The father, the son and a difficult assignment
It is not often that policemen tell their stories. Usually they retire and then fade away. Samuel Adetuyi a retired Commissioner of Police who headed the police commands in Kogi, Yobe and Rivers at different times, has giving us an engaging narrative in his book, Policing in Nigeria, My Story. It is indeed more than his story. He uses the well-written book to lay bare the truth about the Nigeria Police. He succeeds spectacularly by simply telling it as it is. Going through the book and feeling the pains and the pangs and the occasional joy of triumphs and victories, one is left with a feeling of pathos. Policing is a profession that commands passion and misunderstanding in equal measures.
Arguably, policing is the toughest job in Nigeria and certainly one of the most dangerous. On August 6, our almost un-shockable nation was shocked to learn about the violent ends of three policemen and two civilian in the lionised Intelligence Response Team, IRT, from the office of the Inspector General of Police. The team had gone on an undercover operation to Taraba State where they succeeded in capturing Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, a suspected multi-million don of a kidnapping mafia. On their way to Abuja, they ran into a roadblock mounted by soldiers who opened fire on them and finished three of the policemen and two civilians. Five others were injured.
The kidnapped kingpin was rescued by the soldiers and he fled. On Tuesday August 20, police undercover agents succeeded in re-capturing Wadume in his hideout in Kano State. Before he was re-captured, the military had been hard-pressed to tell its own side of the story. They said the police team did not follow the proper protocol of operating in a security territory. Therefore, it was thought by the soldiers that the IRT men were kidnappers and Wadume was indeed a kidnapping victim.
The IGP and the Defence Headquarters have rightly waded into the matter, trying to ascertain whether the three dead police heroes were victims of friendly fire or they were caught down deliberately by agents of Wadume’s famed extensive kidnapping empire.
In the police, no one is ever sure of where the enemy territory is. In the new war against terror, there are different shades of darkness and the figure lurking within could actually be the boy next door. The dilemma of the policeman is that he is expected to be the friend of everybody but only few people wants to trust him with good information. So there is always a surprise waiting for you, especially when the enemy approaches with a ready smiles and a dagger under his cloak of apparent camaraderie. So for the few policemen who rose through the ladder and live to tell the story, they know that Lady Luck is in love with them. Adetuyi is one of the lucky one.
When he joined the police in 1972, Nigeria was a different country. The Civil War had ended and General Yakubu Gowon, the country handsome military ruler, was at the height of his popularity. Alhaji Kafaru Tinubu, a Commissioner of Police, was the Commandant of the Police College, Ikeja. He was the father-figure in charge of the institution when Adetuyi enlisted as a cadet inspector. He and his colleagues were directed to the barber shop of the college where Adetuyi had his first police haircut. Like the others, he was given a clean shave. His life had changed forever.
The police was to introduce him to Nigeria, its complexities, its power and its weaknesses. He learnt to love people but be wary of them. He served in the different branches of the police; the mobile units, intelligence and as a Divisional Police Officer. After almost three decades, he joined the police aristocracy as a Commissioner. He was now to fly the prestigious pennant on his staff car. He became a member of the sanctum as Force Secretary. His boss, Inspector-General of Police Musuliu Smith, loved him, his subordinates admired him and his colleagues envied him. It was a roaring time.
One day bad news came. Junior officers and some other ranks were planning a strike over unpaid allowances and stalled promotions. Smith embarked on a nationwide tour of commands to douse the fire and beat the boys back to line. That the strike was muted at all infuriated the President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. He fired the IGP and replaced him with Tafa Balogun, a flamboyant and mercurial bulldozer, who was a different kind of police officer. Balogun was in love with his new office and he would allow any suspected incubus to hang over it. This put Adetuyi in the line of fire for he was suspected to be a “Smith boy.”
