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Ambition Vs compassion

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It is not likely that a state governor would just barge in on the president and say to him that he was in Abuja on the way to Lokoja and he felt like dropping by and say Hello. It is granted that governors have privileges far over and above the ordinary citizen to see the president. Except there is an emergency I want to believe the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the president, the protocol officer or the aide de camp would be informed in advance of any governor wishing to visit the president. With my limited knowledge of how the system works, these are the officers that will leave the visitor’s name at the gate, that the person is being expected by the president. Most times, depending on the closeness, a governor can telephone the president directly and he will be welcome and the security at the gate will be informed accordingly. That is the privilege of being a governor, for he goes in with the seal of his state, a veritable arm of the larger state, the nation. As I understand it, ministers go through the Chief of Staff to the President whose office is the clearing house for official matters, and all other visits, like say a visit by yours sincerely. Again there are exceptions. A minister who is close to the president’s heart can call him and he will see him without any fuss.

I am just thinking aloud and I have come to the conclusion that, contrary to the statement by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, the visits by the seven governors could not have been a coincidence. Is it being suggested that the governor came all the way from Kano to pray at the Villa, Governor Jibrila Bindo came all the way from Yola for the same purpose of praying at the mosque in the Villa, and likewise Governor Ibrahim Gaidam from Yobe? The other governors that visited at the same time were Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Simion Lalong of Plateau State, and Mohammed Bello of Niger State and El-Rufai of Kaduna State. Dr. Ganduje, speaking to State House correspondents, said: “We are seven in number here but we came separately not for any purpose but after the Friday prayers we decided to say hello to Mr. President. It’s just coincidence that we met in the mosque and some joined us later and we decided to go to greet him.” If it was a casual visit, the outcome of the meeting held with the president behind closed doors would not have been made public. And you can trust him; Malam El-Rufai blew it all open.

He interjected and took over from Dr. Ganduje in his accustomed arrogance: “We are politicians and those of us you see here want the president to contest the 2019 election; we have no apologies for that. We believe in Mr. President, we want him to continue running the country in the right direction. People can speculate about 2019. We have no apologies.” Here was the same man who said on 30 September, 2010, about a month he spoke glowingly about the imperative of restructuring, what Emeka Anyaoku would call the political architecture of the country, that he did not understand why Buhari still wanted to be president. In his words: “I was 25 years old when Buhari was the Head of State and now I am 50+ and he still wants to be president. I don’t understand that—I don’t understand that at all. I call on all young people of Nigeria to take their future into their hands and ensure that they vote for a new generation of leaders.”

The meeting was essentially to persuade the president to begin to warm up to contest for the second term in 2019. The interpretation that could predictably be given to the meeting is that it was only the Northern governors alone who are interested in Buhari returning to the saddle come 2019. Why would an Ajimobi of Oyo or Amosun from Ogun, for example, not be accommodated in the coincidence to join the president at the Jumat prayers, after all they are Moslems as well? Why the president would have permitted the meeting in the first place, given the mood of the nation, beats imagination. Even if the meeting had not been with governors with whom he shares geographic identity, it would still have been a blunder of immeasurable proportion.

The nation was mourning. The president was and rightly still is the chief mourner. It is troubling that he allowed himself to be dragged into plotting his return to power next year by a band of governors from whom the milk of human kindness has evidently dried up and compassion given flight. They appeared from the secret meeting with glee of a conspiratorial triumph. It was only the previous day 73 Nigerian citizens gruesomely murdered, some in their sleep, and their houses burnt, were given mass burial. Come and see the somber and emotional atmosphere of the hour. What could have been a more soothing balm on the wound on the nation’s soul than the president appearing with the whole nation behind his tall and elegant frame even if symbolically, with wrinkled and sullen face? One would have thought that the reason the governors went to the Villa was to persuade the president to hop onto his helicopter and head for Makurdi to personally console Nigerians in their pains, especially the traumatized and dazed people of Benue, and give words of assurance to heal the nation. Alas, it was not so, he was holed up in Aso Rock, where he was content with meeting with those Ganduje referred to as “stakeholders from the affected states…”and in the words of El-Rufai: “….most of us here with the exception of Yobe Governor are first-time governors, we are interested in the continuity and stability and we want the president to continue.” Their concern was only their ambition, untouched by pains of the Nigerian people, the harrowing moments the country was going through!

