On October 1, 1949, a young Nigerian, known simply as Etim Inyang, from an obscure Ewang village, Mbo Local Government Area in today’s Akwa Ibom State, with very limited education, a standard six certificate, decided to make a career in the police force of those days still under the command of the colonial masters. If anyone had told him then that he will one day be the Inspector General of Police, even he himself would have said ‘perish the thought’. But it happened as that young man from a minority tribe, by dint of hard work and dedication to duty, made it to the very top of his chosen profession. Today, will an elementary six certificate holder harbour such aspirations?
A lot has already been said about colonialism. Unfortunately, not much has been said about how the colonial masters made serious impact and left golden footprints in the sands of time in Nigeria with virtually very little. Like him in the police, the Aguiyi- Ironsis and the Maimalaris of the Nigerian Army who were not university graduates, the colonial masters formed them as great men and nationalists they eventually became. With very limited education to build on, theirs became the golden era of the disciplined forces. Then, merit and qualities germane to the needs of the forces were the only considerations. Who ones father was or which major tribe one belonged to played no role.
Today, in both the military and police, one needs a university degree to be allowed near the gates of the recruitment depot. Even then, and in addition, one will need to be armed with a letter of recommendation from an Emir, an Obong, an Eze, a Senator, Governor or Minister. As far as professionalism goes, and in terms of integrity, competence and patriotism, is there much to compare between an Etim Inyang as a recruit with standard six and a recruit of today with a university degree? He, like all his compatriots of those days, had service to country as their focus. Money, position, influence played background roles if any.
That Inyang, who died recently in Lagos, made it to the very top emphasises the relevance of self-development that only well-planned and constant training in such combative professions and, indeed, in all professions can guarantee.
He served in the police for 37 years. We recall the Evening Times headline of the day he retired, “Etim Inyang retires as Olopa for 37 years’’. Olopa by the way is Yoruba word for police. His era as police chief under the Babangida administration was poke-marked by the notorious temerity of Anini, the armed robber, who terrorised parts of the country and challenged the effectiveness of the police just as it exposed the unfortunate truism that crime can only thrive when the law turns a blind eye to criminality. At one of the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) meetings and at the height of the menace of Anini when it seemed as if the police had no answer to his presumed fire power, then President Ibrahim Babangida, in a cruel humour, asked Inyang “where is Anini?” His colleagues in the council chambers found the question funny but Inyang did not laugh. He was embarrassed that his competence as a top cop had been called to question because his own men sabotaged his operations by colluding with criminals. This was confirmed when Anini was eventually captured under the command of Muhammadu Gambo – Jimeta and the complicity of some corrupt police officers was established.
However, posterity will not fail to record that his time as the Inspector-General was quite eventful as he gave the task of fighting crime and protecting Nigerians his best shot. He will also be remembered for his efforts towards improving the operational capabilities of the service and promoting enhanced welfare for the officers and men of the Nigeria police.
After his retirement in 1986, Inyang continued to serve his fatherland in other capacities. One of which was as Vice Chairman of the Constitution Review committee in 1987. He was conferred with the National Honour of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) and became an Obong of his people. He is survived by his wife, Mary, and ﬁve children.