I think it is safe to say that Nigerians are earnestly awaiting the magic wand of the incoming presidency of Muhammadu Buhari. Many are the believers that his presidency is Nigeria’s last chance to change course from the road to perdition and possible collapse to one where Nigeria has a chance to become a land of prosperity for her citizens and for all humanity at large. As Tony Blair pointed out recently, the world including Nigerians I dare add, are behind Muhammadu Buhari.
Yet, for anyone who has an informed idea of the level of healthiness of Nigeria PLC, all the goodwill and blessings in the world will not take the place of the need for Muhammadu Buhari to make the right start at the right place. I strongly doubt that Muhammadu Buhari’s claim that he is not a magician or miracle worker is falling on fertile grounds. So many persons have staked all on his personality and boasted of impending good governance that will deliver tangible dividends of democracy to Nigerians. I cannot imagine any of those persons suddenly settling for bones rather than fleshy beef. So one false move by Mr President and all that talk about old age and other bile points of PDP’s campaign will be unleashed towards irredeemable damage. Therefore for want of another way of saying it, President Muhammadu Buhari must hit the ground running at record-breaking speed.
By extension, I see a requirement on all Nigerians to chip in their bits to see that we as a people seize this last chance to save our country. As such, I have been thinking aloud: where should Muhammadu Buhari really start in the bid to safe Nigeria? Of course I know that Mr President elect has not stopped singing his tune of three point agenda of insecurity, jobs and corruption. My interest is more on how these promises will not join other nice sounding coinages of the past like “rule of law” and “transformation agenda”. I will attempt a simplified reducibility model to get to where he should start.
When all is stripped bare, our next president and his appointees will channel most of his direct and indirect efforts through the instrumentality of the civil service and government parastatals and agencies. These are the same organisations that have developed the act of corruption to such confusing levels that some people now believe that stealing is not corruption. It therefore begs the question, how is Muhammadu Buhari going to use this same labor force to achieve his agenda for Nigeria? Yes, he has said he will insist on making sure that all agencies of government are encouraged to deliver on their commission. My worry is that there is, as of yet, no capacity to make that happen. Who is going to convince civil servants that government accounting is not about spend it or loose your budget? Shall the left-handed suddenly become right-handed? I think that the most important singular act Mr President-elect should be thinking about now, is how to build monitoring and enforcement capacity. The business of government should be opened up and subjected to tests for transparency and value addition. In addition, there should be rewards for exceptional service and subsequent punishment for shortcomings. But then, how can these happen and happen quickly enough? All animals have to be equal at least sometimes!
While at this post of rendering advice, I humbly request that Mr President-elect should start the process of opening government by opening his actions. Nigerians deserve at least one daily briefing on your activities. The resort to reactionary responses is too mundane. The more you talk to Nigerians, the closer they will come to you and the quicker the change we all seek and deserve.
Now back to the matter at hand, I encourage our next president to take a look at the successful nations of the world and isolate the most basic institution that keeps each nation all together and working. Sir, here it is for free: the police force! Yes, it is the police in the developed world that makes sure that all agencies including the police force itself are kept honest. Sir, if you want credible intelligence network for fighting insurgency and kidnappings, it is the quality of the police that will make or mar the existence of such. As you very much know, it was the quality of the Nigerian police force that escalated the Boko-haram scourge to the monster it became recently.
When it comes to job creation, one of the most vital enablers is the high success rate achieved by police forces of the developed nations in weeding out fraud both in government and private sector settings. Sir, there are jobs and there are jobs! The real job creation starts when foreigners start investing in Nigerians and not just in Nigeria. The confidence by foreigners to fund Nigerians to open and run businesses is what brings jobs that develop a country because much of the profit is left behind in the benefitting country. We need a police force that can guarantee the same level of success in fraud detection and prosecution, as obtained in the developed world for such investments to start coming into Nigeria. Otherwise we will be stuck with the current practice of using Nigerians as labourers, while profit is allowed to flow smoothly out of our shores; the same profit that should have expanded business and truly grown the economy by development.
On corruption, I guess that corruption in Nigeria is largely due to the refusal of the Nigeria police to act judiciously. In fact, rather than that, the force is in a dogfight with the customs and immigration service on who is the poster organisation of corruption in Nigeria. Is that not enough reason to act fast about the Nigerian police?
So, what then should Muhammadu Buhari do about our police force? I suggest that you do the same thing the developed world has done: deny the police full exclusivity over its actions (this concept holds true in other areas of our nation-life). The police should have an overviewing agency for reporting the shortcomings of the police. For example, in the UK, there is the “Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). In addition, the police force itself should be encouraged to be multi-faceted in its actions. No one officer should start and end a case without trails. We should also make more use of digital policing rather than fixed station policing. Basically, within the police force, we should separate the powers that exist. So, there should be different coordinating agencies with powers to take complaints, investigate, prosecute and review. What this means is that if a person or organisation reports an incidence to the police (could include even by phone only, based on confirmation of information available to police via sim card registration), a file is created and a case file number is generated and sent by text message to the complainant for tracking the progress of the complaint. That initial department then passes the case on for investigation; then onwards till the case is closed. Now, that the case is closed, the details of the case should still be available to the complainant who can then print-off any part of the trail that is deemed to have fallen short of best practice. This can then form a basis for reporting the police to the complaints commission.
My dear Mr President-elect, this is where you should start from in the charge to snatch our country back from the precipice of self-destruction. Save the police and others will suddenly know the rule of law and fall in line.