There is no way Nigeria can run away from restructuring, a key element of which is the establishment of state police. With the state police the protracted insurgency in the North East would have been nibbed in the bud with local intelligence gathering and battle readiness for confrontation with the insurgents. It is not conceivable that policemen recruited locally who belong to the state, who know their terrain inside out, and who speak the language would have left their society arms folded and with their eyes wide open, to disintegrate socially, politically and economically. Methinks they would have given their all including laying down their lives to save their land. Would Mr. Ortom not have mobilised his state police to prevent the massacre of his people through intelligence gathering and confrontation with the prowling murderous herdsmen first before writing to Abuja for reinforcement, whether of the police or the Army and the Air Force? Because Buhari prefers in his proverbial rigidity that we bury our heads in the sand like ostriches, insecurity of all kinds festers and fear grips the land. The police are overstretched.

Dogara, the Speaker, said in July last year, “It is worrisome that Nigeria is permanently in a state of emergency as the Armed Forces are deployed in more than 28 states of the Federation in peace time. The Armed Forces have virtually taken over routine police work in Nigeria. They are no longer acting in aid of civil authorities, but have become the civil authority themselves.” What this is saying to us is that there is need for other levels of policing in our land. It is unacceptable that the governors, supposedly the chief security officers of their states, have no police of their own but what they are sent from Abuja to enforce their laws and guarantee the security of citizens within their domain with certainty. There is no way we can have the executive capacity to police a diverse, plural society such as ours from one central point, which is Abuja. The fact often lost on us is that we are a country of nationalities and not a settler country. If only on this account alone, we cannot have an effective policing of our country.

Why is it so difficult if there are no other hidden reasons beyond our well being to learn how policing has been successfully, indeed, effectively run in other lands? It is such that when you are there you behave yourself. No one needs tell you that. The warning is in the air, there are policemen lurking in the shadows near you! In the United States, any university of a student population of 5,000 is expected to have its own police with career prospects to reach the highest. Then, there are the local police, then the state, then the FBI, and it is so structured that they work collaboratively even though they are independent of one another. Each is autonomous. In Germany, there are 16 state police forces, each independent of the other in management and funding. In Belgium, there are two main forces: The Police Communale and the Gendarmerie Nationale. The former is made up of 589 Municipal Police Forces, each independently funded by and accountable to the local town mayor, and with power to operate only within their particular municipal territory. Gendarmerie Nationale operates at what we may call a “supra level” covering the entire country with special responsibility for traffic on national roads, drug, terrorism and organised crime.

There are also specialised forces—judicial police, maritime police, airport police and railway police forces. In Holland, there are 148 such municipal forces. Denmark and Norway have police forces which are decentralised because the districts are independent. Denmark has National Police and Districts Police. There are 54 District Police Formations in Denmark, the same number as in Norway. Australia is a classic case of Federal Police, Federal and State police. There are eight state police forces each independent of the other and managed as well as financed by its own state. What obtains in Britain is well known to every member of our elite class. The City of London has its own police force and the outer London has Metropolitan Police. Wales have their own.

The problem of insecurity will be with us for as long as we run away from the solution which is the establishment of the state police. John Keats wrote long ago in his Ode to A Nightingale that the solution to life’s problems is not escapism. In Nigeria’s case, it certainly does not lie in our burying our heads in the sand any longer. It is self-deceit to believe that there is another way out, pretending that with more money, with more equipment we will get to our desired goal. The nation has learnt the hard way long enough! We can see it in Benue, we can see it Taraba, Nasarawa, Rivers, Southern Kaduna, in Imo, Delta and Katsina. Olu Falae has an experience to share! Why are we so obstinate marching in the wilderness? With rigidity, there is absence of motion, without movement, there can be no life. Without movement there can be no new ideas. Rigidity leads to decline, fall and decay!


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