The departure of Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, from his position as the Inspector General of Police (IGP), on Tuesday was to many in the opposition, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), like a nagging headache disappearing all of a sudden. Even though he had clocked 35 years in service and as well attained the mandatory public service retirement age of 60, the opposition lived with the mortal fear of an extension of what they regard as his inglorious reign by President Muhammadu Buhari. This is line with precedents where the president had consistently extended the tenures of service chiefs.
The PDP never trusted Idris as the nation’s top cop and seemed to blame every problem on him, be it the worsening insecurity in the nation or the perceived manipulation of numerous elections that had gone the way of the ruling party, or even human rights violation. The PDP believed that under Idris, the police became an instrument of oppression of perceived political opponents of President Buhari, that the police lost its professionalism to the dictates of the whims and caprices of those in the corridors of power, who the main opposition party accused of using the former IGP for the advancement of their narrow interests.
The PDP had always pointed out that while the police were all too ready to pick up its members over flimsy excuses, they never seemed to get close to members of the ruling party no matter the gravity of their infractions. The party cited the case of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, both of whom, it believed had been hounded by the Idris-led police for being leading lights of the opposition.
According to the PDP, the police had tried unsuccessfully to frame up Saraki for crimes he knew nothing about and the party also recalled the siege on the residence of Ekweremadu. The PDP similarly asserted that Senator Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West, is being victimised by the police for being a vocal opponent of the All Progressives Congress (APC), just as Deji Adeyanju, an activist, also speaking in opposition to the government. There was also the case of the invasion of the National Assembly, Benue and Akwa Ibom states Houses of Assembly, because the police, under Idris, allegedly pandered to the selfish interests of some politicians in the ruling party.
The opposition believed that with what Idris had shown, there could be no free and fair elections under him as the IGP and if Buhari were to retain him, it would have been for the sole purpose of manipulating the presidential election for the ruling party.
The PDP had for this reason consistently warned against any extension of his tenure. When, President Buhari did not act as at January 3rd, the day that the former IGP’s tenure expired, the opposition was naturally apprehensive. The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) led by Prince Olagunsoye Onyinlola, went to court to seek interpretation of the combined provisions of section 215(1) of the 1999 constitution which provides that the appointment of a new IGP shall be made from among serving police officers and the provision of Rule 020810 of the police service rules which stipulates that an officer shall retire at the attainment of 60 years or 35 years in the force.
CUPP’s national Spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere stressed: “The IGP, who was born on January 15, 1959, and who by January 2019 will turn 60 and consequently ceases to be a police officer can be reappointed as IGP in violation of the constitutional provision which clearly stipulates that only serving police officers are to be appointed.”
Apart from seeking interpretation to the provisions, the CUPP wanted an order restraining President Buhari from reappointing or extending the tenure of the IGP beyond January 15, 2019, as it thought that any attempt to proceed with the plan for the extension of the tenure of the IGP would have unconstitutional, unlawful and unacceptable and would have further heated up the polity. The CUPP also served notice that it would stage a protest should the President fail to yield to the voice of reason.
On the day Idris clocked 60 years, even before any word from the presidency on the his fate, the CUPP marked his birthday by derisively cutting a birthday cake during a press conference, a gesture the opposition said was to celebrate the end of the excesses of the police boss.
Lending their hands to the cake cutting were Chinyere, Sam Eke, National Chairman Green Party of Nigeria; Jeff Ojinika,, National Chairman of Coalition for Change; Nse Obong, National Chairman of Restoration Party and Ken Udeze, National Chairman of Action Alliance. In a remark, Ojinika said: “We are saying no more framing of innocent Nigerians, we are saying yes to correct policing, we are saying the police force is for all Nigerians and not for the government in power; it’s for the purpose of policing all Nigerians and that the police should be our friend.
So, for the IG of Police, we wish him the best that life can afford and to say in no distance time, he must apologise to Nigerians for the way he abused his office.”
It was a huge relief to the opposition when Mohammed Adamu, an Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), was named as the nation’s new top cop. Having had a running battle with the police hierarchy under Idris, the opposition quickly welcomed the change and went about setting agenda for the new IGP so that he may avoid the pitfalls of his predecessor in office.
The PDP charged him to immediately commence the re-engineering of the Nigeria Police to restore professionalism and adherence to rules of engagement in the Force. In its immediate reaction to Idris’ exit, the main opposition party berated him “for a shameful and partisan tenure, which destroyed professionalism in the police and compromised the lives and security of Nigerians,” adding that the former IGP must be held accountable for all the atrocities he committed while in office.
The PDP said in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, moments after Idris left a presidential villa meeting with Buhari a retired police officer: “Ibrahim Idris will be remembered as the only IGP in our political history, who surrendered the responsibilities of his exalted office to the whims and caprices of politicians who share courtesies with the Buhari Presidency.
He defied the need to secure troubled areas and watched carelessly while an integral part of our nation was engulfed in bloody clashes. Idris will also be remembered as that Police Officer, who had a penchant for framing innocent Nigerians with ridiculous allegations. Throughout his inglorious tenure, he functioned as the commander of the militant wing of the APC, just to retain his office and remain in power.”
The PDP therefore urged the new Police boss to learn a lesson from “the shameful end of Idris as IGP” by immediately setting up the process of re-orientating and insulating the Force from partisan politics, while subjecting it to the tenets of democracy and the rule of law.
It advised that Adamu should remove all templates of election rigging “in the hand-over note that will be presented to him by Idris.” Other ideas the PDP suggested to the new police boss were to urgently take steps to address the bastardisation of promotion in the Police under the last IGP, where officers due for promotion were denied and only those endorsed by a cabal or who have enough money to buy their way through were promoted, and to immediately set up a process that guarantees proper welfare of officers and men of the Nigeria Police.
“He must note that the whole world is watching him and we urge him not to fail the nation, which he owes his allegiance,” the party asserted.
With Idris gone, one of the PDP’s numerous demands concerning the coming election has ostensibly been granted. But the question still arises whether or not this is enough reassurance for the PDP that the police will not exert undue influence on the election to place the opposition on the back foot.
The new acting IGP seemed to have answered the question as he assured, upon being named in the new post, that he will ensure a level playing ground for all political parties in the elections.
“Well, we are professionals. We are going to stick by the rules, we are going to do the right thing. We will not go outside the ethics of our job to do things that are untoward, everybody will be given level playing ground to play his or her politics,” he said. The next few weeks will provide confirmation for Adamu’s declaration or vitiate it.
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