Abba Kyari: A Fall From Grace


Photo: DCP Abba Kyari

By Reuben Abati

The story of Abba Kyari, the Deputy Commissioner of Police and erstwhile head of the Nigerian Police Intelligence Response Team speaks to the fate of all men who are overtaken by hubris, that flaw of character from which tragedies have been written from Sophocles to Shakespeare. Every tragic hero or anti-hero soon begins to create illusions of his or her own importance and then soon faces unexpected nemesis.

Oedipus in ancient Greek  mythology solved the riddle of the Sphinx, but fate caught up with him and he ended up killing his father and he married his own mother. Medea, a woman of extreme jealousy, and pride killed her own children in order to prove a point – one of the earliest feminist figures in classical literature.

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Agamemnon was King of Argos and also commander of the Greek army, but he was immature, unwise and emotional. This was his undoing.  He was a great warrior but he was impetuous.  Coriolanus, the Roman General could not become Consul in Ancient Rome. He waged war out of vengeance after he had been banished. Consumed by passion and vengeance, he led an assault against Rome. He eventually lost his life. Julius Caesar was one of the most decorated leaders in ancient Rome, but he became a dictator, evoking the envy and conspiracy of his own associates.

I have taken these examples from classical literature and mythology and from Shakespearean tropes detailing an important aspect of human experience and cultural identity: how glory does not guarantee a happy ending, how man experiences the mystery of suffering in order to learn, how what is called happiness is culturally relative.

Modern fictive and interpretive representations have also shown that tragedy is not only for great and well-placed persons, but that all men are flawed, and many have fallen due to hubris, not necessarily fate, but error of judgement, pride, or wrong choices. Managing one’s temptations could be the best protection but then what is life if not the rising and ebbing of the tides of time?

Life ends as a comedy for many, but for others, it is a tragedy. DCP Abba Kyari is facing a tragic moment in his career as a policeman. Like all tragic tales, he would attract the pity of friends, fear among colleagues who may well imagine that they too could suffer the same fate, as well as the empathy of a few.

But the majority should draw lessons from his experience. He was arguably the most honoured police officer of his time. They called him the Super Cop. He led the Police Intelligence Unit and was acclaimed for his prowess. He was a celebrity cop too. On one occasion, he was specially recognised by Nigeria’s House of Representatives. Not many police officers in Nigeria have enjoyed such privilege.

Given the trajectory of his career, no one would have been surprised if the super cop ended up as Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police. But now all that is ended. Whether Kyari is eventually extradited to face trial in a US District Court or not, the white garment of honour that he once wore has been tainted, soiled, splattered all over with palm oil.  Even if he is cleared of all wrong doings, the perception that he was fingered by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in a matter of conspiracy to commit electronic fraud and abet criminal behaviour is bad enough.

This same officer who used to be the subject of saccharine panegyrics, is now the butt of internet memes. Those who wear immaculate white attires should stay away from retailers of palm oil.

The case against Kyari is that he failed to do this.

His nemesis is a certain Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, aka, Ray Hushpuppi, who is now facing a likely jail term of 20 years for engaging in high tech organised crime. Arrested by the FBI in June 2020, Hushpuppi has been singing like a canary and yelping like a puppy.

He identified Abba Kyari as one of his allies, an influential police officer in Nigeria who helped him, Hushpuppi, to arrest one of his gang members with whom he had a dispute over a deal.

The FBI in the deposition that was unsealed in court on July 26 provided copious and embarrassing details of conversations between Hushpuppi and the senior police officer.  It is alleged that Kyari sent a bank account number into which money was transferred to take care of “the team” for services rendered. What service? One Kelly Vincent Chibuzor was arrested and detained for more than a month by Abba Kyari’s team.

Even when it was discovered that the allegation by Hushpuppi against Chibuzor was incorrect, there was no evidence to indicate that the Super Cop took any step to get Hushpuppi sanctioned for misleading the police and for wasting the time and resources of the Nigerian State.

