Sunday, 20 April 2014
Open Letter To 7 Leaders: Govs Oshiomhole, Aliu Babangida, Fashola, Amaechi, Amosun, Okorocha & Mallam Nuhu Ribadu
You've not done well with your oil wealth at all. To paraphrase one of the best known world president -
Nigeria has so many of her citizens as one of the best in many countries the world over in various fields. Those brains ought to be brought back to develop the nation rather than playing second fiddle in their host countries. President Clinton declared this on Nigerian soil; right there in the heart of Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria when he visited in the early part of 2013. I make bold to say he is right on the money! There are legitimate questions to be asked though. Why are Nigerians all over the world?
In the Punch Newspapers of Tues March 19, 2013, a thief caught while robbing the company he works for said; Senators are worse than robbers; Senators and House members are the real thieves." The suspect, Garba Sanni, Security Guard with Honda Place Co., Apapa Oshodi, Lagos said his salary of #12,000 (less than $100) per month is too meager so he had no choice than take to crime. He went on to say there are so many thieves in Nigeria and most are jobless youths. In 1999, the poverty index in Nigeria was 45% and jumped to 67% in 2007 despite unprecedented oil earnings in the same period.
If we are talking about peace and prosperity in a continent that is naturally endowed like Africa, we must admit that Nigeria is strategically positioned. Hence, she must play a pivotal role in moving the continent forward. The question however is, why is Africa backward or underdeveloped when nations in Asia are competing with the western world? Could it be lack or dearth of human resource? I say an emphatic no! Africa is blessed with both human and material resources. What then is wrong with her? The answer is so obvious - greed or if you may, corruption. We are not talking about surface but one that is endemic; one that has eaten deeply into the fabric of the society. I suppose this is a no-brainer all over the world. This corruption was institutionalized by the advent of military or their incursion into politics at least in Nigeria; not the first set who unseated those who took over the reigns of leadership after independence, not the set after them but those who did the palace coup against Buhari/Idiagbon.
I believe western leaders are aware and in some ways, in the past encouraged it. How if we may ask? By simply allowing these so-called leaders and their cronies/fronts the opportunity to keep and enjoy the loot abroad. By watching them own mansions in their countries without questions. By turning a blind eye as long as the interest of the host nation is not jeopardized. By not treating corruption as terrorism and knowing full well that the leaders live in affluence while over 90% of their populace live in abject poverty which forced them to escape or relocate by all means to the western world for survival. By not repatriating the stolen wealth after these looters have either been found out or killed.
What then is the solution? There are those who do not believe in the existence of God. I happen to be one of those who believe that God exist, not only because of the trees, the sky, moon, sun, stars and all His wonderful creation but because I specifically heard from Him that the solution to Africa's problem is; "A Disciplined Police Force." This will resolve the knotty issue facing Africa.
Now that the problem has been highlighted and solution proffered, how will this become a reality taking into consideration that Africa is a massive continent. I have come to understand that in life, when you have a project at hand that is grandiose, it is advisable you do it piece-meal. Otherwise, you may never begin. Therefore, I propose that this 'disciplined police force' solution, idea or experimentation begin in Nigeria which is the heartbeat of Africa; the African trigger. Nigeria is a country of over 160 million people but Lagos is the commercial nerve of this nation and the best city to start.
Who would constitute these force? Who would be the trainers? How will it be done and financed? How about the former police force, what becomes of them? These are legitimate questions. It is my utmost believe that once we fix our security problem which is mainly our police, Nigeria vis a vis Africa will move a giant step forward. There is a need for Federal, State and local or community policing. The Police as it is presently constituted should be shredded into the garbage bin or abyss of the ocean. Before this happens, someone might ask, why do away with them all? Why not the pot-bellied? Why not the illiterates?
The word contamination in English language connotes: unclean or impure that results from... or that which corrupts a person morally... or, a process by which something changes as a result of association. Now, who in his/her right mind will put a new wine in an old wineskin? Why bring new recruit to be fused with old corrupt element? A Nigerian Police Officer confidently told me once that corruption in the force begins from recruitment. He said most people bribe their way in, and once in, they bribe those in charge of uniforms. He made it abundantly clear that its a culture; a norm, and anyone who tells me otherwise is a blatant liar to quote him exactly.
