he FBI recently released WhatsApp communications between the Super Cop, DCP Abba Kyari, and Ramon Abbas, popularly called Hushpuppi, and one of the most intriguing instances was when Kyari provided a photo of himself and his vanity wall, as well as a news piece claiming he would be awarded for “outstanding service.” Kyari’s narcissism is revealed by the items he chooses to share with a dubious acquaintance. An officer who sends photos of his body to a character like Hushpuppi while dressed in official garb is no different than a sex worker who sends nudes to potential customers merely to figure out how much their wares should cost. Clearly, Kyari desired to develop a personal and transactional relationship with Hushpuppi.
Looking in-depth at the content of their conversations, especially the sections when Kyari was perversely courting Hushpuppi’s friendship, it is clear why he has been so committed in cultivating a public image through social media. Police officers, in theory, should not be as visible as Kyari has been in public. Unlike what we see on dedicated crime channels, much of the work of police officers around the world is tedious. There is nothing glamorous about sniffing around in the dark for folks trying to cover their transgressions. Furthermore, the police represent an organization that is intended to administer justice, and no individual should be more conspicuous than the ethos and ideals of the institution to where they belong. A true definition of a misnomer is clearly depicted in an officer like Kyari, who readily makes himself available for parties in expensive regalia, grabs photo opportunities with socialites (some of whom he should be investigating), and updates his social media accounts with photos of himself while apparently investigating a crime. To gain attention and eventually entice VIPs with his services, he turned himself into a social media sensation. Kyari was not a great cop; he was a pimp for the institutional authority he represented.
Attempting to defend Kyari by referring to his track record as a wrecking ball simply implies that you are yet to grasp the full picture. This is not a police officer who stands out because he is passionate about keeping Nigeria safe. No, he went to great lengths to establish a stellar reputation so that he could exploit the society’s accolades for the benefit of the wealthy. His disguise as a “super cop” has given him access to areas frequented by the wealthy, celebrities, and even wealthy criminals. It is amusing that some people believe his affair with Hushpuppi was a one-time moral blunder that should not detract from his otherwise stellar career. In reflection, what appeared to be a stellar service record was actually a hustler who used and abused institutional influence to manipulate people for personal gain. Pursuing criminals was not in the best interests of anyone.
Several groups, including the media, showered him with honors and allegedly bestowed upon him the “most decorated officer” in Nigerian history. A long history of arresting people, rather than real prosecution and convictions, was a big part of Kyari’s “super cop” reputation. Yes, Nigerian courts are notoriously slow, and he is most likely not to blame that his high-profile arrests have not resulted in successful convictions. Still, how did his myth-makers convert him into a fantastic cop when he spent so much of his time arresting and detaining suspects unlawfully? Why should a police officer who gets suspect arrested be regarded exceptional if not in Nigeria, where mediocrity is celebrated and rewarded blindly? Even Kyari’s much-vaunted professional sharpness is now up for debate, thanks to his lame excuse regarding his relationship with Hushpuppi. He could not possibly have been the clever cop they say he is if, as a so-called detective, he could not see the massive gaps in the self-defence tale he provided the public.
If his cases had progressed from arrests to convictions, there would have been a stronger case to be made that he and his team followed proper procedures throughout their criminal investigations. However, when Nigeria dubbed Kyari a super cop, he did not have such a track record of hard work and ethics. Even his WhatsApp conversations with Hushpuppi did not reveal him to be an idealistic cop. I could not help but cringe when he informed Hushpuppi that Chibuzo, whom Hushpuppi had requested be removed from the scene, had been picked up. “He is in my jail now,” he myopically said after sharing the mugshot with Hushpuppi. Please note the officer’s use of a personal pronoun when referring to institutionalized punishment as a personal toy.
If Kyari had no moral qualms about granting a popular fraudster’s request to violate the fundamental human rights of someone who had double-crossed him in an illegal transaction, how can we be sure that such privatization of institutional power and abuse of official privilege that he displayed in his exchange with Hushpuppi are not the entire story of his ostensibly exceptional career? What if his numerous arrests of supposed kidnappers are similar to Chibuzo’s case – not because they were guilty of the crimes for which they were accused, but that they were just persons who some powerful figures wanted to disappear? Who is to say he has not been doing the same thing for his many socialite buddies who reward him with ‘social’ currency if he can run such an errand for Hushpuppi, a mere con artist?
The Police Service Commission (PSC) should move beyond simply suspending Kyari now that we know the corrupt underside of the “super cop” persona he cultivated. They should begin by going over all of his files. Someone who could detain Chibuzo and giggle at the prospect of “giving him a significant thrashing of his life” could not be trusted to carry out his responsibilities professionally. At some time, he may have taken professional standards for granted, thus it is critical to start double-checking his records. We can not separate Kyari’s professional activity as an officer from the types of errands he did for Hushpuppi. It is likely that some of those well-publicized arrests were staged. Whether or not the PSC looks into his arrest history, the lawyers for people he arrested will bring up his mischievous behaviours with Hushpuppi in court. They will credibly argue that Kyari’s proclivity to abuse authority put his entire life’s work under suspicion in cases where he was the primary investigative officer and assisted the arrests of particular individuals.
Kyari should be stripped of every award he has ever received from institutions that praised him for his ostensibly hard work after being probed and found guilty. During a plenary session last year, the House of Representatives honored him for his outstanding performance in his duties. In 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari presented him with a Presidential award for bravery. State governments and the media have lavished him with unwarranted honors. Those prizes should be revoked as a lesson to others like him who cloak misuse of power behind a supposedly public reputation of accomplishment.
Lastly, they should examine seriously the petitions alleging that he and his team abused their power in the performance of their duties. It is pointless to pretend that this is a one-time blunder by someone who was otherwise a beacon of hope in a country plagued by corruption and a lack of work ethic. His lack of inquiry regarding Hushpuppi’s source of riches, his readiness to be used, and his propensity to accept a one-sided narrative of what happened between Hushpuppi and Chibuzo expose him as someone who has repeatedly crossed the line. It tells a lot about police culture that he tried to lighten the situation on social media after the report of his wrongdoings was out. He clearly has no regard for the organization he represents, and his lack of self-awareness speaks volumes about what even the police’s top brass secretly condones. Kyari’s misfortunes should serve as an opportunity for self-reflection, a purging of harmful habits, and a relearning of professional ethics.