‘To make progress, Nigeria must go back to Pre-1970’
A former Deputy Inspector-General of police and engineer, Babafemi Osoleye Osoba (rtd) turned 80 years old and to mark the milestone, he dedicated a book titled, Engineer and a Policeman, last week at his country home in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. He was part of the rebuilding of most the roads and bridges in the former war-torn Biafran enclave and also earlier in the North East.
But looking back, Osoba is certain military incursion in Nigerian politics ruined the country’s efforts at progress. He insists that progress lies only in retracing steps to how the country was before the war, with the effective bureaucracy that subsisted at the time.
He advised, “If we want to go anywhere, we should go back to the pre-1970s before the military started coming and messing everything up and follow that system because it checks itself and audits itself.”
Osoba said he wrote the book to inspire, motivate, and change attitudes of young and upcoming professionals in the police force for better service. He said the book is basically about how he switched from being a professional engineer to a policeman and yet achieving so much in both fields.Osoba worked temporarily on Third Mainland Bridge. He headed up north where he completed the Kaduna-Zaria Road, Zaria-Funtua to Gusau and Sokoto roads.
He recalled, “At that time also, Gen. Yakubu Gowon was about to get married and his parents were living in Wusasa and there was just a footpath from the main road to the place. So, I was asked to construct a three and half mile road within two months, which I did.
“My superior officer, M. T Usman, having seen all the good work that I had done, asked me to take over one of the most important projects at that time – the Bauchi/Gombe road of 300 miles. And so I completed a lot of roads and bridges in the north and north central.”
According to Osoba, the switch from an engineer to a policeman came after he left the war-damaged area in the east, where he repaired all the 33 bridges and River Niger bridge between Onitsha and Asaba.
“When the war ended, the Nigeria police had dismissed so many Igbo,” eh stated. “They had run away, especially in the Works Department and the Deputy I-G, a graduate of English, decided that he wanted qualified engineers and so Mallam Usman presented five names to Dodan Barracks and my name was one of them and I was picked to join the police. I was not happy because I felt I was an engineer. If I wanted to be a police officer, I would have joined the force.”
Osoba is saddened by the fact that young Nigerians look down on the profession considering how his likes dedicated their lives to making the police force what it is today.
According to him, “It is so disappointing that the police force has turned to what it is now and the only reason is that there is selfishness and greed. The government itself made the police what it is because the police is part of the environment. In the past, we used to have four tenders boards or auditors, head of department tenders board, miscellaneous, executive council board and internal board. Where are they today? They destroyed all the auditing system, the general order and financial instruction. In the system, there was already due process. It is stupid, and unfortunately, this is one of the things that destroyed this country and gave room to people to steal anyhow and police being part of the environment, it will affect them; that is part of the problem.”