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By Najatu Muhammad
For the past few decades, the Nigeria Police Force has consistently vindicated this preposition; it has been a microcosm of all that is wrong with Nigeria at every stage of its evolution. Systematic and structural issues like indiscipline, chronic corruption and a poor service culture barely scratches the surface underneath the hefty trunk of this elephant in the room. Times without number, we place ourselves on the line when the state of the nation demands that we act in order to avert our country’s descent into the abyss. We are at a critical moment when Nigeria’s continued existence is again under threat.
I am not here to play the blame game nor lay fault on a government that has been given a renewed mandate as a sign of trust for its unquestionable desire to change the status quo and put Nigeria on a sustainable trajectory towards positive change and future prosperity. Our main concern is how the President’s high ethos and noble aims can be made to align with the realities on the ground.
No government can succeed in building the nation and scoring a lasting legacy when the whole house of cards is built on a shoddy foundation that can be blown away by the mildest wind. No anti-corruption campaign can succeed when the primary law enforcement body is at the nexus of the most blatant abuse and its leadership consists of Men who inspire no confidence and are themselves product of a system that is rotten to its core. A dead seed cannot give birth to a fruit tree.
Case in point, the situation of the NPF is so malignant, so endemic that it has become one of the facts of life that their raison d’état is simply lost to the citizenry. Instead of being a pillar of stability and an institution in which we shall take some pride, it has become a parasitical entity sucking the very life blood of our country. The armed forces are increasingly forced to fill the huge vacuum left in the fight against banditry and other crimes that were allowed to fester on the absent watch of the Nigerian Police. What purpose then, does the folk in Louis Edet House serve for all the money that they get from taxpayers coffers? Now is the time to rebase the terms of the relationship between the Police and the people they are meant to protect.
On Kano and the EU Report
The newly released report on Nigeria’s 2019 General Elections drafted by the European Union (EU) Observers confirms the sum of all our fears. In the main, the EU report identified the flaws in the electoral system and particularly noted the intimidation which characterised the conduct; the police were alleged to have connived with some politicians to harass voters in the pursuit of a nefarious agenda as in the case of Kano gubernatorial supplementary election.
The overwhelming force which was deployed during the recent run-off election in Kano is a bitter taste of how bleak our situation is. A decent and incorruptible CP (Wakil) displayed the necessary fortitude and courage to stand by his constitutional oath. This created a level playing ground which resulted in a serious setback for the incumbent who undoubtedly lost the election. However, the result was manipulated and declared inconclusive making a rerun the only alternative. What happened next is for the history books; the top echelon of the force decided and, indeed, sent very senior officers whose actions left a dark stain on the honour of the entire Police Force. Naked and brute power was brought into play and the outcome was all but assured.
A corrupt governor was handed a stolen win on a golden platter and the wishes of the electorate were silenced by the intimidating display of the total unity between the police and the armed political militia of the incumbent. Militia men that killed, maimed, and raped women at polling units. Let’s not forget the history of IPOB, and ECOMOG, and how these ‘Governors’ created militia metamorphosed into terror (boko haram and IPOB), carnage, and absolute destruction of lives and properties across the country. This action contradicts the intention and the directive of the President, who reiterated his call for a free and fair election just before the gubernatorial election.
There is also a clear and present danger which manifested itself recently as a result of the creation of new emirates in Kano, and the impending deposition of the Emir of Kano, HRH Muhammadu Sanusi II against all reasonable advice. Governor Ganduje’s claim that the reason for this idiocy is the alleged misappropriation of funds by the Kano Emirate Council is at best laughable. The affair is handled by a local anti- corruption agency in Kano, which actually ought to be looking into the activities of civil, and not public servants. In fact, nothing could explain this agency didn’t look into the tapes of the bribe receiving governor.
Only in Nigeria, where everything goes, do numerous human rights abuses and cases of rampant extortion go unchecked and those who perpetrate these crimes within the force hierarchy are rewarded with juicier postings having paid for it with money gained from the wages of sin. Enormous sums of money in circulation earned by service personnel as payment for their side jobs as political thugs and racketeers.
Sometimes I get to wonder what goes on in the mind of decision makers and their spokespeople when they commit a blunder of monumental proportions without an iota of regret. Puff Adder is a classified stealth operation planned by strategic and tactical experts who created a surgical intervention planned to deliver lethal counterpunch to the crux of the current insecurity. However, before it could bear fruit, we found it on the pages of our newspapers. As if that is not enough of a publicity stunt that has horribly gone south, we read about the Police’s plan to infiltrate criminals on the pages of newspapers. What an intelligent intelligence. Basically, what they did is like a burglar who phones home owners and tell them he is en route, with full details of his itinerary; the entire fiasco is sadly not a one off incident, it has become a repeated occurrence by our security agencies. Who are our security agencies trying to impress by starting and ending operations on the pages of newspapers? Definitely not the President who has expressed his concerns regarding the insecurity ravaging the country.
Only good fortune and providence provided us with a possible way out of our present predicament. In President Muhammad Buhari, we are lucky to have a leader who actually listens to the timely warnings of his Comrades in Arms, and we do know of his selfless commitment to the emancipation of the masses, his uncompromising iron will, and his genuine desire to redeem the future of our fatherland long sacrificed on the altar of contempt and greed. The actions of the NPF thus far constitute an existential threat to the prospects of the administration and their failing undermines his policies as it tears his revolutionary agenda to shreds, PMB has demonstrated an uncanny ability to put halt on errant actors and duly hold them to account. We are now dancing on the brink and this unique trait of our President is urgently in need in order to tame the unending attempts of the Police to bring down the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Early this year, a mere increase on the price of bread led to an uprising in Sudan which toppled the 30 years authoritarian rule of Omar Al Bashir in spite of his particularly fearsome grip on power. What then do you expect in the long run to be the blowback for decades of impunity that a great number of Nigerians endure from those paid by their sweat to serve and protect them? What catastrophic events may arise once our people reach the point where they proclaim No More? I hereby only see the actions of the Police as an attempt to bring down the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
In the final analysis, when all is said and done, it stands to reason that if we are ever to see a day when Nigeria sheds the skin of its inglorious past and rises to its full potential as a nation, we must address the issues that for many years we have tended to ignore, a subtle truth staring us in the face; that Police reform is a task that must be done, that a change of leadership in the force is the fastest and surest way to realise our vision and this must be done over and over again until we find the silver lining that has long been lost. We only need to get it right once. Hard as the road may be, this is the greatest challenge of our time.
* Najatu Muhammad is a Commissioner with the Police Service Commission