President Goodluck Jonathan’s sacking of Suleiman Abba from his position as Inspector General of Police (IGP) portrays the lame duck president as an angry, bitter and disillusioned man. Though the President has the authority to hire and fire, sacking Abba without reason, and in controversial circumstances, leaves much to be desired about the cantankerous state of Jonathan’s temperament. Contemporary dynamics of civil-military relations demand security forces’ subordination to civil authority, but Jonathan’s action did him little credit because the timing was not edifying, coming in the aftermath of his defeat in the last presidential election; a defeat his supporters attribute partly to Abba’s alleged partisan support for the opposition, which placed a big question mark on his loyalty to the president.
Though no official reason was given for the sack, Aso Rock sources told Huhuonline that Abba had been conducting himself in ways unbecoming of a professional policeman by lobbying for his continuity as IGP after Jonathan leaves office. Specifically, Abba purportedly touched sore nerves when he showed up on April 1, at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, at the event where President-elect, Buhari was receiving his certificate of return. In addition, Abba has been spotted many times at the airport to welcome Buhari on his recent trips to Abuja. Jonathan was said to have been outraged that Abba could not even wait for the change of government, before changing his allegiance.
It may be alright that since Abba could not set the limit to his own eccentricities, it was incumbent on the president to rein him in. But the sacking of Abba, who joins the list of IGPs, who did not serve up to a year before their removal, was an unnecessary own goal, as the President missed the opportunity of paying himself some compliments as a statesman, the world now perceives him to be, following his graceful acknowledgement of defeat after losing the March 28 presidential elections. Aso Rock sources tell Huhuonline that the President appears to be unnecessarily edgy lately and has become increasingly introverted and withdrawn as he prepares to leave office next month. He seems to be responding to everything on impulse, and has become the butt of jokes by cynics who badmouth him behind his back.
The same sources also indicated that Jonathan is in a killer mood, which manifested during the recent visit of Ghanaian President, John Mahama, when only one speaking dais was set-up as against the usual two, leaving Jonathan standing apart, his face grim and gloomy during Mahama’s statement to the media. After Jonathan walked Mahama to his car, he returned to his office alone, the usual smiles were gone. Unlike in the past, the president neither acknowledged greetings nor exchanged pleasantries from Petroleum Minister, Alison- Madueke, her FCT counterpart, Bala Mohammed, Foreign Affairs Musiliu Obanikoro and Youth Development, Boni Haruna who were standing by. The ministers read Jonathan’s foul mood and left immediately, instead of following him to his office as was customary.
After Jonathan returned to his office, he reportedly summoned Reuben Abati and not long after, the statement announcing Abba’s sack was released. The terse statement also appointed Deputy IGP in-charge of Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department (FCID), Solomon Arase as Acting IGP; a development that caused not a little disquiet at the police headquarters. Abba, a former aide-de-camp to Maryam Abacha, wife of former military leader, Gen. Sani Abacha, was sacked four years before he attained the formal retirement age of service on March 22, 2019. His infractions were not just a malign display of disloyalty to the President, whose appointee he was, it was a mark of contempt for the office and person of the president and this ordinarily demands his resignation in any civilized society.
Upon assumption of office last August, Abba told the nation that his vision was to make the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) “a leading national, professional and efficient law enforcement organization.” Given the history of impunity of the police, the imperative of building a people-friendly police force that will respect and uphold the fundamental rights of all citizens was emphasized. Abba promised that he would run a thoroughbred professional police service by maintaining a high level of personal discipline and leading strictly by example. His actions did not reflect this promise. For a man who held the entire police force of Nigeria in his hands, Abba seemed to have acted if somewhat unwisely; hob-knobbing with the opposition before the inevitable change in the nation’s leadership.
But in Abba’s case, the President clearly, could have been more circumspect and this case should have been better handled. A pertinent question then is whether Abba needed presidential clearance to attend the events he is being chastised for. Abba’s conduct is unsettling but even at that, did he break protocols; in negation of his office as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer? Jonathan must accept, without rancor that his presidency is now history and his collaborators and appointees are free to seek alternative avenues for their future. Attention to mundane issues as who did or said what or parleyed with whom; only advertises a certain pettiness at the highest level of government and politicizes the police.
Firing Abba because he was fraternizing with the APC implies Arase, as a Jonathan loyalist will be axed once Buhari takes office. This will be a great disservice not only to the country, but to Arase himself whose career will end
prematurely on May 29. There has to be a better way beyond this revolving door of vindictive madness because citizens would always distrust every action taken by a lame duck president, especially in a country where a culture of excellence in governance remains undeveloped.
In spite of his travails, Abba takes away with him the attributes of frankness and fearlessness. He is known for his vast experience in criminal investigation, intelligence-led policing and crime-fighting operations. Before his appointment as the IGP, he was the head of the Police Committee, vested with the responsibility to plan for the security of the 2015 general elections. Although Abba had served as the Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, Deputy Force Secretary, Assistant Commissioner of Police in-charge of State CID, FCT Police Command, and before his appointment, the Assistant Inspector General (AIG) in-charge of Zone 7, Abuja, little was known about him outside where he operated. But as IGP, he jarred public consciousness with his belligerent actions, most notably, his refusal to recognize House Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal on the ground that his occupation of the office was being challenged in court. It bears recalling that last November 20, Abba
ordered police officers to violate the sanctity of the National Assembly, and in the process, the honorable members were harassed, hounded and tear-gassed. Summoned to explain the offensive actions of his men, Abba added insult to injury by proffering unacceptable excuses to justify the siege.
Abba’s entire conduct against the legislative arm of government suggested strongly that the assault on the hallowed chambers of the people’s representatives was premeditated. His outright display of insubordination to civil authority was preceded by an earlier snub of an invitation from both the House and the Senate to appear before them. Rather than honor the invitation, he sent a subordinate officer to appear on his behalf. By immersing himself in the murky waters of politics, Abba undermined the legislative arm of the state. His impudence amounted to a huge assault on the sensibility of Nigerians, and the deafening silence of the Jonathan administration towards this brazen impunity, reinforced public perception that Abba was playing out a script written by the presidency. It now appears that with Jonathan heading for the exit, the chicken is coming home to roost.