Before ejection or disbandment of the old police force, a headcount must be conducted. According to ranking, these men/women are to be paid off in a certain percentage to be determined by a working committee of the elected representatives. These guys will be trained in a choice vocation ranging from small & medium scale entrepreneur, tailoring, vulcanizing, barbing, fashion designing, panel-beating, auto/electrical mechanic, farming, hair dressing, shoe-mending and others. Once this is done, they become a productive segment of our economy, having been empowered.
The new Police - vibrant, smart looking, brand new and ravishing, well paid, bulletproof vested, educated, highly encouraged, highly-equipped and highly trained police force. The folks that will occupy these new position I painted are the Nigerian graduates. Those who just completed their 1yr of Youth Service and probably those who have completed it a year or 2yrs earlier but are not gainfully employed. Some may suggest that our youths in colleges/universities are corrupt. I say to them, they cannot be as corrupt as our present police and they are younger, hence, can easily be reformed. Their minds can still be renewed because they are mostly under 30yrs.
The problem is when these guys graduate and are not gainfully employed, they roamed the streets and some of them take to armed robbery, assassinations, kidnapping, prostitution, money laundering, bunkering (pipeline vandalizing), drug peddling, petty thieving, cyber crime (419), and others. The goal is rather than allow these scenarios to play out, we convert them to good use by giving them a 3yr mandatory police duty after their 1yr youth service. They may chose to disengage or re-enroll after 3yrs. These young men and women who have their minors and majors already will be trained either by MPD or any American Police Dept. I am too sure that over 75% of them will stay on. Subsequent youth corpers will not be mandated but allowed to join willingly having seen the precedent set in place. With the treatment and remuneration, I dare say, we cannot be short of committed service members.
Financial resource for this program will not be a problem at all as fund will be readily available for it. There are too many billionaires in Africa; legitimate and illegitimate. In the west, these will be taxed but in Africa, we must appeal to their conscience albeit with a 'little' threat, and with understanding, we can raise the needed revenues. The truth is, most African leaders know the billionaires whether looters or legitimate. They are not going to be serving in the force, their service is financial contribution to raise the standard of their nations economy. Its a call to duty. This is where patriotism comes in.
This is the way forward for the African economies. The west was able to develop because there is a system of checks and balances. The three arms of government in various African countries with a few exception cannot check one another as corruption is the order of the day. Hence, the need for a well-trained police force. I envision a successful trial in Lagos, then Nigeria and eventually the African continent. I hope the West will support this idea by enlisting the services of their police department. Of course, there will be payment made via natural or financial resources.
MEETING THE 21ST CENTURY CHALLENGES
The Police lost focus due to low wages and sub-standard training resulting in loss of respect from the civil masses at home and their western counterparts. The goal and idea is to retool, refit and retrain to meet modern demands. Security is the stabilizing factor in any society; no economic activity can be successful in a country without law and order. The security must not only protect the public's wealth, it must also guarantee the security of the nations economic institutions (foreign investment). The officers appearance must symbolize confidence and pride in self and position. Uniform must be a bright color with a duty belt and a bullet-proof vest. The public must respect the officer at a glance.
Each officer is to be equipped with a notebook (interviews and reports of crimes must be documented) and a radio. The duty belt must consist of a flashlight/baton/pistol recommendation (9mm). Patrol duties shall be carried out by light move agile motorize units consisting of one or two-man teams assisting the regular motorized units. This is to allow for an efficient response time. Curriculum shall consist of uniform and appearance/report writing/investigative reporting/protecting & monitoring a crime scene/collection of evidence/rule of law and legal procedures/ethics training/weapons training/anti-terrorism/computerization and communication and drivers training/course in physical fitness. Training in kidnappings/homicides/robberies as well as auto-accidents/theft. Length of the curriculum should be between 4-5months. As graduates, their salary must be commensurate with their qualifications. Abraham Lincoln once said; "You cannot escape the responsibilities of tomorrow by evading it today. Hence, the current strength and weakness of the force should be assessed; those methodology which proves effective shall be incorporated into the new training program. The goal here is to raise the standard; our expectations are excellence, integrity and commitment. We want the public to view their police with pride, trust and accountability. Finally, we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is an act. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, we have excellence because we acted rightly.
Note: If these leaders cant jettison party differences, ego and ambition to fashion out a way forward for the African trigger called Nigeria, posterity will query them.
This is also a tribute to one of my mentors; MPO Ken Kayode Sodimu who inspired me greatly.... May your gentle and beautiful soul rest in perfect peace. I certainly wont disappoint you.
Wale Adegboyega Mandela
lives in Bowie, Maryland