The dust from the #EndSARS protests across the country may be gradually settling but the wanton destruction of lives and properties may not be forgotten in a long time. The scale of devastation across the country tends to suggest that the struggle for rights and freedom often come at a price.
However, from the rubble of the widespread wreckage, there seems to be emerging, a finer generation of policemen, after all. Rabiu Garba is the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) at the Fegge Division of the Nigerian Police in Onitsha, Anambra State.
A Chief Superintendent of Police, Garba is a man of sterling qualities and an officer of impeccable credentials. The story of his outstanding character is told freely on the streets of Onitsha, how it is common knowledge that Garba treats the residents of Fegge community as kinsmen and not ‘suspects’. To the extent that he is part of every local event or project of the Fegge community.
One of his strongest points is his uncanny ability to listen to everyone regardless of status in the society and his readiness to offer counsel and support to young people who still struggling to find direction in life. He built a borehole for the neighbourhood without any fundraising from community members.
He organises football tournaments for the youths of Fegge at their stadium where he also goes to play table tennis with the locals regularly. For Rabiu, Fegge is his home. Fegge is his community and the residents are his kinsmen.
To further establish himself as a people’s cop, Garba always exudes a genuine willingness to help; an eagerness to please that is endearing. In all their local events and ceremonies, you will find Garba an active participant. Church dedication, naming ceremonies, launching of community projects, you will find him there.
For those who know, Fegge Police Station was a notorious enclave. It was the hub of corruption and black market activities until Garba assumed office. His reforms cost him a lot of friends and goodwill but he stuck to his gun and put an end to the bazaar.
So a few days ago when the rampaging youths marched down the road to burn the Fegge Police Division, he neither fought nor fled.
His men were panicstricken but he urged calm. While his men were shaken up following the tales of devastation across police stations, Garba walked out to meet the angry mob with the courage of a man who had nothing to fear. They immediately recognised him and the angry chants gradually went silence.
Most of the youths could vouch for him as a man of integrity, a professional cop and a role model for many young men in the community. They even granted him audience to address and counsel them before the mob dispersed. Not even a pebble was flung at Fegge Police Division.
A Police reform activist, Okechukwu Nwanguma of the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) this to say of Garba: “I know DPO Garba and I can attest that he is a good cop. Exceptional, yet not recognised and rewarded by a system that encourages only bad conduct.”
Also narrating his relationship with Rabiu Garba, another Civil Society activist, Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma said: “I had goose bumps all over me yesterday when I called Garba to check on him over what has been happening in town.
He said to me, my Oga (that’s what he calls me), ‘my people showed me love’, ‘now I know, the land you protect and serve will not consume you’. “He went on to narrate to me the tearsevoking story of how the irate mob that was going round the town looking for police officers to lynch and police stations to burn spared his station.
The officers and men of the station were terrified and may have resorted to arms but he warned his men not to fire a shot. The DPO came out, immediately the mob saw him, their songs changed from war songs to songs of praise for him.”
Ijeoma continued: “Well, I am not surprised one bit. Some of us are not usually generous with praises, particularly when duty-bearers are involved. But I cannot fail to appreciate CSP Rabiu Garba for the exemplary policing and professionalism he has demonstrated over the years. He is everything you desire in a fine officer.
He respects human rights. He knows the law. His interest in justice is superb. He is a friend of lawyers. Garba is highly disciplined.
Quit unlike many officers I have met in the course of my work as human rights defender and a lawyer, Garba cannot be bought to pervert justice. He respects the poor as he respects the rich. “We have remained friends for a long time. He is one officer that makes my human rights work easy for me.
Sometime in 2017, officers at Area Command brutalized me. When the heat turned on them as we were ready to deal with them, having mobilized the civil society community in Nigeria and our international allies against them, the officers including the Area Commander, Abubakar Yahaya made efforts but could not reach me.
I was not ready to have any of them in audience. I was not amenable to settlement. “I didn’t know who gave them the tip that Garba has the magic wand.
Garba called me one afternoon and told me that he was coming to my office. I didn’t know it was in respect of the matter. Shortly thereafter he came in with his DCO, SP Ifeanyi (the current DPO of Dunukofia). He said he came to beg me to allow him lead men of Area Command to my office to beg for the matter.
Garba was their joker. I couldn’t say no to him. He had kept faith for more than seven years, consistent in honesty. I needed to show him that we appreciate his good work. His intervention settled the matter for them.”
The accolades for the DPO have nothing to do with his tribe. It has nothing to do with his religion. Garba brought his humanity to his work – an excellent personality, an excellent cop.