Since Gen. Ibrahim Babangida broke the rules by appointing an Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) to the position of Inspector General of Police (IGP) during his regime as Head of State, the issue of who become the head of the country’s
police has become politicised, with merit and seniority sometimes sacrificed on the altar of ethnic and primordial considerations.
WITH the alleged tenure extension bid of Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro now laid to rest, the jostle for his post has not only gathered momentum, but is also nearing its peak, as the Presidency is set to name his successor.
Okiro’s tenure ends in June, having served the country for the mandatory 35 years. He is expected to proceed on the required three-month pre-retirement leave any time from April 24.
He has officially written President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, intimating him of his impending retirement from the Force in July. The retiring IG is believed to have recommended to the federal government those from among whom, he believes, his worthy successor can be found, starting with the most senior DIGs.
But the issue of succession in the police has become a big, thorny, political issue that seems now to pose a serious threat to the hierarchical nature of police organization and, therefore, the integrity of the force. Appointment of the IGP is the prerogative of the President on the advice of the Police Service Commission, which advice the president may just ignore.
In the federal civil service, succession has often been smooth because due process and seniority are usually followed. Hence Ebele Okeke, irrespective of gender and where she came from, was able to succeed current Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, as Head of Service. It was in the same vein that Ama Pepple took over from Okeke. Appointments based on seniority have also been witnessed in the Customs, Immigrations and other departments of government, in recent years.
But in the Police, the same has not been the case. The most recent was the appointment, in 2007 by President Yar’Adua, of the outgoing IGP Mr. Mike Okiro over and above his senior in the force Ogbonnaya Onovo, a Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) in charge of ‘A’ Department, which comprises Finance and Administration.
As Okiro leaves, several are already lined up angling to replace him. They include Onovo, the most senior of the DIGs and the most having worked in all the departments of the police, except works, which not strictly police duty; Uba Ringim, DIG in charge of ‘E’ (Training) and five years junior than Onovo in the DIG rank-he was appointed DIG in November 2006; Yusuf Haruna, DIG in charge of ‘D’ (Investigations); John Hamza Ahmadu, DIG in charge of ‘F’ (Research and Training), who became in November last year and DIG Ekpo Udong, who equally rose to the rank late last year.
Also in the race are four Assistant Inspectors General (AIGs), all from the Northwest geo-political zone. They are Assistant Inspector Generals of Police (AIGs) Mohammed D. Abubakar (Zone 2 Command in Lagos), former Lagos State Police Commissioner who is about two years in the AIG and has a Diploma; Hafiz Ringim (Police Staff College in Jos); Suleiman Fakai (Zone 5 Command in Benin); and Abubakar Sarduana (Zone 1 Command in Kano).
Uba and Hafiz Ringim are from Ringim Town in Jigawa State, Fakai is from Kebbi, while Abubakar is from Zamfara.
As a Police source told The Guardian, any of the AIGs, and even Commissioners of Police (CP) can aspire to be IGP, saying any other position or rank above the CP is more of political than any other considerations. So as he is concerned, all the serving AIGs are in the race. But he quickly added that apart from Onovo, it would be a miracle for any other Southern officer to get the top job, as all pointers are towards the North.
All through the eight-year tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007, officers from not just the South but his Southwest held the post, from Musiliu Smith, through Tafa Balogun to Sunday Ehindero. But in most cases, the issues of being appointed above other senior serving officers hardly arose, as it did in 2007 when Okiro got the job.
In picking who replaces Okiro, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua would have to choose between maintaining the due process and seniority, which his administration preaches and has tried to act out in a number of recent career appointments and lure of ethnic chauvinism.
According to sources, a committee of former IGPs set up to advise government on how to reform the police and make the organization more effective recently recommended that government revert to the old, tested and more enduring method of appointing officers to higher ranks in the force based on hierarchy, as a way of inspiring confidence in officers and men and maintaining espirit de corps in the force.
Besides, analysts who commented on this matter, noted that at a time of serious global security challenge, which manifests itself in Nigeria in incessant kidnappings in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country, violent robberies and premeditated murders, the accent should be on the appointment of officers who are experienced enough to rise to the challenge.
Thirteen indigenous officers have so far occupied the position since 1964, starting with Louis Edet, from the South-south zone, between 1964 and 1966. Kam Salem, from the Northeast, between 1966 and 1975, followed him. 1975, Muhammadu Dikko Yusuf, from Katsina in the Northwest, became IGP in 1975 up to 1979. He was succeeded by Adamu Suleiman, from the Northeast, in 1979 till 1981.
