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On the IGP’s initial ‘overzealousness’

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Ag. IGP Usman Alkali Baba. Photo/POLICENG

No doubt, Nigeria is in the throes of seemingly organised chaos and a big mess in the area of security. The security nightmares enveloping Nigeria are such that those who have taken up arms against the citizens of the country are left to have free reign and indeed these organized criminal gangs of terrorists have expanded the frontiers of their operations to all parts of Nigeria. No place in Nigeria is beyond their reach to an extent that millions of Nigerians no longer rely on the capability of the security forces to thwart attacks targeting soft spots but are now looking up to God for divine intervention.

These armed criminals strike with military precision just as the operatives of the security forces have become their prime targets. Somewhere in South East of Nigeria they struck at a bank and killed two school children. This happened barely three days after an alarm was raised by the Indigenous People of Biafra that the Department of State Services plans to attack banks in the South East of Nigeria and blame the attacks on IPOB.

Aside the isolated incident today in which school kids were gruesomely slaughtered, the operatives of the Nigeria Police Force have particularly become like endangered species.

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Beyond the frightening reality that armed non-state actors have overwhelmed operatives of the Nigerian Police Force thereby shifting the burden of routine law enforcement functions to the military who statutorily ought to be the last point of call, the underlying cause for the progressive degeneration of the law enforcement capabilities of the Nigerian Police Force is rooted fundamentally in the elevation of mediocrity as the yardstick for appointing the various heads of the police formation including the national hierarchy headed by an Inspector General of Police.

The direct consequence of not adhering to merit, competence, seniority and experience of professional skills as the prerequisites for appointing the Inspector General of Police, is the progressive erosion and weakening of the professional capabilities of the operatives since the head is rotten.

I will soon show us why mediocrity is the fundamental bane of the Nigerian Police Force. But first, we will establish the factuality of the betrayal of merit and competence by President Muhammadu Buhari in preference for someone who is of the specific ethno- religious affiliations that he has always appointed since 2015- Muslim Northerner.

Soon after the cabal made the announcement of a new acting Inspector General of Police whilst President Muhammadu Buhari was away in London, United Kingdom on a medical tourism, it was revealed that Deputy Inspector General of Police Moses Jitoboh who has 9 more years to spend in the Police was shoved aside for Usman Alkali who was rapidly made acting Deputy Inspector General of Police to step up as the next Inspector General of Police.

The Moses of a man was definitely side stepped because the President has soft spot for only Northern Muslims to be made heads of internal security and even when the extant Police Act pegged the tenure of IGP at four, President Buhari proceeded to pick a Northern Muslim who has just two years to retire from the police. The immediate past IGP Adamu Mohammed was left to spend over two months post retirement and then disgraced out of office because he was sacked whilst he was in the field in Owerri, on an inspection tour.

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To retire a Christian officer, Moses Jitoboh, from Bayelsa who has 9 years to go and then promote Alkali Usman who has only two years to go only because he is a Muslim Northerner from Yobe State, is certainly not a way to rebuild a police force that is rapidly declining and collapsing by the day. A clear sign that the police has virtually collapsed are the cases of kidnappings and targeted killings by armed non state actors whereas the policing institution seems overwhelmed and defeated.

The beneficiary of this rotten status quo who is now acting IGP has as usual performed what I call the ritual of initial gra-gra of promising to defeat the operational crises that are internally tearing the police apart. He is incapable of solving the problems because first and foremost, he is a product of the dysfunctional system. Also, the police as it is, is not fit for purpose.  With a national policing institution whose membership can not be determined because there is no scientific data base of the number of police operatives posted all around Nigeria.  It is certain however that the nation is not professionally policed. The Nigerian Police Force is operating with outdated facilities and the operatives are not properly trained and kitted and even when they are posted, they are often sent to protect politicians.  This is why when the recent #EndSARS protests were happening, there were no police presence in about 75% of the geo-political space of Nigeria which made it easier for hired goons and hoodlums hired by members of the deep state unleashed mayhem and unprecedented violent crimes of looting of warehouses across Nigeria stealing foodstuffs and grains from even the strategic national grains reserves and the police operatives were never seen. So the way to solve the problems is to unbundle the police and legally reform it by creating state policing institutions to compliment the national policing infrastructure.  But no, those benefitting from the rots will not want to see comprehensive police reforms but are concentrated on implementing piecemeal changes that won’t go far.

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Unfortunately, acting IGP’s focus is on funding when in actuality, if you open the volts of Central Bank of Nigeria to the police as currently constituted, the entire money of Nigeria cannot solve the decadence in the police. Money cannot fix the perennial lack of professionalism and lack of discipline that have eaten deep and in a cancerous fashion into the marrows of the policing institution in Nigeria.

But the new acting IGP thinks otherwise. There is already a report of him starting his work by going straight to the Police Trust Fund in his warped thinking that money can work the magic of fixing the decay in the police.

