1. It is hard coming to terms with the departure of Innocent, to his maker. It is hard to imagine not having him around to always, at the right moment, bring forth a solution to a challenge in that soft talking but incisive thought that only Innocent could muster. Yet, dream like as it seems, we have to accept the painful reality that our friend, compatriot, activist, colleague, brother, initiator, visionary and driver for the transformation of society has gone home. Many of us will remember Innocent in many ways, but primarily as a committed driver for social justice through the transformation of society.
2. One important institution dear to his heart was the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). Instead of joining the noisy crowd to throw condemnatory animadversions at the police, Innocent chose to establish the Centre for Law Enforcement Education in Nigeria (CLEEN) as a platform for engaging the police, provoking intensely meaningful dialogues on security and safety issues in Nigeria and beyond. Through CLEEN Foundation, he was able to stir series of publications on policing, police, human rights and access to justice. He did not do it alone. He actively sought for and worked with great intellectual minds to both influence and set the agenda on policing in Nigeria. Students of criminology and security studies must have come across, at least, one of the numerous publications on the police authored by Innocent singly or in collaboration with other scholars and leaders of thought on policing. It is important to point out that these publications are available for free on the CLEEN Foundation website.
3. Innocent was a master of silence, speaking only when it was necessary. I imagine that it was not just ordinary silence, but an intensive battle and a struggle at sorting out the many competing ideas in his mind aimed at finding ways of solving societal problems. He desired to see a transformed, modern, intelligence-driven, professional and citizen-friendly police. His active mind drove him to consider bringing an alternative civil society voice to reforming the police. With Network of Police Reform at the forefront (then led by Okey Nwanguna) along with CLEEN Foundation (then led by Kemi Okenyedo), the Civil Society Panel on Police Reform was constituted chaired by Ayo Obe with Professor Smart Otu, Ayisha Osori, Okey Nwanguna, Samson Itodo and myself as members and Chinedu Nwagwu as the Secretary. This was designed to bring civil society perspective to police reform in Nigeria. One issue that continued to creep into the public arena on policing in Nigeria is the issue of state police. The Civil Society Panel recommended it with consideration of the abuses associated with state/native authority police and suggestions on overcoming them. The panel also canvassed the position that the NPF does not necessarily require to be headed by a serving police officer. It can be led by a vastly knowledgeable security expert with operational control residing at the Office of the Inspector General of Police.
4. Innocent was a leading thinker and driver of the need for the NPF to embrace community policing. Although it did not quite approximate his understanding and insightful vision of community policing, he was able to convert the police authorities to buy the idea and tried it including, curiously, the branding of police vehicles with the inscription: “community policing”. It was a great advertisement for the acceptance of community policing by the NPF. Innocent would say reforming the police like many institutions in Nigeria, is a marathon, not a 100m race!
5. Characteristic of his vision for institution building, Innocent chose to make CLEEN Foundation to outlive him. He ensured that the foundation operates on sound principles of management and accountability. He ensured that the organisation operates a functional board and an effective management. The Board of CLEEN Foundation is chaired by Professor Etannibi E. Alemika of the University of Jos with me as the Vice Chair. Innocent never threw his weight as the founder of the organisation. He would sit through board meetings making his usual thoughtful contributions with humility. His concerns for the welfare and development of the staff was uppermost to him. He recognised that the staff are primary stakeholders and their interests and capacities are critical to the sustenance of the organisation. He was always thinking on how best to build the capacity of the staff and how to expand the activities of CLEEN Foundation to sister African countries. Already CLEEN has secured permission to operate in Ghana and Cameroon.
6. We never met with Innocent face to face in the days of the struggle for the validation of the June 12 election. In those days when we would receive Chima Ubani (of blessed memory) in Maiduguri we used to discuss the struggle and our comrades on the battlefront in Lagos. Innocent’s departure, at a critical moment that we need him most, and his truncated readiness to write a book on his experience and struggles, is a call for us to come together to capture the struggle for the cultivation and continued sustenance of a better Nigeria built on social justice.
7. Our comrades have gone. I remember when late Emma Ezeazu came to Maiduguri in 1986 as the NANS President, for us to discuss our response to the choking of the Nigerian economy through SAP. I was the Caretaker Secretary General of NANS Unimaid then. Today he too is gone. We would team up with late Dr. Jubril Bala Mohammed, Otive Igbuzor, Abdulqadir Isa, late Abdullahi Alkali and many of our colleagues in ASUU committed to the return of democracy, human rights and rule of law. We can honour Innocent, and all our comrades, by refusing to give up and continue to sustain the drive for social justice. Adieu Innocent. God knows best. To Josephine, the indefatigable activist and her three daughters, God will continue to strengthen you. You will conquer greater battles for humanity and society. My deep condolences!!!
Abubakar Mu’azu, Unimaid.