Sunday Adewusi from the Southwest became the IGP in 1981 and served till 1983. Etim Inyang from the South-south took over from him in 1983 and held the post till 1986.
Muhammadu Gambo-Jimeta, from Adamawa State in the Northeast, succeeded Inyang in 1986 till 1989. He was followed by Aliyu Atta from Kogi State in the North Central from 1990 to 1993.
Ibrahim Coomassie, from Katsina State in Northwest became the IGP in 1993 and held the position till 1999, when Musiliu Smith, from Lagos State in the Southwest, took over. He retired in 2002. His kinsman, Tafa Balogun was IGP between 2002 and 2005.
After his unceremonious exit in 2005, Sunday Ehindero, also from the Southwest, filled the position till he retired at the end of the second tenure of then President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007, after his tenure had been extended.
Okiro, from Rivers State in the South-south, assumed office in June 2007, in what was seen as a way to calm frayed nerves in the Niger Delta.
From the list, it is clear that no officer from the Southeast has ever been appointed to the post, making it appear as if some people or parts of the country cannot aspire to be IGP, even when they are well qualified, which many is a tragedy of a nation.
However, there are people who argue that giving the IGP slot to the Southeast will amount to giving the Igbo one security position too many. They argue that Chukwura Ude of Immigrations, Dr. Bernard-Shaw Nwadialo of Customs and Air Chief Marshall Paul Dike, Chief of Defence Staff are already occupying strategic security positions and that should be enough.
But others argue that apart from Dike, who is from Delta State, really, no citizen of Southeast extraction attends the National Security Council meeting. And in any case, Customs and Immigrations cannot be strictly classified as ‘security’ appointments.
“Even then, the issue here is no longer where a person comes from but whether he or she is deserving of the position to which he or she is seeking to be appointed; whether he or she is qualified to be given the position to which he or she seeks to be appointed,” said a source who does not wanted to be quoted. “The nation deserves the best in the security sector at this point in time.
“If a man is the president’s brother and he is not a good cop, the president will be doing himself a disservice if he goes ahead to give such brother such a responsible position. Nigerians should be wary of any president who seeks to jump hierarchy and appoint an IGP of his choice because he might be doing that for a purpose other than just the security of the country.”
However, if there is anything to be said about President Yar’Adua, it is perhaps that he has demonstrated a lot of faith in the due process and had in the past manifested so in other sensitive appointments. Whether extraneous forces and considerations would sway him in the choice of who takes over from Okiro remains to be seen. All that would be put to rest in a matter of days.
Section 215, sub 1, paragraph (a) of the 1999 Constitution, states: “An Inspector-General of Police…subject to Section 216 (2) of this Constitution, shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Nigeria Police Council from among serving members of the Nigeria Police Force.”
It does not make mention of rank from where the IGP could be appointed or any other considerations that are at the prerogative of the President, so long as the officer is a serving member of the Force. This leaves it open-ended. But, many have been cautious not to upset the applecart. Each time a junior officer is appointed over and above his seniors in the armed forces, it tends often to generate a lot of controversy and may even destroy the, which is like the tendon that holds forces men and women together. For his part, the junior officer so catapulted tends to show more allegiance to the appointing officer than to the constitution and flag.
“If, for instance, you appoint an AIG IGP over and above his boss, it will be difficult even for the junior officers to respect the new IGP because they would know he didn’t merit his appointment,” stressed the source who would not be named. “In the police, as in the armed forces, hierarchy is highly respite. Part of the problem of the Nigeria Police is that wittingly or unwittingly, government often does things that tend to undermine the integrity of the organisation.”
Following are the career resumes of some of those who want to succeed Mike Okiro as IGP:
OGBONNAYA ONOVO (DIG)
ON account of merit, experience, qualification and quota, DIG Ogbonnaya Onovo is in a good stead to succeed Okiro. Apart from being a lawyer, he superintended the Criminal Investigations Department of the force (CID) and laid a solid foundation for it to take root.
Onovo is a widely acclaimed intelligent officer, who topped his class during the final examinations of his course at National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, near Jos in Plateau State.
Both Onovo and Okiro are course mates, but he was senior to the out-going IGP in the chain of command. In addition, he still has over three more years in service; he is expected to proceed on retirement by August 1, 2012.
Apart from seniority, one other thing going for him as his carriage, loyalty and dedication to duty, despite the pressure on him from some quarters to retire voluntarily when Okiro was picked over him for the IGP position in 2007. But Onovo took it in his strides and stayed on, without showing any sign of animosity, something that might count for him when the chips are down and if geo-political consideration does not override other considerations.
