The story of the Nigeria Police and their penchant for brutality is an open festering sore in the public domain. However, many political leaders and the police leadership hierarchy appear to pretend that it does not exist or are being docile on the matter.
Ikwerre Folk tales are rich with didactic narratives. One example is the dialogue between a bird called “Okwiri”, the talkative bird and “wonvuruiso” the deaf bird. Wonvuruiso was full of pretence or simply skeptical in every issue. In a very serious argument on a matter of public importance, “Okwiri” put it pointedly to Wonvuruiso the bird, saying; “If you cannot hear because you are deaf, you can at least see the obvious.
“And when his friend “Ikwikwi”, the bird with the big eyes, jumped into the Fray, Okwiri told him; “if you cannot see in the day, you can at least hear the obvious”.
That the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) was anti people. That the police in Nigeria especially SARs are notorious in citizens’ rights abuse and that the people of Nigeria had suffered untold torture, extortion and death in the hands of these merchants of death, is a very obvious reality.
It is in this respect that the theme of the folk tale is relevant to today’s catalogue. The narrative on police brutality is the same everywhere in Nigeria.
The Governor of Rivers State Nyesom Wike was the first to raise his voice on this issue. Sadly many politicians in Abuja especially of the ruling A.P.C. said he was crying wolf. They shamelessly staged a counter protest of “SARS must stay campaign.”
The intransigent of SARS, unfortunately began to spread like wild fire across the country, with tales of extra judicial killings, illegal arrests and detention of many innocent citizens especially youths.
Youths enterprise in I.C.T was violently threatened as any young person seen with lap top computers was incriminated and detained with the tag of an internet fraudster popularly referred to as yahoo.
Possession of Iphone, or any other sophisticated mobile phones, gadgets, became an instant offence punishable by seizure, arrest, detention and in some cases summary extra judicial elimination by death.
The killing of a youngman at Elelenwo, Rivers State for being in possession of Iphone is a case in point.
The use of SARs by politicians during elections was another platform for their demonstration of impunity.
The shooting of Dr Gberegbe, a Lecturer at Ken-Saro Wiwa Polytechnic in Bori who was on election duty still remains fresh in the minds of Nigerians. Attempts to manipulate the narrative hit the brickwall. That incident still remains a sad example of police collusion with politicians to victimize the civil populace who they swore to protect.
The story of SARS and human rights abuse is the proverbial story of the tortoise in our local folklore.
Just as the tortoise is always at the centre of every mischief, so are the police at the centre of every story of official criminality.
The last quarter of last year saw the Nigerian youths and young people rising up in protest after a network of mobilization through the social media to resist and reject police impunity.
ENDSARs protest is the story of young Nigerians who stood up in protest to reject an institution that diminished their being, their sensibility and the peace of every Nigerian.
The protest still resonates as the demands of the young Nigerians still yearns for radical attention. Indeed nothing has changed, we have only seen docility on the part of law enforcement officers who now drag their feet on matters of criminality.
The commissions set up to unravel the veracity of the #ENDSARs protests are still in session. The echoes resounding from the commission meetings sound familiar, a deja vu.
It is hoped that this is not another “set up a committee to investigate,” talk, in Nigeria.
A recent apology by the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone II comprising Oyo and Osun States, Agunbiade Oluyemi in Ibadan is a clarion call on the political class to facilitate without delay a sustainable reform of the Police Force.
The Senior Police boss had apologised over what he described as Excesses of police operatives.
According to him, “the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has apologized to Nigerians over the excesses of some police officers which resulted in last year’s #ENDSARS Protest”.
He said the police had learnt their lessons and that appropriate steps were being taken to ensure effective policing in the country.
The admission of Mr Oluyemi that the police hierarchy have learnt their lessons leaves some hope for a new image of the police in Nigeria.
The remorseful superior police officer observed that some Special Anti Robbery operatives missed the point when they started arresting undergraduates and other youths who were in possession of Lap Top Computers with unsubstantiated suspicion that they were internet fraudsters.
On steps to mitigate these ills he urged members of the public to report policemen on Mufti revealing that the police headquarters has directed that all officers on assignments must wear uniforms.
With confidence he said “we want all stakeholders to appeal to members of the public that we are now back stronger and are ready to work for the people”.
He sued for a robust relationship with the public.
As Laconic as this may sound it is a revelation that the force is prepared to accept reforms that will reposition it for a better public engagement. But is the government prepared for a radical reform that will change the mentality of the operatives?
Are Nigerians prepared to change their attitude towards the police for a better police public relations,
We must not be moving in circles. Only a people centred reform will ensure peace in Nigeria.
