The controversy over whether the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Idris Kpotum Ibrahim should go or remain just few weeks to the nation’s general elections is borne out more of sentiments than sincerity of purpose. In such critical moments that national decisive events like elections are approaching, people engage in desperate fault-finding over issues that would have been non-issue at normal times. Nigerian politicians are, own their own, quarrelsome, vindictive and pessimistic. Some of them are too garrulous and bombastic, ever ready to politicize and trivialize issues.
The IGP’s case is a matter of concern in reality. His tenure has ended. As the civil service rule stipulates, public servant must retire after 35 years of service or at the attainment of the age of 60. Idris was appointed by President Buhari on March 21, 2016. He replaced Solomon Arase, who retired from the Nigeria Police Force on June 21, 2016 after reaching statutory age of 60. The guidelines in the Nigeria Police Service Commission stipulate that an IGP is entitled to a pre-retirement leave before clocking age 60. Idris will be age 60 on Monday January 14, 2019.
The truth is that he was appointed by Buhari as enshrined in the Nigerians constitution, not out of personal volition. The same constitution gives the President the right of dismissal on very concrete grounds or even extension of tenure. I do not know why this controversy is rising. I have seen President Buhari extend the tenures of many appointees in his government some of who were appointed by the opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the eve of handover in 2015. PDP has remained the greatest beneficiary of the Buhari-led government which retained most of the appointees by the PDP government.
That fact being as it is, it cannot be refuted that the tenure extensions of all the appointees by the President is basically on merit or national interest. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo extended the tenure of Sunday Ehindero as IGP by twelve months. Former President Umaru Yar’Ardua extended the tenure of Mike Okiro as IGP. So, why have the opposition found it as a national quagmire? Why did the PDP and other opposition parties plan to stage a protest to demand Idris’ effective retirement? Is the extension of IGP’s tenure in Nigeria a novel happening? The question is: Why are they trying to influence Buhari’s decision.
Two things come to fore in this connection. Extension of tenure can be on merit. Merit here refers to the performance of the appointee which demands that more time is granted him or her to conclude national activities at hand. Yes, there are actions that are like perishable goods. There are others that need time to actualize. In all the cases, the actions must be to achieve desire goals. On the other hand, every new appointee requires time to perfect the mastery of the new environment, more so when the environment is as large as the Nigerian landscape.
Provision of security to nearly 200 million people is not a child’s joke. It is more than paper work. It is more than a one day arrangement. It is not what a new appointee can just takeover and fully take control of. Nigerians, being a very hard species of mankind, the job of security leaderships is very tasking, risky and also very diplomatically confrontational. How more could it be now that a very difficult event is approaching in the country – the general elections? Some of the politicians are already perfecting plans to cause trouble if they receive the opposite results of their expectations. It is not hidden the fact that change in a leadership definitely affects the whole system. The security of Nigerian citizens during the general elections must not be compromised. The Nigeria police have recorded tremendous improvement under IGP Idris. So, on merit he deserves extension if the President deems it necessary.
The second reason for extension makes it even more necessary for the President to extend the tenure. This is because the national interest is at risk. It is about one month to the all-important Presidential and national assembly polls. For national interest, it may be a colossal disaster to appoint a new person to head the Nigeria Police. It will amount to mortgaging the lives of the citizenry. I must not be understood to belittle the powers of any appointee to deliver. The reality is that the new person will be jittery in surmounting the heavy pressure from politicians and their uncanny attitude during elections. IGP Idris is used to such pressures. He has mastered how to handle them, because records show that he had overcome several ugly cases and situations stage-managed by some of these politicians.
I have picked interest in some reactions from Nigerians over this national burning issue. Information and culture minister, Lai Mohammed, believes that there is no cause for alarm if Buhari decides to extend Idris’ tenure. The opposition, to him, is merely heating-up the politics. “When you are drowning, you grab any floating object you can find. You even grab at straws. That’s what the PDP is doing with the issue of the IGP’s tenure”, he averred. Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) in a statement issued by its first spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, alleged of plans to influence the forthcoming general election results. According to him, the Presidency has acknowledged the failure and inability of the IGP to maintain law and order by deploying the military and yet plotting to extend the tenure of the IGP. “The Opposition Code 20 which will soon be officially launched will be in full gear by the election date and no acts of rigging will be condoned or tolerated,” the statement read.
Assuredly some groups are lobbying for Idris to be remained till after the general elections because he has put all logistics in place. The Muslims Rights Concern (MURIC) has contended that it will be precarious to retire Idris now. In the statement by its director and founder, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, politicians are to blame for not thinking Nigeria first. Reasons advanced by the group included the closeness of the elections with the associated sensitivities, the security challenges facing Nigeria which Idris has mastered, possible instructions and arrangements already put in place at police formations in states. “A new IGP around this time will naturally make one or two changes because styles differ. We know that administration is a continuum but you don’t change the goal post in the middle of the game”, MURIC maintained.
No doubt, it may amount to imprudence to change the officer who planned a project at the point of implementation. Therefore, such deep concern at the voices of dissent over the matter is germane. If Buhari decides to extend Idris’ tenure, it should be far beyond the election period in order to ensure a hitch-free 2019 general elections as well as post-election stability. Buhari must not be influenced by detractors; he must ignore all protestations borne out of sentiments, strict to his conscience and consider the nation first.
A social commentator in Lagos, Emmanuel Umohinyang, writing in the Leadership Newspaper on “PDP’s Needless Fuss On IGP’s Tenure Extension”, portrayed the PDP as a party of people whose stock-in-trade has always been to kick against every move connected with Buhari’s administration. According to him, the scenario has further exposed PDP and their collaborators who are fighting an imaginary enemy as the IGP has demonstrated a high degree of professionalism since his appointment, having been trained, unlike most of his predecessors, by the United Nations (UN) with exposure to services in different parts of the world.
To Umohinyang, the Police Force now treat Nigerians with respect and courtesy like a police team led by an Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police which visited the home of a Nigerian accidentally killed in the course of duty, dismissal of officers engaged in acts of indiscipline like an official of the F-SARS who killed a LASTMA official in Lagos, and the curbing of the excesses of officers of Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS). He concluded that Nigerians should be calling for an extension of the IGP’s tenure because he has brought sound, workable and credible reforms to the police.
Querying if it was not the same Idris that provided security in Anambra state where the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) won the governorship election and lately the senatorial bye-elections, he observed that under Idris, even the PDP won elections in Benue, Oyo, Kogi and Kaduna states which were hailed by foreign observers.
“Those fighting IGP Idris are surely fighting the wrong person. If their fear is about the coming polls, the police under his leadership is surely not the issue but the Nigerian electorate whom the PDP serially raped for 16 years,” stated Umohinyang.
It is left for President Buhari to decide, considering all the concerns of the Nigerian people.
Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail .
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