Ringim falls at the feet of history
It was said of a one-time King of France, Louis XVI (1774-1793), that “he arrived in the wrong historical place at the wrong time.” No fate can be more implacable, and no destiny more cruel, than that a man should be held hostage by history. Nineteen years after he inauspiciously donned the crown, Louis XVI and his wife went to the guillotine, even though the crises France experienced under him began during the dissolute reigns of his predecessors, Louis XIV and Louis XV, at such a pace no man twice as gifted as he could control, let alone reverse. Mr Hafiz Ringim, the Inspector-General of Police (IG) who was made to retire yesterday morning, may not have studied the role fate played in the rise and fall of Louis XVI, but he found himself a prisoner of destiny at that famously cruel juncture familiar to many great men forced to cede power – where history meets inescapable fate.
It is safe to say that Boko Haram, the Salafist Jihadist sect dedicated to violence and anarchy in Nigeria, ended the career of Ringim. He did not show himself an incomparable police officer, but he was passably articulate, even had middle class manners, and fitted in with the thin crowd of IGs (many of whom were indistinguishably average) who preceded him. Had Boko Haram not upended his plans to cruise along as an average IG, there is little doubt that he would have retired in March with his head held high. But whether out of naivety or overconfidence, he was deemed by the terrorist sect to have challenged their prowess when he boomed after the Eagle Square bombing that the days of Boko Haram were numbered.
In methodical succession, and with an abandon that at once shames and enrages every security man on the public payroll, Boko Haram detonated powerful bombs one after the other, starting with the Force Headquarters bombing on a day Ringim was in office, and according to reports, barely escaped being the direct target of the bombers. As if taunting the police, the bombers detonated another powerful explosive at the United Nations building in Abuja, took out 43 worshippers at a church in Madalla, near Abuja, and finally unveiled misery, horror and death in Kano last Friday. In between, there were sundry explosions of improvised bombs (IEDs) and scattered shootings that ran rings round the police.
The Kano mayhem probably finally undid Ringim, in spite of President Goodluck Jonathan’s puzzling commitment to helping his career to a memorable and honourable end. But there was no way Kano would have achieved such a deadly impact on Ringim’s career had a top Boko Haram suspect, Mallam Kabiru Sokoto, not escaped from police custody days before in humiliating and benumbing circumstances. It seemed Ringim was fated to receive one indignity after another from Boko Haram, and to stumble from one unresolved crisis to another unmanageable security nightmare. In case Ringim brought all these upon himself by careless speechmaking, his successor, Mohammed Abubakar, will almost certainly watch what he says and where he throws down the gauntlet before a sect that takes up gauntlets with alacrity.
It would, however, be an oversimplification of the crises that put an ignoble end to Ringim’s career to suggest that his troubles were caused by an unbridled tongue or that most of the security challenges he encountered during his tenure were self-made. If he showed little initiative in handling the escape of Kabiru Sokoto, and demonstrated overzealousness in attempting to muzzle the press, of which this newspaper was a victim, they were insufficient to end his career had he demonstrated in other areas the sterling quality needed to reposition the police and respond with aplomb to the increasing sophistication of the enemies of the state.
Notwithstanding, it is also probably true that President Jonathan was reluctant to sack Ringim when the indignities concocted by Boko Haram began to rain on the police, the presidency and the nation like a torrent because he knew sensibly that the security challenges facing the nation transcended the police’s lack of initiative and incompetence. Even if he had a revolutionary mind, there was not much Ringim could do to stem the effusive daring of high-profile criminals and terrorists. Kidnapping, the nemesis of Ringim’s predecessor, has continued apace, if now little reported with the flourish that accompanied its dramatic beginnings. The country has not found a solution, and will not, for as long as the conditions that engender it persist. Boko Haram is an inherited social and political disease. No police force on its own, no matter how brilliant, can solve it. It will require concerted efforts by the police and the political establishment led by the presidency to fight it. But the presidency has been strangely remiss in leading the fight.
More importantly, whether we admit it or not, Boko Haram and other crimes threatening the state are products of a dysfunctional society in which the elite stupidly frolics with the incendiary tool of religion at a time scrupulous adherence to secularism would have considerably obviated the crises that inundate the country. In addition, these high-profile crimes are also products of an inefficient and unworkable federal structure resting on an incompetent constitution operated by uninspiring and effete political elite. If not kidnapping today, if not Boko Haram tomorrow, and if not another terrible crime on the day after, Nigeria would always stand the risk of being undone by one crime or the other over its refusal to reform and remould its political system when it still has the initiative.
Boko Haram leaders may smirk heartily over the fall of Ringim, but they are not stupid to imagine that he as a person represented the institution they fought so bitterly. The federal government would be naïve to also think that once a new man occupies the IG seat, and he shows some imagination, then all will be well. Boko Haram is just an aspect of the disease ravaging the body politic. The country’s problems are so fundamental and structural that no palliative, either in weapons or rotation of officers or better technology, can prove a useful anodyne.