By: Bon Woke
Flooding And Environmental Sustainability
Last week, on the 27th of May, 2021, the people of Rivers State celebrated the 54th anniversary of the creation of Rivers State. The state has achieved so much in terms of infrastructure and human capital development. It has achieved good governance and not so much good governance in some dispensations. The present dispensation has given the people more hope to celebrate the dividends of statehood.
However, the common failure of many societies across the globe is the failure to conquer their environment as God commanded. What we see is the ravaging of the environment which has made it more vulnerable to environmental disasters, which include flooding and desertification. Rivers State has 60 percent of its 10,500 square miles and beyond covered by water, and large areas of mangrove and rainforest. Its flora and fauna are of enormous natural resources. The struggle to sustain this God-given environment has been a great task.
The Niger Delta environment has endemic challenges which require scientific and deliberate consciousness of the inhabitants to mitigate. It also requires immediate solutions as the people in the region who are ravaged by flooding cannot wait for medium and long term plans to mature. There is the need to start from what can be dealt with immediately to provide shelter to the people, what can give the people safe home, on dry lands in the face of drowning floods. Enough consciousness has been created to the world at large by the United Nations.
On the 5th day of December, 1972, the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 2997 in Stockholm, Sweden created the World Environment Day celebration to sensitise all member-nations on the need to ensure environmental safety and sustainability. The environment is the only human habitation known to man. This will remain the case until the superpowers find another solar system habitable.
Trust Deficit And Governance
Trust deficit has come to be a common refrain in the polity used to explain lack of trust in government pronouncements and programmes. Its foundation is rooted in political party soap box promises and manifestoes that are never kept. Sir Walter Scott (1808) wrote “Oh, what a tangled web we leave, when first we practice to deceive”.
Reflecting on this truism, it is clear that those who prevaricate in their speech or actions cannot be trusted. Their social capital budget will be fraught with deficit.
They are persons or institutions whose words or actions are of double standards.
They who betray the common trust, thrust upon them by Nigerians are many and varied.
If trust in Nigeria were a national budget, it’s deficit profile would be more than 90 per cent.
We often hear social commentators in Nigeria say, “you can’t trust anybody in power”. This may be in the context of Frayed political relationships among and between those in power and the people they govern. It is about mutual distrust.
It is important to state that trust is a two way traffic; those who govern must be trusted and the governed must trust the system for it to work and generate positive impact.
Stephen Covey placed trust as an important ingredient in any relationship, be it political, social or economic, when he said “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It is the fundamental principle that holds all relationships.
Sadly, the political ecosystem in Nigeria has eroded these values. Can Nigerians as a people continue to dwell on the pessimism expressed by William Shakespear when he said “Don’t trust the person who has broken faith once”?
Will this perception not create a web of complex social relations and a complexity of failures and retrogression in the polity, if strictly adhered to? What can a people do without trust?
Frank Grane a social Psychologist gave an ambivalent view when he said “you may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment unless you trust enough”. Trust deficit simply refers to a degree of lack of trust.
The term deficit in this context implies that there is trust but not enough trust because of broken promises in the system. People now choose who and what to trust.
In political relations which talks about social contract, huge promises are made to the people. The people on their part often bask in the euphoria of expectations, which are broken. So they make choices or effect a change of leadership based on those expectations.
Lady Gaga on trust, said “Trust is a mirror, you can fix it, if its broken, but you can still see the crack in that …reflection”. This explicates the danger in trust deficit in a polity where a people are afraid to trust in their government and functionaries.When trust deficit becomes systemic, it becomes a dangerous phenomenon in governance.
How can a people trust the harvest unless they see it sown.
There is trust deficit in police relations with the people of Nigeria.
Bail is free means bail is not free. Police is your friend means police is your enemy. Election will be free and fair means it will be rigged.
Boko Haram has become inevitable and the military cannot contend with it. When the spokesman of the Federal Government of Nigeria says “I do not lie”, many evidence will point to the contrary; he lies most of the time. The promise of Federal Government to mend the East West road has beccome an unending wait and only when MEND strikes that a portion will be white washed with alsphat. The Military Prevarication on the Lekki Toll Gate debacle is a source of distrust. How can a civilized group claim that no one died in that protest?
Poor ethnic relations in Nigeria is another source of distrust. An Ijaw man does not believe that an Hausa Fulani man at the helm of affairs can protect his interest.
In a similar view an Igbo man can hardly accept that a Yoruba politician is out to protect his political interest.
Among the minorities the story is the same, mutual distrust prevails. Political distrust among the ethnic groups in Nigeria is rooted in the nature of the colonial administration where the country stood on a tripod of centrifugal polity.
