Following the sudden demise of the 11th indigenous Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, crime reporters, who worked and walked with him, have reminisced over their relationship with him.
Mr. Dipo Kehinde, a former president of the Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria (CRAN), also the publisher of newsmaker.ng, an online newspaper, said: “I’ve been close to ex-IGP Tafa Balogun, and I have a lot of respect for him. Tafa Balogun was a phenomenal police officer. A titan. He was not a perfect man. Nobody is. He was very good in operations and administration, and he gave men of the underworld a bloody nose in his time. His battle cry was ‘Fire For Fire. He was also a very brilliant scholar. He had the gift of the gab. He didn’t like reading speeches; he would speak extemporaneously to the admiration of the audience. Tafa was down to earth, and he was very friendly, and jovial. One thing you must commend him for is that he was always there for everyone. He would pick up your calls, even as IGP, no matter who you are, and he would attend to your issues. Testimonies abound about this sterling quality. He could be a bit difficult to handle because he was a perfectionist. He was also a good teacher.
“There was a time he dictated a press statement to me, and we argued on the usage of a particular word. He accepted my position as he also explained why he felt it was right in his own usage. May God grant his soul eternal rest.”
Another former president of CRAN, Odita Sunday, also has something to say about Tafa Balogun.
His words: “He was about instituting an Award for Journalists on the Crime beat, with mouth-watering prizes when he was removed by Obasanjo. Some of us had started cutting our newspaper stories down then. Another remarkable thing he did that would remain iconic is the promotion of all those in the Quarter Guard who received him excellently well. He was a great history maker.”
A crime reporter, now a security analyst, Mr. Attah Folorusho, said: “But for Balogun, the image of the force he met as IGP would have been worst. He, through People’s friendly agenda, redeemed the beleaguered and demeaned image of the force. He carried journalists along to effectively implement his agenda. At a time, journalists were meeting with him at MacGregor Street, Ikoyi, Lagos to rub minds on topical issues. The fact that he was surrounded by eggheads such as Mr Solomon Arase, Taiwo Lakanu, Edward Ajogun and a host of others, did make him to neglect the press. He was very much at ease with those covering the police and crime beats. Operationally, talking about personnel welfare and wellbeing, Tafa Balogun had no rival. He crushed the ‘Otokoto’ ritualists in the southeast with gusto. A transborder criminal, Ahmad Tijani who led a gang of cross-border robbers responsible for the killings of nine policemen in Lagos in 1995 and further held Lagos and its environs hostage for over seven years, was ‘clinically annihilated’ with his gang members by a special squad set up by Balogun to get rid of hoodlums. He also dealt decisively with members of the Bakassi boys in the southeast region. The boys had a parallel body to the existing security agencies. One of his greatest achievements is that he made the force an enviable one that the misconception held about the force came to naught.
“In the past, most university graduates detest police as a career. But Tafa, who once came out of the National War College as the best graduating student, made several Nigerians enlist in the force by his actions. Several moves by militants to carry out their nefarious acts in South-South, including the Egbesu Boys and OPC were nipped in the bud by Balogun. But for Balogun, the 2003 general elections would have been marred with violence. The police security outfit, ‘operation-fire-for- fire,’ the first of its kind was armed to the teeth and commandeered by the late Tunde Sobulo who was at the same time Commander of MOPOL 20 and RRS. If Balogun believes in your competency, he wouldn’t hesitate to allow you to occupy three offices. In 2004, he made the late Okokon Idem Iniedu as the commissioner of police in charge of the FCT, MOPOL, and Federal Highways. He was such an intelligent IGP that senators had always wanted him to appear before them. At one of his brilliant submissions before the Senate over a missing ship, Balogun drew laughter and ovation when he asked, ‘Don’t we know those saddles with water affairs; what has the police got to do with water?’ Tafa Balogun was completely detribalized, also, he never allowed a junior officer to be promoted ahead of his seniors in the force.”
Mrs. Yewande Iwuoha, who is currently the General Manager of Raypower FM, said: “His occupation of Louis Edet’s House was dramatic. Musiliu Smith the then IG was removed unceremoniously by President Olusegun Obasanjo, being the aftermath of a ‘strike’ by men of the Police Force. This was considered an embarrassment and an affront to the Federal Government of Nigeria. Tafa Balogun came in, in a ‘commando-style’ sending a signal of a no-nonsense – IG’ to all and sundry. He immediately embarked on a robust welfare scheme for the rank and file. Training and retraining were also priorities. He effectively carried along the media in his operations with his famous ‘monthly meeting’ with the media in Lagos. Corrupt Policemen were fished out and dismissed from time to time. It was then an irony that Tafa Balogun also fell for the Banana peel of corruption. He was accused of dipping his hands ‘too deep’ into the Police Purse. I think his flamboyant lifestyle must have been his undoing.”
The Deputy Crime Editor of the Vanguard Newspaper, who is also the vice president of CRAN, Evelyn Usman said: “Where do I start to describe an IGP whose legacies are still speaking years after he left the Police and exited the earth? From his intimidating height that stood him out in the crowd to the charismatic swag with which he carried himself, the late Tafa Balogun could be said to be an answered prayer to many police personnel who were affected by his benevolence.
“In his three years in office (2002-2005)170,000 policemen were promoted to their next ranks. The promotion was greeted with a loud ovation, especially from personnel who had remained in the same rank for 15 years. It also went down in history that his tenure as IGP recorded the highest number of policemen promoted since the NPF was founded. He also launched ‘Operation Fire For Fire’, the first phase of the Police war against criminals. In fact, 2,000 policemen were deployed to Lagos for that task. He took the training of officers and men of the force as a priority and would not fail to announce it as part of his agenda to motivate them, especially those of the Rank and File. It is on record that over 147,347 officers and men went on various courses locally and internationally to enhance their efficiency in the job of policing. He was also a welfarist. He appreciated good work and reportage. For instance, if any journalist sent a letter of invitation to him for their weddings or parents’ burial ceremonies, the late Balogun would send a representative, as a mark of friendship. He also had an open-door policy. Those very close to him-journalists-they could call him to intimate him of burning issues or visit him.
“He was a down-to-earth senior cop who gave his all to ensure he left indelible legacies both in the NPF and in the memories of policemen and civilians who crossed his part. Despite his seeming amiable character traits, he did not fail to openly chastise erring policemen. Unfortunately, the vocal number one cop glowing beginning had its residue dissipated by allegations of corrupt practices.”
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