This is why I think mediocrity is at the root of the problems destroying the policing institution.

Media report says the newly appointed Acting Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, started his first official duty with a visit to the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Police Trust Fund, Aliyu Sokoto, at the Police Finance House, Abuja, pledging to work with the office, to ensure a well-trained and highly equipped Force.

The Police Fund Bill, which was signed into law two years ago by President Muhammadu Buhari, is expected to among other obligations, provide funds for the training and retraining of personnel of the Nigeria Police Force, provide them with state-of-the-art security equipment, to improve the general welfare of police personnel, as well as enhance their preparedness. The law also seeks to achieve an overall improvement in the efficiency of the Nigeria Police Force, including its auxiliary staff in Nigeria and abroad.

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According to the Act, the NPTF shall be funded with 0.5% of the total revenue accruing to the Federation Account; a levy of 0.005% of the net profit of companies operating a business in Nigeria and any takeoff grant and special intervention fund as may be provided by the Federal, State or Local Government, among other funds.

Asserting that the intervention of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund would go a long way to addressing the present security situation, Baba, avowed his resolve to work with Sokoto and other management team towards actualizing the Trust Fund’s vision and mission for the Nigeria Police. This is mere initial gra-gra that is a mere smokescreen. Nigeria must extinguish mediocrity in the selection process of the heads of the police and other security agencies if we must see them work optimally for the overall benefits of Nigerians.

This is how a philosopher graphically depict mediocres. He wrote thus: “At the centre of low and high intelligence, the great majority of people, about 68 percent are mediocres. These are people of average intelligence who are usually not creative. They usually prefer the status quo, the normal condition. For instance, if thuggery has been installed in Nigerian politics, mediocres will see it as normal and can do nothing to change the situation. It is expecting too much from a mediocre to ask him to make radical changes for the better. What he can easily achieve is a major deterioration from the normal situation because of his incapacity to handle changes. For him deterioration sets in more, easily than amelioration.”

He wrote further: “Nigerian political scene. The increase in bribery and corruption, fraud, embezzlement of public funds and crimes of all types is a pointer to the type of leadership which Nigeria has been experiencing.”
“Mediocrity has been installed in the Nigerian political scene. Governor Jim Nwobodo of Anambra State (as he then was) declared that given a choice of one professor and twelve labourers, he would choose twelve labourers. In his own estimation, twelve labourers would be more useful to his state than one professor”.

The academic says this is true where mediocrity has been crowned. That was true in Anambra State during the Second Republic.

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The systematic deceit, which then government of Anambra State practised as did other governments in the federation, was directed to those who had average and below average intelligence and who were not exposed to analytical thinking.

The philosophy scholar spoke to the issues of leadership and intelligence which are also the fundamental crises tearing apart the Nigerian Police Force of today.

He wrote: “We would like to emphasize that the leadership of any nation that skews to the left, that is, negatively skewed, is tending towards the animal kingdom. If it is positively skewed, that is, skewed to the right, it is tending towards the human kingdom. The majority of leaders in any nation should have above average intelligence for innovations and revolutions to succeed. These people are the people who can inform their followers that the status quo is no longer suitable and that it could be changed for the better. If such people are elected into the Nigerian political offices, they will be able to analyse and synthesize the effects of systematic deceit of the people and systematic corruption. They will be able to identify the causes of, and remedies for, both armed and unarmed robbery and other crimes in the nation. They would predict the effects of ethical, judicial and educational revolutions.”

“ If, on the other hand, he reasoned, leadership, which is near animal intelligence, below average and average intelligence is installed, it is likely that deterioration in human standards would continue. Any ethical, judicial and educational revolutions would not be understood and, therefore, would be trampled upon, and Nigeria would witness the worst economic, social and political crises of the country. That was our prediction by June 1983. Those crises had started six months after.

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“It should be emphasized here that high intelligence is not synonymous with high academic qualifications. A man who has a Ph.D. may not be able to analyse social, economic and political affairs.

“He may not be able to learn from past experience as quickly as he is supposed to do. There are Ph.D. mediocres and Ph.D. geniuses in a normal curve distribution of Ph.D. Many university dons have constituted a disgrace to this nation in their behaviour. Their leadership has proved as Zoological as that of politicians.” (From the book ‘Nigeria What Hope? By Acha Felix Ndubisi, published in 1991).

So Nigeria needs to eradicate mediocrity in the Police Force so as to achieve a wholistic reform that will see the police play her statutory roles as enforcers of the law. We are watching but of course, let the new IGP continue to dance around the drama stage until such a time that we will awake from slumber and boldly change the legal frameworks of the policing architecture and then adhere strictly to merit, competence and professionalism as the qualities to determine who heads the police. I doubt if a man produced from a distorted and dysfunctional system can do much to change the status quo fundamentally and radically.  It’s like expecting a celibate Catholic Priest to become a grandfather overnight.

Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was a Federal Commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.

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