The FBI document further indicates that Super Cop Kyari even visited Hushpuppi in Dubai as a special guest. Since these details became public, Kyari’s strongest defence is that he is completely innocent and that the only connection between him and Hushpuppi is that he helped him to sew some native wears. How on earth did a cop in charge of Nigeria’s Police Intelligence Response Unit become a tailor and fashion consultant to a man of international security interest, who by the way, flaunted obscene wealth on social media pages?

Certain associations are not good for a person’s brand. The association with Hushpuppi in any form whatsoever was bad for the senior cop. Hushpuppi knows clearly that he is down. The same way he used the Nigerian Police to “discipline” one of his gang members, he has also shown no scruples in dragging policeman Aba Kyari along with him. Yesterday, matters went further South when the FBI released more information to confirm that Kyari collected N8 million in that hire-a-senior-cop case.

Whatever anyone may say, this is not good either for the country’s image. Ordinarily, Nigeria has been labelled a prolific source of potential or actual fraudsters, even when this same country has produced some of the brightest and accomplished persons in all fields of human endeavour. Few foreigners give us the benefit of the doubt.

What has happened to DCP Kyari is also not good for the image of the Nigerian Police. Even before the October 2020, #EndSARS protests, the average Nigerian policeman was routinely criticised for bribe collection, brutality and abuse of human rights. It is for this reason that Kyari may not have too many people out there who are ready to sympathise with him.

Since the FBI incident, there have been remarks not just about Kyari but the Nigerian Police Force: how, it is said, Nigerian policemen work with criminals, how they extort money and how any one can hire a police man to violate other people’s rights. Those who have an axe to grind with DCP Kyari have also been all over the social media further rubbing salt into his wounds. When a man is down in this life, there are many who would kick him where it hurts most.

Kyari must be wondering what is happening to him. Every tragic hero eventually experiences anagnorisis and catharsis. But it is not always that a tragedy ends as a comedy.

The US District Court of Central California has issued a warrant of arrest for DCP Kyari. But it is not as easy as that. Nigeria is a sovereign state. A court in the United States cannot simply order the arrest of a Nigerian living inside Nigeria, and expect that Nigeria, as a sovereign state would simply hand over the person. The relationship between sovereigns is governed by rules and due process.  Given the weight of the allegations, and the attention the case has generated, the Inspector General of Police has ordered a probe by a 4-man Committee. The Police Service Commission which is responsible for appointments, promotion and discipline within the Police has sent Abba Kyari on suspension. Fair enough.

The investigation must be thorough and transparent. Nigeria has every reason to take up this matter with all the seriousness that it deserves. Kyari committed the alleged offence in his privileged position as a Deputy Commissioner of police, and Head of Police Intelligence Response Team. Did he abuse his office as alleged? Did he conspire to commit wire fraud as an officer of the law? The “Team” referred to in the FBI document, who are members of the team? Whose bank account received the N8 million paid by Hushpuppi? Did Kyari and his team violate the Police Code of Conduct, especially with regard to Principles Six and Seven dealing with integrity and conflict of interest? What lessons can the Police itself learn from this in terms of its internal oversight processes and how police officers conduct themselves in society? Those questions would be useful for a reform of the Nigerian Police.

There should be no cover up. If DCP Kyari is found guilty, he should be sanctioned accordingly and handed over to the Americans in line with extradition processes. DCP Kyari should have his lawyers on standby. Everything that he represents is at stake.

I find it completely odious however, that there has been a useless attempt to read ethnic and political meanings into Kyari’s travails.  The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) was reported in the newspapers yesterday as saying the FBI’s plan to arrest Kyari is “totally unacceptable”, and that “nothing must happen to him”. The AYCF further said “all Nigerians who are truly patriotic should stand behind a man who has made an unrivalled mark on the sands of time by diligently serving his fatherland” … because the FBI’s proposed arrest is “an attempted intimidation of a police officer right inside his independent fatherland”. The statement is credited to Alhaji Yerima Shettima, described as AYCF President. Such drivel coming from anyone at all is shocking!

