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Thursday, 17 November 2016

Misplaced Priorities of the President Buhari Administration

Penultimate Friday, I woke to the frantic call of a childhood friend of mine. He asked if I could link him up with someone with authority in the police in a South-West state. Now, that itself tells of a society that is not working. When the confidence of people in institutions of state depends on whom they know, that country needs no prophecy about its impending failure unless something gives, pronto.
So, this my brother told me the scary story of how a friend of his was abducted while travelling in his car the previous evening. This friend got married a few weeks previously and had just returned from his honeymoon. He had reasons to embark on an interstate travel and was returning to his base when his car was double-crossed by some hoodlums that Thursday evening. His wife and driver were thrown out of the car in the middle of the jungle while the man of the house was kept in the trunk of his vehicle in which the hoodlums drove off in!

I was shaken at the plight of this man who I discovered to be an ordinary hardworking Nigerian with no political exposure. His ordeal would last for about one week and ended only after his people delivered the N3.5m ransom they negotiated from the initial N50m the kidnappers demanded.

You sure wonder how they got to that point. Of course, friends and family of the kidnapped man got the police’s attention, but they soon saw that the matter was going nowhere with the police and chose to pay the ransom.

But the police were helpful.  They kept assuring the family that they were doing their best. And the family saw that, they only felt that this best was unsatisfactory. They thought the police showed no particular psychological edge over the crooks. They depended on information from the family and used it to no evident advantage. They even asked the family to pray for them so there could be results and faster.

It was at this point that they, although people of faith, wore their pragmatic hats and decided to superintend over their own destiny. I learnt that each time the kidnappers called to ask for money and negotiate, the hapless wife was left to her own sense.  Not one word of counsel on how to handle the discussion came from the law enforcers, everything seemed to have been left to fate and chance. So, a ransom was dropped at a location, hundreds of kilometres from the place where the victim was recovered at about 1am the day after the money was dropped.

Now, I do not think a nation could face any more trouble than a situation in which fear controls the lives of the people. Especially terrifying is the daily swelling incident of kidnapping, which is manifestly rarely resolved without ransom payment irrespective of the status of the victim as we saw in the case of a high ranking traditional ruler in Lagos. One must acknowledge somecases of eventual arrest of the culprits though.

 Yet, this government tells us about gains made in safeguarding the country. Until now, Nigerians agreed that considerable grounds had been covered in the war against insurgency in the North-East but then, we are beginning to see a resurgence of killings by the Boko Haram terrorists.

This is another indication that the problem-solving skills of this administration are merely on the peripheral. As we have seen with the fight against corruption, there is no methodical approach intent on sustainability even in pivotal desire of government to secure the country.

For instance, a senior military officer was reportedly killed by Boko Haram insurgents earlier this week. It would be the second in a fortnight and only the heavens know how many such loses we never get to hear of.

Just a few days ago, Fulani herdsmen were said to have killed 31 people and burnt down 46 houses in Kaduna. Thousands of lives have been lost to these herdsmen’s takeover of people’s territories and lives in the past one year. This is among several unreported cases of armed banditry that visit Nigerians daily.

Now, it is going to be dishonest to put all the blame on police inefficiency. Even if members of the force are trained and willing to deal with all our security challenges, do they have the number, equipment and expertise to tackle some of the crimes such that Nigerians can sleep with both eyes shut? That is some reality beyond immediate apprehension.

And then, the Department of State Services  which should innovate to solve these security challenges are busy pursuing “corrupt judges” and greedy black market dealers. How do these become the most important duties of a country’s secret police at this point in time?

But what we see from the DSS results from government’s limited grasp of the key elements guiding the reform of national institutions.  A reformer does not need strong men with whom they run about inside the rain in underclothes. What is needed are visionary men who understand modern trends and can see into the future.

Rather than fight wars as dictated by the President, the DSS needs to study the security challenges of the country and redesign an architecture dictated by technology, able to stop criminals in their tracks and resolve already perpetrated cases.

This is the way in which J. Edgar Hoover brought innovations that transformed the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which we like to quote as the equivalent to our DSS in the 1930s and 40s.

Hoover, in addition to raising the entry barrier into the FBI, established numerous procedures and techniques that increased efficiency. The Bureau provided an assortment of services to local and state police organisations, including identifying suspects by fingerprints from a centralised file and providing a crime laboratory and other investigative services. The Bureau also began to compile and distribute national crime statistics, and train personnel in the National Police Academy.  But it is a different story here.The best we have seen from our DSS lately is the use of physical exertion of naked power than intellect or scientific output.  Where countries are deploying incredible innovations to solve their security needs, Nigeria’s secret agencies take delight in the clandestineness of hooded operatives. Rather than focus onsolving crimes that detract from the credibility and development of country, we deploy our secret services unto pedestrian crimes that should have been tackled by smart policies.

Most importantly however, what is government doing about the evil of poverty and ignorance which are harbingers of more devastating manifestations including corruption, beyond lip service? How does government hope to stop people from circumventing the law when they are not assured of the basic necessities of life, regardless of how much they labour? In spite of sermons about how much corruption has harmed Nigeria, only deliberate efforts at improving the standard of living of the people and making access to basics like education, health care, housing as well as improving the ease of doing business would inspire the loyalty of Nigerians.

President Muhammadu Buhari himself laid the foundations for this floundering by the wars that he has chosen to fight. Advice was given him about the importance of having the legislature on his side in his reform efforts but he chose to alienate other arms of government.

It is that indiscretion and many others that the government keeps falling into that manifest in the inability to deliver on the elaborate promises made to the people during campaigns. The President who prides himself on his integrity is now the example of politicians whose high verses during electioneering fail when they get in the saddle.

But night has fallen yet. If this government still hopes to achieve anything, a good place to start would be to retrace its step, revamp useful relationships that have been severed and consult extensively on how to bring hope, not just for today but for the future, to Nigerians. Currently, there is widespread and palpable despair in the country, all because our leaders cannot decide how to positively affect the lives of people, and that portends no good at all.

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Written by: Niran Adedokun. E-mail: nadedokun@gmail.com

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