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Abba Kyari’s Twelve Sides of the Story, By Gimba Kakanda

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Abba Kyari’s Twelve Sides of the Story, By Gimba Kakanda

I often wonder why those with hideous skeletons in their cupboard tend to prefer dancing in the spotlight for applause. Perhaps this criminal principle of hiding in plain sight drives such maddening attraction to the camera, even though it’s usually a stage for scandals from which most rarely recover. Only this time, the stage set by one of such characters, the fraudster Abbas Ramon aka Hushpuppi, has become a dock for the trial of Nigeria’s global integrity.

When the news of DCP Abba Kyari’s part in one of Hushpuppi’s scams began to trend, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at first. The police officer rushed to his Facebook and shared that his only link to the fraudster was the sum of N300,000 sent to his tailor by the fraudster who had admired his kaftans and caps on Instagram. “Nobody demanded a kobo from Abbas Hushpuppi,” he wrote. Of course, the gravity of a self-styled super-cop being reduced to a courier delivery boy for a fraudster wasn’t lost to us, but that was a reality more pleasant than complicity in a $1.1m fraud against a Qatari businessman.

As an elite cop and the head of the Nigerian Police Intelligence Response Team, I thought he was clever. I assumed he was advantaged to know and weigh the storm coming for him. But when the 69-page FBI document with details of his relationship with Hushpuppi was made public, he too realised what he should have, in the first place—that this isn’t a roadside fight between two friends in which truth is hard to establish. He edited his Facebook statement a record 12 times, taking out his role as a kaftan plug for Hushpuppi and wrote that he was a mere debt collector for that indicted fraudster, before he deleted the entire post.

That a supposed head of an intelligence unit in the police force, one vastly decorated for his valour in bringing down armed robbers and kidnappers, attempted to change an already trending story is an indictment of the institution that gave him such a high platform. Kyari also occupied an office that ought to have prepared him to instantly see Hushpuppi’s flamboyant lifestyle as an invitation to ask questions. Instead, as documented by the FBI document, he did the opposite: Marketing himself like a cheap whore to Hushpuppi, with official photographs of him in uniform and links to newspaper recognition of his valour sent to the fraudster via WhatsApp.

It can’t be any sincere friendship that got a cop of such acclaim to convert his esteemed office into a logistics firm for the questionably wealthy Hushpuppi. It’s the typical vertical networking that characterises life here in Nigeria, where the wealthy, however dubious, are a ladder to the top and the pillars of the financial safety net we crave. Whether as kaftan plug or a debt collector, Kyari performed to earn Hushpuppi’s trust and for the obvious bite of whatever sustained the latter’s flamboyance.

But Hushpuppi isn’t just any friend, he was long on the radar of the police abroad for targeting a bank, a law firm, an English Premier League football club, a Qatari school, among other series of the digital heists he masterminded. Kyari’s self-defence of that friendship on Facebook has already backfired and the world already awaits what truly happened to Chibuzo—an estranged accomplice of Hushpuppi—who was allegedly jailed by Kyari on the instruction of Hushpuppi who promised to “take care of the team also after they pick him up.” Their WhatsApp exchange on that subject, in which Kyari found the suggestion that Chibuzo must be severely beaten funny, may be traumatizing but that’s a standard practice in the institution that created Kyari.

Kyari’s stardom is one designed to dim when it did. His office didn’t require the media he brought to it. If he’s not sharing sensitive updates of his operations on his social media, it must be some socialites who visited him or one he chanced upon at an opulent party. He loved the camera too much, even when it documents activities that damage him. Last July, he had to rush to explain his presence at the burial ceremony of the well-known socialite, Obi Cubana’ mum, referring to the host as his “brother.” That gathering promoted a pastime in which a police officer of Kyari’s standing had no business.

The stories that led to Kyari’s suspension are a demonstration of his inability to reason cleverly and measure the gravity of his actions which, ironically, his office required. That he couldn’t counter the FBI account or present one side of the story is already a disastrous loss in the court of public opinion, even among those who had wanted to hear him out. Being a “successful cop”, unfortunately, isn’t an immunity to the crime for which he’s being investigated. That logic has to be the most insensible defence of a suspect or criminal. Luckily, his arrest warrant was issued by an organisation that can’t be accused of a sectional agenda in our dangerously polarized entity, as would’ve been the case if the FBI were a local institution.

Kyari, also, isn’t being investigated because the Nigerian Police has suddenly developed conscience or sensitivity to the misconducts of its members. He is because the integrity of the Nigerian police is on a global trial, and by a counterpart from a country our government defers to and seeks as a partner in international politics. So many uniformed crooks have done worse and yet been protected by the Police. Their stories are out there, from Apo 6 to #EndSARS. This isn’t the beginning of any institutional reform as some are tempted to assume.

 

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