If that doesn’t shock you enough, then consider the more laughable intervention of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN). MACBAN is accusing the US FBI of colluding with some leaders in Southern Nigeria to indict police officer Abba Kyari and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) of folding its hands and failing to defend “sons of the North who have distinguished themselves in different fields (and) are constantly being persecuted and maligned at the height of their careers.” One Dr. Garus Gololo speaking on behalf of MACBAN added that “The United States is the most dishonest country in the world. What they are doing to Kyari, they did it to Al Gore. Let him stand firmly and defend himself because he is Nigeria’s future Inspector General of Police, and he mustn’t allow himself to be rattled.”

Dr Garus Galolo’s garrulousness on a subject he knows nothing about is absurd. He should shut up. Ethnicity is not the important issue in the Kyari case. The FBI does not care about whether he is from the North or the South. Apparently, the leaders of the NEF are more discerning and that is why they have been silent and watching.

Dr Galolo may well be accused of trying to incite cattle breeders against the US and the NEF. The security agencies have a duty to investigate his claims. What has Kyari’s travails got to do with cattle rearing? The AYCF should also be reminded that the FBI is not interested in the dangerous little games we play here in Nigeria with ethnicity. Kyari does not represent the North. He is a police officer being accused of roguish conduct.

And that point about some Southern leaders colluding with the FBI: How? If this would be of any comfort: there was actually a semblance of Federal Character and diversity to the names mentioned in the Hushpuppi/Kyari case.

The affidavit sworn to by Andrew John Innocenti, special agent with the FBI mentions the following names: Ramon Olorunwa Abbas (Nigerian/Yoruba), Abdulrahman Imran Juma (Kenyan), Vincent Kelly Chibuzo (Nigerian/probably Igbo);  Abba Alhaji Kyari (Nigerian/ Kanuri),  Rukayat Motunrayo Fashola (Nigerian/Yoruba) and Bolatito Tawakalitu Agbabiaka (Nigerian/Yoruba), all accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to engage in money laundering. At paragraphs 23 -30, the investigator identifies Abba Kyari and establishes his connection with Hushpuppi with copious references to phone numbers, conversations, newspaper articles and account numbers.

So, where is the collusion with the FBI to ridicule a “Northern star?” But that is Nigeria. We play politics with everything. Instead of focussing on key issues, we reduce everything to ethnic identity. We need to know that when persons conspire to do wrong things, they don’t operate on the basis of their ethnic origins. They are united by a common purpose that is beyond ethnicity or religion. In this matter, a Ramon is caught in the same web with a Vincent and a Rukayat and Tawakalitu. They are united by a different purpose.

This cautionary point is also meant for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The party’s spokesperson has launched an attack on the Buhari administration over the Kyari matter. Must we play politics with everything?  No. It is enough to insist that nothing should be swept under the carpet and that due process must be strictly followed. This is not a Buhari matter. Kyari must answer his father’s name.

There are more lessons.

The Nigerian Police can learn a lot from the diligence and professionalism of the US FBI. The depositions were first taken to court in February, again in April, but the contents were only unsealed in July. Nothing leaked. The document did not suddenly vanish from where it was kept. There was no reported case of arson that would have led to the destruction of valuable evidence. The FBI monitored conversations across long distances and gathered evidence.

Young Nigerians for whom the indecent display of wealth is a major attraction should remember the stories of Hushpuppi, Invictus and all such characters and have a glimpse of their own future undoing. Hushpuppi was so popular on Instagram; many young Nigerians wanted to be like him. He wore Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Versace and displayed exotic cars. Today, he is in a lonely place. He is so lonely. He is singing and sinking. Let the law take its full course then. We hear DCP Kyari has been promptly replaced by DCP Tunji Disu as Head of the Police Intelligence Response Team. That’s life.

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