudly. He in fact called a press conference at which he pointed accusing fingers at Governor
Suswam of Benue State. The governor of course denied the allegation saying that Charles was a victim of armed robbery.
The IGP Hafiz Ringim did not only buy the governor’s side of the story, he sent 12 lorry loads of heavily armed policemen to Benue to arrest the ‘armed robbers’ he suspected had a hand in Charles Ayede’s murder.
Top on the list of these armed robbery suspects were Mr Adaa Maagbe – who was travelling with Charles at the time he was shot and miraculously escaped the gun mans bullet. Others were Prof Stephen Torkuma Ugba whom Charles Ayede was working for in his campaign organization as a media aide; Crucial Abua, former Chairman of Gboko Local Government, Charles Ayede’s cooks and house boys at his rather remote village in Kwande Local Government Area. The most ridiculous arrest was those of under aged primary school pupils from the dead victim’s village.
In the history of the Nigeria Police, as checkered as it is, Hafiz Ringim is the first IGP in Nigeria to turn victims of a gruesome crime like murder into villains! He had a reason for doing this – a thug in the employ of his political masters. Where is this IGP today? On the run from his fatherland I’am told.
Abba Suleiman the acting police Inspector General looks trim, athletic and smart with no flesh to waste. The police uniform looks wonderful on him. But he has thrown all these away and now prefers the shabby petty coat of a political thug.
How else can one explain the actions of the IGP in withdrawing the security details and declaring the seat of a sitting Speaker of House of Representatives vacant when there is an on going litigation on the matter? Has the IGP become the Chief Justice of the Federation or the Supreme Court? Has the IGP ever read anything about the separation of powers? Since when has he become the power of powers?