Enugu State-born Onovo has been wearing the DIG rank in the past seven years, one of the longest in the history of the Police in Nigeria. Born on February 7, 1953, he is 56 and joined the Police as a cadet officer on August 1, 1977, after graduating from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. So when Okiro retires in July, Onovo would still have three and half years to serve the nation, if he is not forced to quit if the post eludes him again, before attaining the mandatory 35 years in service.
In the field and office, Onovo has paid his dues. He had been chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), during which he won Special Commendation Award (2000) from the United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for his meritorious contributions to the war against drugs. In addition, he received a Letter of Commendation (2000) from Her Majesty’s Customs Services, United Kingdom for his tremendous contributions to anti-narcotic smuggling (2000), among others. He is the only serving police officer who has worked in practically departments of the force, except perhaps, which is not considered strictly a police work.
Onovo was appointed acting IGP by President Yar’Adua following the retirement of Ehindero on June 1, 2007, being the next most senior officer in the Force. But that was reversed 24 hours later after some intrigues and horse-trading.
He possesses all it takes to head the Police, especially the strength of character and discipline that are fast eroding in the Force.
JOHN AHMADU (DIG)
JOHN Ahmadu, a source said, is in a position to succeed Okiro if the Presidency caves in to geo-political considerations and lobbyists from the North, who would want seniority relegated. Fifty-three-year-old Ahmadu, is a graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. He was enlisted into the Force as a Cadet Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP).
At a time religious background has become an issue in who holds what post, especially one like the IGP, Ahmadu’s Christian background might be a minus in the political calculation of those rooting for him, though it ought not be in a true democracy and federalism.
UBA RINGIM (DIG)
UBA Ringim from Ringim town in Jigawa State is no push over in the race where any of the contenders stand some chance of being picked as IGP.
The ABU, Zaria Bachelor of Arts (Education) degree holder was born in August 1955 and joined the Police as a Cadet ASP in 1979. He is not new to the race, having been in contention in 2007 but was allegedly reportedly dropped under unclear circumstances at his first run that saw the emergence of Okiro.
But unlike Onovo, Ahmadu, he has held only one state command appointment, as Borno State Commissioner of Police (CP) for about two years. That, however, does not disqualify him, not being one of the qualifications of an IGP.
HAFIZ RINGIM (AIG)
THE race to succeed Okiro is not restricted to the DIGs, as some observers say even the AIGs stand a better chance. Some time in the past, it was thought that getting to the rank of DIG meant an officer was out of contention for the IGP position. At that time, officers accepted the DIG rank with fate.
Hafiz Ringim, an AIG from Ringim in Jigawa State, like Uba Ringim, though no blood relation, is a formidable force to contend with in the contest, as it has become of late. A devout Muslim, Hafiz had in the past successfully handled some sensitive national responsibilities from the Presidency and so well known in the corridors of power. He has also held several and field operation positions that had endeared him to not a few power brokers.
He enlisted into the Force in March 1977, as a Cadet Inspector, unlike his competitors, who joined as Cadet ASPs.
SULEIMAN FAKAI (AIG)
IN a contest that appears to be an all-comers affair for officers from the North of the AIG and DIG ranks, Suleiman Fakai, an AIG is in reckoning.
Fakai joined the Police in January 1984, as a Cadet ASP. One thing going for him is the alleged support of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Saad 11.
Currently the AIG in charge of Zone 5 Command, with headquarters in Benin, Edo State, Fakai hails from Kebbi State. Apart from having held several operational and command positions in the past, another edge he has over others is on the basis of age. He has more years to spend in service than most of those in the race; being due for retirement by 2019.
MOHAMMED D. ABUBAKAR (AIG)
FOR Zamfara State-born Mohammed Abubakar, the AIG in charge of Zone 2, with headquarters in Lagos, he came into limelight and reckoning as Lagos State Commissioner of Police (CP), from the Airport Command.
He is alleged to be on Okiro’s his mind as his successor, but besides his academic background (he has a diploma) and joining the Force as a Cadet Inspector in 1979, he is said to have enjoyed one of the most rapid promotions in the Police. In addition, several forces seem to be working against his emergence as IGP, even from among his colleagues over his dramatic rise to the rank of AIG.
Prior to his current position, he had been CP for Kwara State, where he had a close rapport with Governor Bukola Saraki, current chairman of the Governors Forum, undoubtedly one of the power brokers in the country.
With about five years in service, Mohammed is a hot contender, especially with the kind of personalities behind him.
By Godwin Ijediogor and Samson Ezea (with agency reports)