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Nigeria’s Curious Security Services

By Sonala Olumhense
19 April 2015   |   5:03 am
MY dear reader, please look very closely at this picture. I am going to tell you about it. I saved a lot of pictures from Nigeria’s historic elections of March and April 2015; most in memorable words, several of them in pictures. This was one of them. Before I discuss this picture, I want to…

SonalaMY dear reader, please look very closely at this picture. I am going to tell you about it. I saved a lot of pictures from Nigeria’s historic elections of March and April 2015; most in memorable words, several of them in pictures.

This was one of them. Before I discuss this picture, I want to tell you about another one, which appeared…in laughter. It was of Nigeria’s then presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari at an interview in London when he visited to give a speech in Chatham House. As you might recall, that was a time that many of his critics were questioning his health.

Among others, they said he was too old to run for Nigeria’s highest office. That he was in poor health. That he was not strong. That he had been admitted into a hospital. The outgoing First Lady and—some say—one-fifth of the presidency, Patience Jonathan, described the retired soldier as being “brain dead”.

Facing the interviewer to whom I refer, Buhari dismissed all the rumors. He went further, expressing his desire to take on any of his traducers in a run (road race).

“We’ll see how long they will last,” Buhari said. I certainly hope Mrs. Jonathan will accept that challenge before it becomes a moot point on May 29. How difficult can it possibly be to defeat an old man who is brain dead, on any of her husband’s SURE-P Transformation Agenda roads? At which point I now return to the picture, which was shot during the election by an unidentified Nigerian whom I have not been able to identify.

In any event, on account of some of the comments I am about to place on record, it is perhaps best not to provide such identification. Whoever you and your publisher may be, photographer, the credit and copyright for this image are fully yours. But the shame and the outrage belong to every Nigerian. Look at it: a photograph is of the top layers of Nigeria’s security and allied services.

From the uniforms, at least six are identifiable. Not six men; six of the different security, pseudo-security, para-security and pretend-security agencies that litter Nigeria. One of them would seem to be the police.

In the foreground are two men who appear to be senior police officers; the one holding court is perhaps a Deputy Inspector-General or an Assistant Inspector-General. What distinguishes these men? Look at those nauseatingly distended stomachs that convey the feeling of being in a maternity ward of a major city or Teaching Hospital maternity ward.

But no: these are men that are at the top, or close to the top, of their service ladders. How do men in their prime and in professions where discipline and physical fitness are supposed to be the first principles degenerate to this? I do not mean that as a question. I mean it as a statement, and in outrage.

How do top security service officials who are on account of their professions expected to be fit as a deer bloat into these grotesque figures? Do you think that at this particular point, they were discussing electoral security or what a ridiculous public portrait they painted? Quick: which of them do you think was capable of chasing down a ballot-box snatching thug in a 300-yard race? Clearly, unless it is established that some or all of these men in this picture are pregnant, what is beyond argument is that none of them watches what he eats, let alone how much of it.

Clearly, none of them steps into a gym or knows what it is to sweat. Yes, as men age, it is more difficult to lose weight or stay in shape, but there is nothing in this picture that suggests that any of these men has in the past 10 or 20 years stepped away from the temptations of the Officers’ Mess to go to the gym.

There is no evidence any of them has been abstemious at any all-you-can-eat buffet tables, or said No to any offer of free beer. This is a picture of a society, which mistakes greed and gluttony for good living.

What is more worrying, if these are the men who head these critical security services, what do the men they command look like? Those ones probably look better, on account of their youth, but aren’t there supposed to be regulation standards about how much weight a serving officer lugs around at a particular height? Men of these agencies are supposed to be healthy and vigorous; how many such figures do you see? These men neither dissuade criminals nor fill the public with confidence.

In the end, the truth is that this is not a picture at all but a billboard. A big, sad advertisement of loose living and irresponsibility within the so-called disciplined forces, but if this is what the top of our security services looks like, it is no surprise that armed robbery, kidnapping, and similar crimes are flourishing.

And if this is a true picture of what life looks like at the top of our security services where everyone is supposed to be active, what does it look like at the top of the civil service where people may not really be rising from their seats to serve anyone; or within the political elite when those bulbous agbada come off? You cannot combine crime with words.

To paraphrase the Holy Book, there is fitness for everything, and for every office under the sun: ethical, financial or physical. For the physical, Nigeria’s security services have clearly lost the map; they must find out who they were supposed to be, and where they were supposed to be going.