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Tit for tat or Daboh for Tarka

By Muyiwa Adetiba

Whistle blowing has now become a lucrative side-kick in Nigeria. But it didn’t start yesterday; or the day before. It was always there even when financial inducements were not attached to whistle blowing. Most of whistle blowing comes from a disgruntled underling who has an inside knowledge of the goings on within an organisation.

He might even be an active participant who has been short-changed in a deal. Or someone who hates the guts of a tight fisted, mean spirited boss. He may, or may not benefit financially from the whistle blowing since revenge is his greater reward. Very few whistle blowers are altruistic—from Julian Assange, the world’s most famous whistle blower to the small clerk in a ministry who reports on his boss. Their motives are usually centred around money, power, revenge and yes, mischief.

Idris-Misau

Back in the 70s, there was a celebrated case that involved Joseph Tarka, an influential and flamboyant politician from the then Middle-belt now known as the North Central zone and Godwin Daboh, a debonair Insurance Executive from the same zone. Daboh was a socialite. A smooth, suave operator whom many would describe as a deal maker and womaniser.

Tarka was a socialite as well; but of a different hue. He was more known as the colourful but dogged fighter for the political independence of the Middle-belt region. For this, he earned a lot of respect and acclaim across the country. For this, he became a powerful minister representing his area in the Gowon administration. You can therefore imagine the interest it generated when his kinsman accused him of corruption.

Allegations and suggestions of corruption were not novel at that stage of the Gowon administration. But it was a military regime and therefore, the accusations were muffled. This time, the details, the specifics and the high profile of the accuser and the accused got the nation salivating. The media on its part was relentless; devoting yards of newsprint to the drama. The tit for tat was interesting while it lasted as the two erstwhile friends threw mud at each other.

At the end of the day, Tarka, the dogged fighter of many political battles, lost this corruption battle and had to throw in the towel. Till today, the term ‘if you Tarka me, I will Daboh you’ which can mean ‘if you dare me, I will spill the beans’ has found its way to the nation’s lexicon. At best, it is a test of secrecy and loyalty among thieves. At worst, a form of blackmail. In this particular whistle blowing episode, few people doubted the complicity of Daboh. But the message was so juicy that they could afford to ignore the messenger.

Fast forward to 2017, and you find a similar scenario playing itself out where two personalities from the same professional constituency who have dirty dossiers on each other are doing Tarka and Daboh in the market place. Missau is a Senator. He is also an ex policeman. He has accused the nation’s top cop of corruption. He has alleged that monetary considerations play a significant part in the postings and promotions that the Inspector General of Police makes.

Not done, he has also accused the IG and the police topmost hierarchy of pocketing some of the money big corporations pay to have police officers assigned to them. What makes these allegations weighty is that they are not made by a run of the mill whistle blower. By virtue of his past training and profession as a law enforcer and current position as a law maker, his allegations should be taken a hell of a lot more seriously than they are being taken by government.

The police on their part responded by attacking the messenger and accusing him of forgery and desertion. The police are not embarrassed by the fact that the incidence of desertion happened about seven years ago. And if it was true, why did the nation’s crime fighting force not investigate a crime that happened right under their nose? Why did they allow an alleged forger and a deserter to contest an election into the country’s highest law making body? This accusation is in itself an indictment on the competence and inner working of the police system.

But what is even more puzzling is the silence and acquiescence of the populace. After all, it was the force of public opinion, managed by the press, which forced an otherwise popular Tarka out of public office. Why is the same public not asking for an investigation into these allegations at the very least? Or has corruption fatigue set in? To be sure, this is not the first time the police force is whistle blowing against itself at the highest level.

A mere couple of years ago, a sitting IG had accused his predecessor of going away with different ranges of cars as if he wanted to set up a car mart. If the matter was ever investigated, the public is yet to be made aware of its outcome. In fact, every IG since the days of Tafa Balogun has been accused of one form of malfeasance or the other.

The accusations have all died a natural death because nobody has thought it necessary to inject some accountability and transparency into the police system and the system itself is unwilling, IG after IG, to cleanse itself from the inside. And the public has been tepid at best in asking for accountability and probity. The Nigerian Police is often said to be under funded which supposes that every penny should be stretched.

Yet major financial scandals—from pension funds to contract scams—are linked to previous administrations. The officers complain of poor remunerations, yet their top officers retire into very comfortable, if not opulent live styles. The public perception which is that the police is corrupt is not helped by the recent finding of the police being the most corrupt institution in the country ahead of the judiciary. That finding, made by an international body, should have made the public to demand an overhaul in the way the police does its thing.

Clearly something has to be done to sanitise the police system and cleanse its image. For the sake of the country. For the sake of the Police Force itself, and its role as a dispenser of justice. One way to start is to investigate the allegations of Senator Isah Missau. The allegation of desertion and forgery against the Senator should also not be swept under the carpet. Setting up a high powered investigative panel to probe these allegations will convince the doubters that the country is indeed serious about its fight against corruption.

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