Those who have been touting the slogan of CHANGE at the centre of Nigerian politics (Abuja), having secured the opportunity, I believe now know that the time for hard work has come! From May 29, we are all going to be sitting in bated breathe in an orchestrated vigil waiting to see the character of that CHANGE. The pessimists are up already waiting to be disappointed so that they can tell the whole world, “We told you so”. For the optimists and the incurable believer in a message that resonates the common place Nigerian totems, “When there’s life, there’s hope” and “God’s time is the best”, they cannot wait to see they first steps that would be taken to assure them that they hadn’t been wrong believing in the message of change.
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Reform Of Police Force Is A Defining Character Test For Buhari CHANGE Mantra! By Phillip Isakpa
But be that as it may, (excuse the cliché, it’s for emphasis), there are many angry Nigerians, who are necessarily justified in their anger. They are angry about several of Nigeria’s public institutions that have let us all down over the years. It is not so much the institutions responsible for producing or managing Nigeria’s resources that anger is directed, because of the monumental corruption that permeates them, but there is even more anger at institutions that are completely not fit for purpose because they have completely left their central remit and in the process lost their mettle. Some of these institutions, established to protect the populace, have, indeed, become their worst nightmares, their biggest enemies. And this country cannot do right by its people if this CHANGE message does not comprehensively include the complete change in attitude and culture of these institutions. I am writing this seething with anger; and its anger that I believe is shared by acquaintances, friends, family members, and millions of Nigerians who have first been let down by those that are supposed to supervise these institutions by way of either executive or legislative social re-engineering or setting the vision for what these institutions should be.
The Police in Nigeria are one of the most corrupt and not fit-for-purpose institutions in the world and it must be reformed. If Buhari, with all his CHANGE speeches, does not reform and give us a NEW POLICE in Nigeria within two years, both he and all the APC corruption and CHANGE message would have failed me personally. I do not care what he does in the next two years afterwards, but the Nigeria Police are bad news for this country (and I completely discountenance all the talk about it having some fine officers – that should be told to the marines, because all the ones that I meet, and many people that I know meet, are not fine officers; they get away with a whole lot of illegalities just because they put on the uniform that has been turned into garment of fear and intimidation. When you add the gun to it, many of them act as if they are on hard drugs).
I don’t care the diplomatic language that is often used when some people say that within the Nigerian police are some of the finest officers you can find. It doesn’t mean anything to me. I don’t know those fine officers. All I know are the ones that I meet on the streets every day, as I either go to work, return home from work, on my way out on private outings. What I also know are what acquaintances, friends and members of my family tell me about their encounters with the policemen and women that they come across in the course of their daily lives. It is really hogwash and it flies through my ears when I hear that attempt at diplomatic speak about an institution that is so notoriously corrupt and unprofessional in their general daily conducts and encounters with members of the public yet it is said that there are “a few good men” amongst them!
I think it’s time someone researched and get the real scientific picture of what, indeed, has happened since former Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, banned road blocks! I am sure that such a research will show that a lot of armed robberies that used to occur, when these men and women unilaterally and arbitrarily mounted illegal road blocks, were the result of letting them put on our tax payers uniform, our tax-payers boots, and carrying our tax-payers guns, and then unleashing them on hapless citizens, threatening and then disguising to rob some of us who fell victim with instruments they were supposed to use to protect us. For if periodic surveys were carried out on Nigerians to ask them which is the most hated public institution in the country, I am sure that every year the Nigeria Police Force will coast home with the prize.
And this is a serious gauge on. The incoming president and the now accepted message of CHANGE at the centre must be seen to mean the word. For apart from corruption that is perpetuated by individuals in public service who use their positions and influence to help themselves to the treasury, I believe that one major corruption aggregator is institutions that have totally lost track; that do not understand best global practices; and have no desire to run on auto pilot with regards to instituting best practices that just flow seamlessly as they are operationalised by people who chose to go work in them.
No matter what anybody says about the quality of some officers in the force, the Nigeria Police Force deserves to be banned in its entirety and rebooted. The so called fine officers are there living large and unable to clean the rubbish they called a system. I have no sympathy for this kind of conversation. Indeed, any fight, as far as the arrangement of civil society is concerned, against corruption, must necessarily start from delivering a professional police force, and it has to be strong on institution building, such that establishes a society that delivers justice, equity and fairness to its citizens. The incoming government should borrow the proverbial leaf from what happened in the Republic of Georgia when they wanted to reposition their police and customs.
The country’s former president, Mikhail Saakashvil, put it thus: “But when we took over government, we thought there was need for a change. We embarked on reforms and implemented some unpopular but purposeful policies.
“In fact at a time in Georgia when I was president, we had no police force for three months because we sacked all our personnel.
“And surprisingly, crime rate did not go up after the action and that clearly showed us the police were part of the security problems.
“We also sacked the entire customs service, because they were corrupt and there were agencies we scrapped because the people there were not doing anything.
“We later got new people who saw Georgia as their own in the police, the custom and diversified our economy.
“Today, Georgia is almost without corruption, people below the poverty line are less than 18 per cent of the population.
“The economy is one of the fastest growing in the world and, we now export excess electricity to Russia.”
Let these words be enough to ensure that CHANGE is indeed CHANGE! I want to live in a country where I am not harassed by unprofessional people given state uniforms and guns to rob me! Otherwise I will sing like Bob Marley:
“Old pirates, yes, they rob I,
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.”