IGP Ibrahim Idris is a lean, agile and ebullient spirit. He beamed with these qualities as he walked into The Nation Newspaper’s boardroom last week. With him were a deputy inspector general of police, about six commissioners of police and other top officers.
It was billed as a brief visit to The Nation’s editors. Articulate and engaged, he reeled out his vision and accomplishments. The felling of kingpin Evans, the clipping of Badoo, the multiple arrests of robbers on Kaduna-Abuja express way et al.
I appreciated all these but I pointed out my worries: Why Yerima Shettima of the Arewa Youths Forum and IPOB’s Nnamdi Kanu have not been arrested in spite of the official line. He delved into a delicate explanation of consultations and how the acting president was leveraging meetings at the National Security Council to keep peace.
I followed up and asked if we were sacrificing the law for peace. A tricky proposition. He said both men exercised their right of freedom of expression. I countered that there was a difference between freedom of expression and incitement. We did not agree there, especially when one of the officers said words alone cannot mean incitement in law. All law dictionaries I consulted defines incite as to “rouse”, or “instigate.” As I noted, you don’t need a gun or dagger to incite. Words are even more potent. Radio Biafra is words. Solomon said, life and death is in the power of the tongue.
He also responded to the state police issue, and he referred to a lecture last week, in which he said, by consensus, all agreed that Nigeria was not ripe for state police. When shall we be ripe? Asked columnist Kunle Abimbola. The IGP replied as an example that no state organised local government elections and lost. I wanted to intervene, but Lagos CP Owoseni and others indicated they were about to leave.
Two points. One, alpha Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was a contrarian voice at the lecture and backed state police, listing his obvious scores. So, the claim that it was a consensus was not correct. Those who stood against state police at the lecture were beneficiaries from the centre, including former military officers and some traditional rulers. One Professor Etannibi Alemika, who delivered the lecture, said we were not ripe for state police in tendentious logic. Some professors ought to be thought how to research.
I only wanted to ask the IGP: is Nigeria ripe for federal police, with Badoo, kidnapping, Boko Haram, robberies and even election violence? If we want federalism, it’s state police. Unless we don’t want federalism.
On the whole, I admired IGP Idris for his imagination and drive. He also is trying to introduce marine police and emulate police trust fund that Lagos, Nigeria’s fount of progress, has set in motion.