So, in the latest episode of Buhari’s blame-show, which is entirely what the President has inundated us with since May 29, 2015, IGP Ibrahim Idris is the protagonist – no, that has always been Buhari -; the antagonist: that person who has always been the clog in the wheel of Buhari’s master plan for developing Nigeria, and delivering simple (and not so simple) campaign promises. IGP Idris should however not be worried, as he is in a very illustrious company: persons, things, situations and deities, that have been blamed by Buhari. In that list, you have Goodluck Jonathan (of course!); 16 years of PDP; corruption, also known as kwarapshin; God, yes God!; Baba’s age; a certain deputy director; Nigerian’s impatience; and so on, and so forth. As you can see, the list is almost inexhaustible.
The problem with the latest scapegoat in Buhari’s blamegame is that the culprit is an unusual one. The chief law enforcement officer! President Buhari had expressed surprise that the inspector general of police, who he sent to maintain law and order in Benue following the gruesome murder of 73 persons by Fulani Herdsmen, had only merely reported to Benue before zooming off to greener pastures in Nasarawa. He only spent a day there. The president claims he was only getting to know that the IGP had entirely flouted his directive.
Now, wait a minute. The IGP, flouting the President’s order! Not in America, or Britain, where every office has its own level of independence attached to it, but Nigeria, where every office holder knows his continued stay in that office depends on how the president feels about him? No. Rather, they will lick the boots of the president, and dance naked if need be, to prove their loyalty to him. They will do everything within their powers, including buying SUVs for the first lady, to remain on seat, and if the president asks that they go a mile, they will go four!
Nigeria is a country where patronage is key to survival. Eye service is the order of the day. Everyone wants the oga at the top to know they are “always loyal”. If you’ve forgotten, I’ll remind you of Suleiman Abba.
He was the IGP that superintended over the 2015 election. He had, by that time, only spent eights months in office. Immediately the election results were declared, and incumbent Goodluck Jonathan lost, IGP Abba switched loyalty almost immediately. He knew Jonathan had become lame duck, and Buhari would likely change all heads of security agencies immediately he assumes power. So, to preserve his reign, he started the bootlicking almost immediately. Sending a high powered unit to protect the president elect, he also made sure he was practically present at all public events involving Buhari, including when INEC presented Buhari his certificate of return. He did his best to worm his way into the heart of the then president elect.
Initially, President Jonathan felt the IGP was merely doing his job, professionally. But when the sycophancy reached apparent levels, he had himself asking: “wait a minute, who’s the president here”? And that very afternoon, Reuben Abati put out a statement, on Twitter, that IGP Abba had been fired, with Solomon Arase, then DIG Operations, replacing him. It caught everyone, including him by surprise.
Of course, no reasons were given for the sudden dismissal. So shocked was Abba, that be started reaching out to everyone that mattered to help him beg the president. There was so much confusion, that, on the handover day, the following day, he was in hiding. He had to be persuaded, hours later to formally hand over, in mufti! That’s Nigeria for you. If you dare the powers that put you on the seat, they will remove you without blinking.
That’s why I find it difficult to imagine a sitting IGP, disregarding the orders of a sitting president! A Nigerian president, one of the most powerful in the world, for that matter.
Crisis breaks out in Benue, Fulani Herdsmen murder 73 indigenes. The people cry out for help. The president asks the top police officer to relocate there. The IGP goes there, spends few hours, and walks away. 72 days later, the president is confronted with this scenario, and he claims he never knew the IGP never obeyed his orders! Believe that at your peril.
First, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders MACBAN, never denied carrying out the attacks. They blamed it on the grazing law enacted by the state. However, the immediate reaction from the police was that the attack was not by MACBAN, but was in fact a mere “communal clash”. That was ever before the president sent the IGP there. Then the minister of Agriculture, a Benue indigene, claimed government had neglected Fulani Herdsmen for too long, proposing cattle colonies for them all over the federation. Then the minister of defence actually wondered why we were surprised the Fulani Herdsmen were killing people, since those people “blocked their cattle routes” in the first place! And on, and on, and on.
The response of the Federal government to the Benue crisis in particular, was that of “that serves you right”. Whenever the government was forced to comment at all, they NEVER blamed the herdsmen. Infact, they often saw the herdsmen rather as the victims. Whether this was because President Buhari is a patron of the Miyetti Allah Breeders, one cannot tell. But, on several occasions, the Benue state governor had called for their arrest, with no one heeding the request. Not only were the herdsmen operating with impunity, their body language, threats and statements showed they were actually above the law. The IGP got the memo. These guys are untouchables.
So when the president gave a half-hearted order for the IGP to relocate to Benue, the IGP knew it was just for the cameras, and for the wailers to stop wailing. So disastrous was his town meeting with Benue citizens that he left with his tail between his legs. He knew he lied when he called the killings a communal clash. He knew herdsmen were killing, and vowed to continue to kill as long as Benue denies their cattle the right to open grazing, destroying farmlands in the process. He knew also, that the herdsmen hoped to kill them into submission, and that Buhari’s government is not bothered about that. So he knew the President’s order to him was not to end the killings, or arrest the killers (not one herder has been nabbed), but to dance to the gallery. His mistake was that he made it quite obvious.
The IGP that will disregard the President of Nigeria has not been born. IGP Idris was actually obeying Buhari by shunning Benue. Moreover, we know those Buhari would have sent to Benue if he truly wanted to end the bloodshed. We know how crocodiles smiled and pythons danced when Nnamdi Kanu got under Buhari’s skin. We know how hate speech is being termed a redline, and how the death penalty is being readied for such crime. The IGP knows the president won’t harm herdsmen. And so the errand to end herdsmen killings is only for pages of the newspaper.
To summarize the utter incompetence of their strategy, the president alleges to not know the operations of his police chief. And he said that before the cameras! And you believed that?