Abba Kyari and the banana peels
The media got used to the concept of banana peels literally but carelessly thrown around in the exalted office of the Senate President during the two-term tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007.
The attrition rate of leadership in the upper chamber was akin to the fall of the unwary who is on a casual stroll on the path strewn carelessly with slippery banana peels. And the media, often given to celebrating with glee the fall of the mighty, had a field day- no qualms, no emotional involvement – in reporting the fall of the unfortunate Senate President with tabloid sensationalism. Those were those days.
But something close to this happened last weekend.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Abba Kyari, the celebrated super cop, arguably the most effective nemesis of high profile criminals and evasive kidnappers, has been suspended from office. The Police Service Commission said that his suspension was because of his “alleged involvement in $1.1 million loot by fraudster Ramon Abbas popularly known as Hushpuppi.” The suspension, according to the commission’s statement, “subsists pending the outcome of the investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America.”
Ramon Abbas, alias Hushpuppi, a multi-millionaire whose net worth is estimated at $20 million, is standing trial in the USA for internet fraud involving some millions of dollars. Reports said he has pleaded guilty to the offence.
The information gleaned from various sources point to some hobnobbing of Kyari with Hushpuppi. Hushpuppi, according to the story making the round, had complained to Abba Kyari that he had a partner by name Chibuzor Vincent who was not only trying to double cross him in a business deal, but who was also planning to kill somebody in his family. He requested Abba Kyari to deal with him for a fee. The Kyari team picked up Chibuzor and jailed him for at least six weeks without trial. Hushpuppi was said to have paid eight million naira to Abba Kyari and his team for the job. Sources in official circles said the business had to do with a scheme to defraud a man in Qatar, United Arab Emirates, with a contract to build a school for $1.1million.
But Chibuzor felt he was not being fairly treated by Hushpuppi and, in a manner of no honour among thieves, he decided to betray his partner in crime. He went behind Hushpuppi and made direct approach to the potential victim in the United Arab Emirates to complain that Hushpuppi was not a reliable person to deal with. This angered Hushpuppi and he went after him by hiring the services of Abba Kyari.
But Abba Kyari denied that any money was paid to him or his team. He said the only connection with Hushpuppi was that he introduced his tailor to him to make some Nigerian dresses – five of them, costing N300,000.00. And Hushpuppi, according to Kyari, paid the money into the tailor’s account.
But Hushpuppi whose wealth was the talk of the town in the United Arab Emirates had continued to attract a lot of attention to himself. His showman life style astounded both critics and admirers alike.
To those who were inquisitive about his wealth, he said he was an Instagram influencer with about 2.5 million followers. The more people asked about his wealth, the more he was prepared to flaunt it. He drove around in his many expensive cars. He even had his own helicopter to hop him around in Dubai. Following reports that Hushpuppi had scammed many Americans, the FBI closed in on him and he was eventually picked up and spirited away to the US. He was charged in court and he pleaded guilty.
It was during the interrogation that the FBI intercepted the correspondence between him and Abba Kyari. The FBI has formally forwarded the same correspondence to the Inspector General of Police in Abuja for necessary action.
Whatever that action remains very much in the realm of conjecture. Legal opinion differs on the matter with many questions flying about. Was Abba Kyari culpable because of his flashy life style and his proclivity for showmanship? Or simply because he was hobnobbing with a notorious scammer? Has the FBI detected any collusion with Hushpuppi in the attempt to dupe the Qatari businessman or in the multiple scamming of many Americans using the internet?
Whatever it is, his travail is another bad news for Nigeria. Conventional wisdom dictates that if you dine with the devil, you must do so with a long spoon. Did he or did he not know the depth of Hushpuppi ‘s notoriety? Was he truly playing the god father for the criminal, the way George Iyamu, a high ranking police officer did for Lawrence Anini, the notorious armed robber in Benin City in the 80s? In his confession, Anini mentioned George Iyamu and others as their gun runners whom they paid protection fees.
Or was Abba Kyari simply too carefree with fame that he left his tracks unprotected? Those, like Abba Kyari, the super cop who fight to keep the society free of criminals, must like, Caesar’s wife, be seen to be above board. Has he forgotten the travail of former Inspector General Tafa Balogun who fell from grace to grass because of the love of filthy lucre? Or the fate that befell Fidelis Oyakhilome, the former chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the drug tsar who got himself compromised by a lady of dubious distinction for which he paid dearly?
High offices are reputed to be littered with banana peels and occupants of such offices require the grace of God, coupled with a generous capacity for restraint, not to mention their visceral self-discipline to cope with temptation.
In this era of media trial, we caution that people should not rush to pass a harsh verdict on Abba Kyari yet. For all the good he has done, fighting crime with courage and conviction, there must be something to say in mitigation of his calamitous folly.
All is well that ends well?
So the legislators have been persuaded by common sense to suspend the odious bills that were aimed at gagging the press and curb the people’s freedom of expression? Is it too early to say all is well that ends well?
I hope that Hon. Olusegun Odebunmi, the sponsor of the gag bills in the House of Representatives, and his allies have realized that there is nothing to gain but all to lose in these difficult times by putting the country on edge?
In the first place, there are many laws in the book to take care of all manner of infractions from the media. Secondly, the Buhari administration, judging from lessons from the past, can withstand any onslaught from the media. It does not require any one to gratuitously foist any draconian law on the media in its name. All it needs to do now is to remain focused and continue to do good to all manner of people. A government that came to power proclaiming democracy and change from the roof top should have no stomach for intolerance of constructive criticisms.
And, I think, it is worth the while for public officers to bear in mind the immortal admonition of America’s President Richard Nixon, he who fell from office, victim of press relentless inquisitiveness that led to the famous Watergate scandal:
“One tactic that should be used only sparingly,” he says “ is for a public official who has been attacked by the press to counterattack. He may win in the short run. But in the long run the press has the last word, and they will never forgive him for taking them on.”
When you confront falsehood with facts, falsehood will cave in. For President Buhari, the next one and a half year requires a positive change in direction, in the momentum of social change and economic development with emphasis on people, with all of us pledging collective efforts to exterminate all the vices threatening to pull the country down.
Truth be told, we are at war in all fronts and our president, as commander-in-chief, must redouble efforts to lead us from the front. As Winston Churchill said in similar times, “We shall not flag or fail, we shall go on to the end.”