Former Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG Usman A. Gwari who was in charge of Zone 9, Umuahia, Abia State before his retirement at the age of 60 in this interview with select journalists, speaks on his 37 years meritorious service to the Nigerian Police Force, the security situation in Anambra State while he was the Commissioner of Police, among others.
You were promoted from Anambra as Commissioner of Police (cuts in).
I became Anambra CP in 2013 and I participated in the 2013 election of Governor Willie Obiano and immediately after the election, my predecessor left Anambra and handed over to me. So, I worked with former Governor Peter Obi before he left office on 14th February, 2014 after the governorship election in November 2013. I equally worked with Governor Willie Obiano after he was sworn-in.
As former Anambra CP, what were the challenges you faced and how did you tackle them?
Every police man faces the challenge of crime. What we did was to outline our strategies to curb crime and provide very peaceful environment for people to go about their normal businesses. We actually started with Onitsha. By the time I took over, the former Governor Peter Obi was very busy trying to restructure Onitsha. He was the one that started maintenance of the Upper Iweka and made it a safe haven by reducing the motor parks around Upper Iweka. He transformed Upper Iweka to the delight of visitors and residents. In Awka and Nnewi, he also outlined strategies to make the places better. To be very fair to Mr. Peter Obi, the crime rate was at its lowest ebb at the time I took over. There is crime quite alright but at low percentage, there was relative peace in the state during his administration because he actually worked on them. But despite that, we still had problem in Onitsha, Nnewi and Awka. There were cases of robbery, kidnapping and other minor crimes.
Did former governor Peter Obi support your work then?
He supported me very well. Within the short period I worked with him, I was very impressed. I have no regret to be frank with you. I will sincerely say that I had his confidence the time I worked with him. He did not only provide all that we needed, he was outstanding and knows the problem of Anambra very well. Whenever we request logistics on some of the problems we outlined and strategies we wanted to use, he always responded positively to most of our requests and paid 100 per cent attention to any security matter. That was what he also did to other security agencies like the Army, the Navy, DSS, Civil Defence and other para-military agencies.
If we outline problems and place on his table for consideration, he gave approval within some hours. It did not take him time to respond in most cases, he got first-hand information on virtually every security matter and in fact Peter Obi was a police man while in office. He was always on top of the situation. He knows the state in and out and had information more than anybody on happenings in the state.
Can you recall cases where he assisted in the area of logistics to make your work easier?
He gave us a lot of vehicles, not only to the police but to all the security agencies, he pays weekly allowances of all those that were on duty. The same vehicles he gave to us, he gave to Anambra State Vigilance Groups in each community and markets as well as institutions. By the time I took over, the vigilance group was very strong and it was as a result of hard work of Mr. Peter Obi. No criminal escaped from the state because the vigilance groups were motivated and capable, working with the police and other agencies. There was a strong synergy made possible by Obi’s administration.
Can you say he fought the security challenges in Anambra before leaving office?
I can say yes without mincing words. Obi did very well because he helped us to reduce crime rate to the barest minimum, to the extent that the violent crime like armed robbery in banks were history, kidnappers in the state ran away. The issue of destruction of houses where criminals used to perpetuate crime in the state, started during Obi’s time but it was well publicised during Obiano’s tenure. Obi initiated it and sent an Executive bill to the House of Assembly for confiscating and demolition of property of kidnappers, I should think so because it was the magic needed to deter people from crime of kidnapping for ransom.
Could you say that all the security agencies got the partnership and synergy from the government during your time?
When I came in, the first thing I did was to make sure that there was a very good synergy between the police and other security agencies. I initiated meeting with service commanders in my office; initially on a weekly basis before we later changed it to twice a week.
And thanks to the former governor (Mr. Obi) who provided virtually all we needed to work with, including all the logistics but not without his calculator close by. Obi was working in all institutions of government simultaneously and became a reference point then and I was happy when Governor Willie Obiano came and continued from where Obi stopped because Obiano inherited all the institutions started by Obi. Obiano is consolidating on Obi’s foundations, because Obi was really an enigma and achieved in leaps and bounds.
You know, if you start something and somebody else takes it to the next level, there is tendency that the founder may be forgotten if care is not taken especially when such thing is widely acceptable like the security in Anambra State which is one of the safest states in Nigeria. Those before me and after me, may not be remembered but the present CP depending on how he makes the publicity. So people now look at the periphery without checking the foundation but I must tell you that without the foundation, nothing would stand, so the foundation is important in any aspect of life.
Peter Obi laid the foundation for security in Anambra and Obiano sustained it and you don’t look at Anambra projects and developments only on security, because Obi kept people busy and it reduced crime. He championed development of Anambra State and there is no doubt about Obi’s achievements in every area in the state. Obiano knew where he started and people can’t forget Obi in a hurry and there is no way development of Anambra would be written without a greater percentage not dedicated to Peter Obi.
Were you aware of Security Trust Fund and who started it?
Yes! I am aware that former Governor Peter Obi started the security Trust Fund because it was already there before I came, which was a wonderful initiative and I don’t need to tell you how much that has assisted me in repairing our vehicles. That fund, I used it for service and maintenance of patrol vehicles. It’s not only for the police but for all the security agencies that received the vehicle. The fund was so useful in so many other areas such as provision of logistics.
But Obi has become a wrong name to mention now, so tell me, what do you hate or like about this Peter Obi?
There are lots of things one has to admire or detest about a person. For me, Peter Obi is very prudent in financial management. He follows up matter until he gets to the root of it and he requires accountability even to the last kobo he gives out. He is always preferred to use his calculator to make sure he does not make mistakes. He uses his calculator effectively such that those who don’t understand him and his philosophy may have issues with his ways of viewing life. To me, he is a very good man. I worked as CP to 12 Commands in Nigeria but only very few, if any at all were like him in knowing details of every kobo he released for public interest. To be sincere, he is a good man despite working with him for a very short time. You cannot talk of the present improvement in security in Anambra State without making reference to Mr. Peter Obi because he initiated it. He actually started it, saw to its actualisation and handed over the baton to incumbent Obiano who is sustaining the tempo. He is very meticulous and does not take anything for granted. He knows the mind set of Igbo people more than anyone else.
Do you have any regret being in Anambra?
Not at all, Anambra is one of the commands I worked that I never had any regret.
Your working relationship with Governor Willie Obiano before you left?
I worked with Governor Willie Obiano for almost a year before I was promoted. One good thing is that Obiano continued where Peter Obi stopped in the area of security and he took the security very seriously and that is why Anambra is the safe. Anambra people must be grateful to the former governor, Peter Obi for the great work and clean-up he did in Upper Iweka and is sustained by his successor, Obiano.