By Isaac Asabor
A story told about an evangelist affiliated to one of the new generation churches in Nigeria is no doubt a magnum opus as its theme dwelt on two characters who, to a large extent, define the trajectory of overzealousness and its consequences in any branch of human endeavors. The evangelist, the lead character in the story, who was overzealously arrogant about his standing as a Christian, and often boasts that he would never fall or backslide; as they would say in the Christendom, began to visit a brothel somewhere in Lawanson in Lagos in the bid to evangelize the prostitutes. By and by, he found Ifeoma, one of the prostitutes, who falsely claimed she had given her life to Christ, and started ministering to her and following her up. Unfortunately, like the infamous Jimmy swaggart that was defrocked by the Assemblies of God in 1988 after a sex scandal involving prostitutes, the evangelist began to sleep with Ifeoma, who, as told in the story, was stunningly beautiful and lecherous. Not only was the evangelist more often than not found together with Ifeoma around the brothel and its neighborhood, his new lifestyle was accompanied by an intense addiction to alcohol and smoking to the extent that it practically replaced food even as he fell head over heels for Ifeoma.
Against the foregoing backdrop, it is expedient to say that the lead character in the story was unarguably the “Over-sabi Evangelist” whose metamorphosis has been captured in the foregoing paragraph. For the sake of clarity, “Over-sabi” in pidgin phraseology simply means “Anyone that seems to know it all, overbearing and rumbustious”.
Of course, the story created the highly lecherous character of Ifeoma, who lived life by the day and without worries as long as there were enough cigarettes and alcoholic drinks. The story also has it that she has slept with many men as she understands that her clients in that line of business don’t always go for kinky services.
In as much as there is nothing wrong in taking evangelism to brothels, it is expedient to say that the “Over-Sabi Evangelist” in this context carelessly do not heed to the warning that is enshrined in 1st Corinthians 10:12 that says, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” In the same nexus, 2nd Peter 1:10 says, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.”
At this juncture, it is expedient to say even if covert policing necessarily involves deception, which in turn often leads to participation in activity that appears to be criminal that it should be done with discretion, particularly in Nigeria where any police officer that is seen to have posed in a photograph with anyone whose source of wealth appears suspicious is automatically misconceived to be a cover up for the suspect.
In advanced countries, it is no news that the police have introduced drugs into prison, undertaken assignments from drug cartels to launder money, established fencing businesses that paid cash for stolen goods and for “referrals” printed counterfeit bills, and committed perjury, to cite a few examples all in the bid to carry out an enquiry on any issue that need to be investigated.
Against the foregoing backdrop, could the foregoing be said, in this context, to have explained the plight of the now embattled Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, who is enviably called “Super Cop”?
In some nations where policing is majorly driven by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), undercover policemen are wont to engage in seemingly illegal activity to gather evidence or to maintain their fictitious identities. Yet, unless these acts are committed by “rogue cops” not authorized to participate in illegal activity, these activities are not considered to be crimes. Indeed, they are considered to be justifiable and sometimes necessary aspect of undercover policing.
However, in Nigeria, this practice of authorized criminality is secret, unaccountable, and in conflict with some of the basic premises of democratic policing, to the extent that authorized criminality presents mixed messages about their moral standing as in the case of our own “Super Cop”, Abba Kyari. It is not an exaggeration to say that Nigerians are still at loss on whether Kyari was caught in the web of criminal investigation of Abbas Ramon alias Hushpuppi, like the evangelist that was caught in the web of evangelism in the brothel. Only God knows!
Meanwhile, while the practice is not new, authorized criminality raises fundamental questions about the limits of acceptable police conduct and has been too long ignored.
What is authorized criminality? It can in this context be defined as the practice of permitting covert (under cover) police officers to engage in conduct that would be criminal outside of the context of the investigation. Under cover policing can then be distinguished from other covert policing tactics, such as passively deceptive surveillance, or the police adoption of the role of a victim rather than that of a fellow criminal.
Dispassionately looking at the issue on ground, it is pragmatic for the Police Service Commission (PSC) to conceive and implement rules and regulations that would instill and deepen integrity among police officers in the country. The reason for expecting the commission to make such move cannot be farfetched as it is the civilian oversight body established under the Nigerian Constitution for the Nigeria Police. It has power to appoint, promote, discipline and dismiss all officers of the Nigeria Police, except the Inspector-General of Police (IGP).
You may have asked, “Why is individual integrity a fundamental value in the police, particularly among the leaders? The answer cannot be farfetched as our nation is no doubt struggling with the current uneasy state of the police so much so that in October last year we experienced the infamous EndSARS that took some states, particularly Lagos, by surprise.
Without resort to raising an unattainable standard for the police, it is expedient the PSC makes policemen to understand and reinforce expectations of professional behavior and openly recognize good and bad performance. Also, PSC should by virtue of its constitutional power make policemen maintain the highest levels of professionalism.
At the moment, in the face of Kyari/Hushpuppi Gate, there is an urgent need for policemen; irrespective of position or ranking, to build and maintain confidence with the public, colleagues and partners if they are to deliver a modern and effective police service. They should understand that doing the right thing is about becoming a role model and upholding public trust.