Balogun’s ire was fuelled from two different directions. Smith was gone, but one of the Assistant Inspectors General of Police, Sunday Ehindero, was also regarded as a mentor and friend of Adetuyi. Therefore, Balogun was boasting openly, “Does he think it is everybody who can be IGP?” he would say referring to Ehindero. “You better tell your brother not to worry himself as there is no vacancy for the position of IGP!”
Adetuyi was transferred to another office where he was to report to a new AIG, one of his old classmates at the Police College. It was to humiliate him but his new boss saw through the game and treated him with sympathy and courtesy, protesting jocularly that Adetuyi should stop yes-siring him.
Respite came when Adetuyi was posted to head the Kogi State command. The terrain was tough and the politics among the elite was bitter and unforgiving. It was here that he was first able to fully take charge and implement his idea of community policing. Later he was transferred to Yobe State, the home of Islamist insurgents, the Boko-Haram and the Taliban. Almost every policeman, including those who are native, wanted to redeploy from Yobe. They saw their posting there, not as national assignments, but as punishment. It was tough for him to his men together and he did his best to stop the haemorrhage.
One day in March 2005, the impossible happened. IGP Balogun was fired and he was replaced by the long-suffering Ehindero. Balogun was headed for the valley where he was to learn bitter lessons. The new IGP was decidedly different from his mercurial predecessor. “Oga Ehindero was an officer and a gentleman,” Adetuyi stated. “Knowledgeable, forthright and thoroughly professional, nobody can accuse him of high-handedness and he believed in his subordinates unless that trust is eroded through a misconduct.” He added: “If I say he was my father in the job, I mean every word of it.”
He was soon moved from the tough terrain of Yobe to the tougher command in Rivers State where the Niger Delta militants were challenging the authorities of the Nigeria state. Killings were common place and human life hardly means anything to these violent players. The rivalries among the militants were vicious and bloodletting was common. It was a difficult job.
One morning, IGP Ehindero relayed a direct command from President Obasanjo to Adetuyi: “Bring Asari Dokubo to Abuja today!”
Dokubo was the leader of the militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, one of the most powerful and violent groups. Dokubo’s men were heavily armed. Ehindero told the Commissioner that the President was waiting. Adetuyi found himself between the rock and a hard place. He summoned a meeting of his top commanders to the headquarters and relayed the President’s command to them. With the support of the Department of State Security, DSS, they soon arrested Dokubo and before his men could get wind that their commander was with the police, they had spirited him to the airport, enroute to Abuja. Adetuyi personally delivered him to the IGP.
It was in Rivers that Adetuyi ended his career in the police. It was significant that three men of destiny were also on the stage when he was there. Peter Odili was the governor and Rotimi Amaechi was the Speaker of the State House of Assembly and Nyeson Wike the chairman of Obior-Akpor Local Government Council. The three men have been dominating Rivers politics since then.
Adetuyi retired from the police on his 60th birthday on February 1, 2007. In his 35 years of service, he has rose from a humble cadet-inspector to the enviable rank of Commissioner of Police. He has also developed himself, garnering academic laurels of Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Lagos and an MBA from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
What I found most inspiring was that after his retirement as a CP, he applied through the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, and sat for the post-UTME exam to read Law at the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba. He was called to the Bar in 2013 and now heads his Law chamber in Akure, capital of Ondo State. His life has changed significantly.
But the police he served for 35 years has hardly changed. “Over 40 years ago, when I had to perform stop and search duties, I had considered the method inadequate then. Now, that the number of vehicles has increased exponentially, coupled with the fact that the conduct of criminal elements in our society has become more complex, aggressive and violent; manual stop and search duties, in my view has become obsolete and a mockery of policing in this country.”
Then he makes his recommendation: “Criminal elements are taking advantage of technological innovations in the society while security agents are using the analogue facilities to confront them. Tell me, who is fooling who? Government should go digital. Crime control has gone beyond the present Nigerian approach.”
Adetuyi’s book is a timely warning to the Nigerian state and its leaders. Whether the leaders have the capacity to hear and heed the warnings is a different matter.
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