No matter how much the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its leaders emote about their resolve to foster a merit-driven system and serve the whole country, their immersion in winner-take-all politics is obvious to all. Of course, this is by no means out of sync with the party of President Muhammadu Buhari who declared that those who voted for him would enjoy the so-called dividends of democracy more than those who never supported his election.
While it is clear that Buhari has floundered in many other areas of governance, he has demonstrated uncommon fidelity to this commitment since he assumed office. This accounts for his appointing mainly his family members, political associates and other close persons.
This nepotism that has defined the Buhari government is set to interfere with the recruitment of new police personnel. Such interference is alarming against the backdrop of the persistent outrage at the unprofessionalism in the police that is often expressed in their predilection for corruption. They shoot a motorist who refuses to give them a bribe of N50; they collude with armed robbers to prey on the citizens; they turn a witness or complainant into a suspect because of pecuniary gain – and the list of crimes goes on. For all this, the blame rightly goes to the method of their recruitment that shares no kinship with meritocracy. Most police personnel join the force to make money through corruption and not because of the competence and the passion they have for the job. They easily bribe their way through the recruitment and once they have got the job, they brazenly pursue an agenda to recoup their investment.
Thus, we would have thought that a time of recruitment of police personnel would be seized as an opportunity to get citizens who are very competent and passionate to enforce the law and protect the citizens and their property and stop the rapid deterioration of the force into a hotbed for the proliferation of criminals. But now, through the nepotism of the APC, only those who are close to the ministers and leaders of the party are the ones who would be among the 10,000 police personnel to be recruited this year. These ministers and leaders of APC have disrupted the recruitment by insisting that only their cronies should make the list. To placate them, the Police Service Commission (PSC) has been removing the names of those who have meritoriously passed the tests for the recruitment. They have been putting the names of their cronies who have either failed the tests or did not even apply for the job in the first place. Consequently, the recruitment that should have been concluded by now has been stalled.
By their action, the APC leaders are set to increase the misguided members of the police. But the APC leaders should not whine later when these policemen use their guns to extort money from the citizens and mow down those who refuse to give them the bribe they are asking for. And how do these so-called ministers and leaders want those who have passed the tests but their names are removed to feel about the nation? Such victims of nepotism would only remain rankled by a sense of betrayal and alienation that would drive them into doing anything that would negate the interest of a nation that does not care for them. Is it such people that Buhari and his officials would tell that change begins with them and they would listen when it is clear to them that the so-called change must begin with the leaders?
This reminds us of the warning in The Yacoubian Building by the Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany that the denial of well-deserved opportunities in a post-colonial state is fraught with the danger of pushing the citizens into working against the society. Aswany uses Taha who is intelligent and has passion for the job of a policeman to drive home his point. Taha has opportunities to go to one of the best colleges in Egypt. But buoys by a sense of patriotism and humanitarianism, he rather seeks an opportunity to serve his country and this is why he opts for the Police Academy. At the last interview after he has scored 98 per cent in the preceding one, he equally performs excellently. But when it gets to that moment when he is to be told to “ take a bow”, the presiding general looks up and asks Taha his father’s profession. Taha says his father is a property guide. And on account of this, he is denied the job. Taha takes his petition to the president, but nothing comes out of it. This injustice drives Taha into embracing terrorism as a means of resisting the iniquitous state.
The government of past President Goodluck Jonathan has been severely rebuked for the complicity of its officials in the mismanagement of recruitment of immigration officials that claimed the lives of some citizens. But the country must free itself from this corruption that is associated with public recruitment. It is probably the need to prevent the same nepotism from disrupting the proposed recruitment of 500,000 teachers that the National Assembly has declared that the presidency and the office of the vice president lack the expertise to undertake this exercise. The lawmakers have asked the presidency to allow the Ministry of Education to carry out the recruitment for a measure of credibility to be achieved in the exercise.
Buhari and his APC leaders must develop a broad pan-Nigerian vision that would enable those who are qualified for offices to be given them. Against his will and that of his party leaders, Buhari must demonstrate this by insisting that the PSC follows its initial list. Those whose names have been smuggled onto the recruitment list must not only be removed, the ministers and the chieftains of the APC who are behind this manipulation should be punished by the government.
The PSC should be allowed to be guided in the recruitment of new police personnel by the dictates of merit and not nepotism. For the sake of the unity of the country, Buhari and his APC chieftains must embrace an all-inclusive government. They must break with the obsession that they would only give appointments to those who are loyal to the party. At a time that the country is weighed down by a myriad of problems, the public servants who are needed are people who would provide answers.
Unless Buhari is irredeemably impervious, he should have been chastened by his numerous blunders, including his incompetent aides giving him plagiarised speeches to read in the public, and realised by now the importance of allowing meritocracy and not cronyism to determine those who should be appointed to serve the nation.