By Isaac Asabor
There is no denying the fact that good leadership begins with good character. The crass lack of integrity that has for ages been demonstrated by many leaders; either as politicians, entertainers, athletes, and others in the public eye are more often than not implausible. Indeed, the leadership failures in the private and public sectors, including law enforcement, are, more often than not, failures of integrity. The ethical failures so prevalent among today’s leaders seem to point not to a crisis of skill or ability, but to a crisis of character.
But alas! Rather than rewarding leaders with strong character, followers are too often mesmerized by leaders with charisma. Yet, despite the importance that many followers place on charisma, history has demonstrated repeatedly that charisma does not reflect the personal and professional integrity necessary for effective leadership.
At this juncture, it is expedient to say that if there is any sector of the economy that demands its players, particularly those playing leadership roles, to be of high integrity, it is unarguably the police.
The reason why policing should be done with high sense of integrity cannot be farfetched as an effective and efficient police service is, in today’s world, one of the clearest and most direct expressions of the social contract between citizens and the state. Without any scintilla of hyperbole, the state is expected to provide the citizens with security, in return for which the citizens render unto the state, in the form of taxation.
Be that as it may, it is expedient to bring this to clarity by citing Robert Lee’s quote that says, “I think it better to do right, even if we suffer in so doing, than to incur the reproach of our consciences and posterity.” At this nexus, it may not be wrong to say that at no time do Nigerians deserve a Police that is highly driven by integrity more critical than now as President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has chosen security as one of its top priorities. In a similar vein, at no time did seeking ways of making the force more manned by officers that are of high integrity more pragmatic than now.
To bring this piece to explanatory perspective, it is germane to ponder over Edwin Delattre’s quote in “Character and Cops: Ethics in Policing” that says, “The mission of policing can safely be entrusted only to those who grasp what is morally important and who respect integrity. Without this kind of personal character in police, no set of codes, rules, or laws can safeguard that mission from the ravages of police misconduct. No one need choose to be a police officer or to bear the public trust; but those who do so, no matter how naïvely and no matter how misguided their original expectations, must acquire the excellence of character necessary to live up to it.”
To many Nigerians, integrity has for decades not been exhibited by officers of the Nigerian Police. To buttress this view, the plethora of weird facts about the Nigeria Police that trailed the END SARS saga cannot be forgotten so soon. Also to buttress the view was when the villainous Lawrence Ovwigbo Anini subjected the entire people of the defunct Bendel state to a state of fear for several weeks until he was captured and arrested. However, when he was nabbed, he for months sang like a canary just the way hushpuppy is now singing in the United States of America. It would also be recalled that the power of being invincible which many people erroneously thought Anini has was demystified when he named a deputy superintendent police officer, DSP George Iyamu for being the main source of his despicable strength and seeming invincibility. Without doubt, it was obvious that Iyamu had compromised to aid and abet his evil enterprise with insider information and weapons. Ten police officers, including George Iyamu, a deputy superintendent of Police, were tried with Anini and his gang. Five of the police officers, including Iyamu, were convicted and executed with Anini and his boys on March 29, 1987 even as dozens of policemen were transfered from Bendel state because of allegations that they were aiding Anini’s gang.
DSP George Iyamu, the biggest revelation in the Anini saga, was stupendously rich by shielding Anini and his boys, leaking police secrets, and giving them logistic support, including arms, for their operations. By playing the godfather to Anini, Iyamu acquired many houses, exotic cars, wine, and women of variegated shapes, sizes and colours. Buoyed by their blood money, both men compromised the police system and operated freely till they met their nemesis.
More than 30 years when the Anini saga brought the dishonesty that characterized the policing into spotlight, a similar narrative is already playing out to the consternation of many Nigerians as the United States Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California says that Ramon Abbas, aka Hushpuppi, paid a Deputy Commissioner of Police in Nigeria, Abba Kyari, to arrest and jail an estranged ‘co-conspirator,’ Chibuzo Vincent.
This was contained in a statement released on Wednesday, July 29, 2021, by the court titled, ‘Six Indicted in International Scheme to Defraud Qatari School Founder and then Launder over $1 Million in Illicit Proceeds’.
The court said Hushpuppi, who pleaded guilty to various charges, including money laundering, wire fraud, and felony, among others, used Kyari, a leader of the Inspector-General of Police’s Intelligence Response Team, to jail Vincent.
History is full of examples of leaders, who, despite their obvious charisma and political skill, failed in their roles because they lacked the character necessary to sustain the public trust. It is against the foregoing backdrop that not few Nigerians are praying that the scandal should not destroy Kyari’s good work as he is popularly dubbed to be a “Super Cop”.
It is worth noting that character is different from charisma. Charisma is based on personality or image, while character represents a leader’s moral disposition. Character influences a leader’s goals, values, self-concept, work ethic, and code of behavior. Indeed, some scholars have argued that the study of ethics is the study of character itself and that, without character, there can be no ethics. This implies, among other things, that a leader can have a charismatic personality, but be devoid of character. In other words, a leader can be charming, personable, and dynamic, but hold core values based on egoism, power, and arrogance. Truly effective leaders, on the other hand, understand the relationship between good character and leadership effectiveness, especially the importance of integrity. Be that as it may, the leadership of the Nigeria Police should ensure that integrity is of greater importance for officers than any other virtue.