IGP Ibrahim Idris, the conqueror of Benue
It is not garlands from the citizens for a successful prosecution of an agenda to fight crime that Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris hankers after. There is a bigger prize he is ready to give up anything for, including his professional credibility – to be in the eternal annals of the herdsmen’s war of 2017 and 2018 as the conqueror of Benue.
Benue might just be the ultimate trophy for Idris. He might have considered victory in other parts of the country, including southern Kaduna, the south-east, south-south and south-west less stellar. In the south-west, for instance, a prominent son of the region, a former minister and secretary to the government of the federation, Olu Falae, has been subjected to traumatic experiences ranging from kidnapping to the burning of his farm by Fulani herdsmen.
Despite the outrage that trailed this serial criminality and its potential to stoke ethnic distrust, the police under the leadership of Idris have failed to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators who are suspected to be Fulani herdsmen. Thus, it is not a far-fetched summation that Idris is secure in the notion that he and Fulani herdsmen are engaged in a justifiable war against other citizens.
We glimpsed the IGP’s complicity in this war when he declared that the killing of over 73 persons by Fulani herdsmen in Benue was only a tragic corollary of a communal misunderstanding. Not for him the circumspection undergirded by an avowal to a grieving nation of the platitudes that the police would get to the root of the matter and bring the culprits to book. But a poser that the IGP has failed to resolve is on whose part his policemen who were killed by Fulani herdsmen were fighting. Or the IGP might have blamed the policemen for being the architects of their own death by not appreciating a tacit understanding that they were in Benue to support one side in the conflict. All this underscores the point that in saner climes, the IGP should have been sacked either because of his gross negligence or complicity in the massacres in Benue and other parts of the country. But of course, Idris would keep his job as long as he is beholden to President Muhammadu Buhari who has demonstrated a boundless capacity to accommodate corrupt officials who were even disdained by the government of Goodluck Jonathan that has been so much loathed for its sleaze.
Rather than recanting, Idris is becoming more daring in blaming the victims for the crisis in Benue. He does not share the general and plausible perspective that Benue people are victims who are being maimed and killed for simply not yielding their land to those who consider their cows more precious than human beings. He rather still feels that the Fulani herdsmen are victims of a grand conspiracy whose sole objective is their elimination. Thus for Idris, the focus of the police should not be on how to arrest killer Fulani herdsmen who have inflicted blood-curdling carnage on the state but militia groups in Benue who have been trained to attack the herdsmen. Because he believes strongly in their innocence, he does not by any means reckon with the fact that the Fulani herdsmen have admitted being responsible for the killings in Benue by declaring that more blood would flow if the state’s anti-open grazing law is not repealed.
But what still awaits an appropriate response of Idris is the riposte: If the Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom had trained militia groups, why have they been unable to resist the Fulani herdsmen? Are these militia groups on the offensive? And do these militia groups enjoy more visibility so that they could easily be arrested why the Fulani herdsmen remain elusive like ghosts?
Clearly, the absence of an assurance from the IGP as regards measures he has deployed for the security of Benue to avert further attacks aggravates his complicity. But for Idris, this assurance is not necessary. He would rather mock the governor by dismissing him as a drowning man. Is Idris gloating that Ortom’s state is riven by crises because he chose to make a law that would protect both herdsmen and farmers? The IGP does not even feel indicted that he has betrayed his professional mandate having failed to arrest those who have threatened to add Ortom to the list of the casualties of killer Fulani herdsmen. He and his ilk might be waiting for the alleged threats on Ortom’s life to become reality so that they could once more vaunt, “but we told you to repeal that obnoxious law.” And yet, the IGP is supposed to be working closely with the governor for the peace of the state. Worse, the IGP does not see the crisis in Benue as an indication of the failure of the police to ensure the safety of life and property in Benue.
Idris has found this irresponsible and unconscionable path he is treading comfortable because he enjoys the support of the Buhari government that brooks his official and personal failings. Through this indiscriminate support, he has been surviving self-inflicted scandals. Just recently, when the IGP was accused by Isah Misau of enriching himself with billions that ought to go to the coffers of the police, and that he had been unable to rein in his dark libidinal taste, it was Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami that rushed to protect him through his perverted sense of justice. The IGP tends to repay this support by serving the government’s interest rather than that of the citizens. This explains his declaration of Kassim Afegbua wanted for articulating the position of his boss, former President Ibrahim Babangida, that Buhari should not seek re-election in 2019 having outlived his usefulness. And this despite the fact that Babangida has not disowned Afegbua.
Thus, we need not nurse any illusions about the effectiveness of Buhari’s order to the IGP for him to arrest all illegal arms-bearers, including herdsmen. Does Buhari just realise the need to give this order? He missed the opportunity to show that he appreciated the gravity of the herdsmen’s crisis by not going to Benue after the news of the killings broke. This order would have carried so much weight if Buhari had given it during his visit to Benue when the nation was reeling from the shock of the killings. Again, there is the suspicion that the IGP who could see the lack of seriousness of the government to check the herdsmen’s terrorism is not likely to do anything about the order. How much seriousness does the IGP really attach to the orders of Buhari as regards the Fulani herdsmen’s bloodlust when instead of relocating to Benue as directed by the president he only reportedly stayed there one day and abandoned it to its own bleak fate? But even if Buhari had suddenly realised the need to decisively respond to the crisis and demanded that suspects must be brought to him, what the IGP would end up doing is to arrest innocent citizens and brand them as those responsible for the killings in Benue State and other parts of the country where herdsmen have been unleashing terror. He would rather allow the real suspects to acquire more weapons of grimmer havoc as they move to provoke devastation in other parts of the country.
But Idris is not likely to hold Benue as his conquered territory for long. There is the growing consciousness among the people of Benue that since Idris has relinquished the responsibility of protecting them, it is incumbent on them to fight for their survival. It is in this vein that the governor has been urging them to take their safety as their personal responsibility and not that of the police being led by Idris. And when this resort to self-help triggers cataclysmic threats to the survival of the nation, the IGP and his co-travellers would realise too late that what they consider as their conquered territory and people have not really been in their firm grip after all.
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