He first came into national public reckoning in 1980 when, as Lagos State Police Commissioner, he appeared in person at the scene of a dastardly robbery. The robbers followed the cashiers of a factory who had just cashed the workers’ monthly salary, grabbed the loot and shot some policemen. Gambo swore at the scene that he would catch the robbers. Everyone wondered how he would do it because the police in those days was almost a laughing stock. Not long afterwards, Gambo caught the robbers. Instead of hailing him, newspaper commentators turned round and sneered that, so the police can do it when their own men are involved.
When soldiers overthrew the Second Republic in December 1983, Gambo was appointed Deputy Inspector General to the IGP, Etim Inyang. Unlike these days when police have up to six DIGs, it had only one in those days. DIG Gambo Jimeta was splashed on all newspaper front pages in August 1985 when General Babangida overthrew the Buhari military regime. Gambo led TV cameramen down the dungeons of the NSO, precursor of today’s SSS. NSO was notorious in those days for mass and cruel detention. One by one, Gambo opened the cells and we saw detainees in cramped conditions, stripped to their pants because of the humid Lagos heat, with hardly enough room to stretch their legs. He became Police IG the following year.
In 1986, a notorious robbery gang led by Lawrence Anini and Monday Osunbor terrorized Benin City and environs. They even shot the state police commissioner, Caspir Akagbosu. General Babangida took Gambo by surprise. As they walked out of an Armed Forces Ruling Council meeting, pressmen asked IBB what he was doing about rising cases of robbery. He turned to the IG and said, “My friend, where is Anini?” Gambo managed to blurt out that “Mr. President, we will soon get him.”
Get him Gambo did. A few weeks later, NTA showed the IG holding an impromptu press conference where he said, “The notorious armed robber Lawrence Anini was caught this morning in a special police operation in Benin…” Hours later, Gambo tried to distance himself from the remarks and said Bendel State police would brief newsmen on the arrest, that it was not so important.
Gambo suffered media harassment in the late 1980s when a police sergeant guarding his house, Israel Ameh, died in detention, allegedly due to torture because money belonging to the IG’s wife was stolen. He was replaced as IG in 1990 but a year later, he returned to the scene as IBB’s National Security Adviser. He was also a minister in the Abacha regime, of Agriculture and later Industry.
He lived a quiet life in Abuja for two decades afterwards and was not known to have involved himself in politics. He died in Abuja yesterday at the age of 84. May the soul of this super cop rest in peace.