There were three regions in Nigeria. The East was dominated by the Igbo, West Yoruba and North Hausa Fulani. Unfortunately every region/ethnic group was inclined to fight for their interest rather than national interest. The interest of the minorities are also not taken into consideration.
Bad governance and military coups have further created distrust in the system where the struggle to govern by different geographical regions took over the merits of democratic values.
Class distrust has heightened as a result of growing poverty in Nigeria.
This has even take a demographic dimension. The youths do not believe that the class of persons they refer to as ancestors because of their age can governor this country well any longer.
This mutual distrust can also be seen in the stereotyping of youths as a bunch of irresponsibles. The fallacies above are unfortunate, because age has nothing to do with leadership. This type of distrust is retrogressive.
The growing spate of infrastructural deficit is a function of distrust and a result of rivalry among groups and the political class. A leader emerges and concentrates in the development of his clime rather than spreading the joy. He does so with the conviction that if he does not do it the next leader will abandon his people.
When trust and sincerity of purpose exist, true spirit of governance will unfold to allow development take a foothold in Nigeria. Many believe that restructuring will mitigate mutual distrust in Nigeria.
By: Bon Woke
At A Time Like This…
At a time like this when Nigeria is drifting off the radar, like a ship without compass, something needs to be done. A time when multitude of voices are resonating in different directions, some too distant to make much sense, others raising valid arguments and near solutions.
In all Nigerians need clear messages and solutions to the myriads of conundrum that confront the survival of the nation. The caliber of the purveyors of these timely calls-to-order is important. We Nigerians need mass action, but the nation needs voices too.
Every change begins with conscientization. Between the states and the federal government, the state is in a better place to call for an effective and meaningful structural changes in the country. This is why the present apprehension being expressed by the leadership of the National Assembly over the 12 point communiqué raised by the Southern Governors in their meeting in Asaba, should be scrutinized and taken with a pinch of salt.
The Governors have important roles to play in the Nigeria question because they are closer to the people. They have raised the bar by coming out despite their respective political party affiliations, to speak the minds of Nigerians. The Governors did not speak _tongue in cheek. They did not exonerate themselves while talking about the failure of government because the business of government is not restricted to the Federal Government alone. They have only declared the obvious position that leadership starts from the top. If the right thing is done from the top it will trickle down to the grass root.
They have called the Federal Government to order and they speak the truth. This is the message the leadership of the National Assembly should take home. The fact that the state Governments need to begin the restructuring from their backyards by looking at the independence of the judiciary and local Government Administration does not and cannot detract from the axiomatic fact that there is convolution of powers at the center which must devolve to the states and local government. According to Henry Adams “chaos was the law of nature and order was the law of man”.
The above refers to the tendency of society to jump into anarchy while it is incumbent on men at a certain time and space to realize the need to bring law and order to bear. If this is the time that 17 Governors of Southern Nigeria have woken up to call the country to order, so be it. Let the leadership of the national assembly come down from their high horses and work with the governors to legitimize their call through legislation and the follow up legal frame work. The intendment of any grand norm is that all the arms and segments of government should work in synergy for the good of the people. The governors’ call for total ban on open grazing by herdsmen in the country which has generated more heat than light is timely. The addendum that efforts should be put in place to encourage ranching will go a long way in encouraging the optimization of the diary and meat industry in Nigeria. The ban will go a long way in deescalating the current violence in the country. The leadership of the National Assembly should realize the fact that this is a timely call as the herdsmen conflict is the most volatile issue in Nigeria today. It is responsible for the replication of violence across Nigeria.
Every section of the country especially in the south and middle belt seems to be copying and pasting the licentious savagery due to the latitude given to the herdsmen. They seek self-help in different legitimate and illegitimate means.
Today the country sits on a keg of gun powder. The call for state police by the Governors has become very important. The various states of the federation have now seen the need to set up quasi community policing structures with different names and apparatus of operations. These vigilante groups have proven to be very potent in supporting effective policing operations in the various states. They therefore make the call for state police plausible. In Rivers State a local vigilante group which started in Omoku and spread to different parts of the state has proven that the involvement of the local populations in policing is a very effective tool for crime prevention and control. OSPAC, as it is originally called in Omoku has diminished the invincibility of cult groups and kidnappers in many parts of Rivers State. These vigilante groups can be seen manning security posts at police stations in Rivers State to defend them against the invading “unknown gun men” who recently had an unfortunate hunting spree at police and J.T.F installations in Ikwerre, Emohua, Abua and Obio/Akpo local government areas.
A state police structure will surely be more effective. Devolution of powers to the Federating units of Nigeria is surely the way to go, but Nigeria needs a constitutional process to realize this dream.
Politics and Governance involve the equitable allocation of resources and it defines who gets what and how.
The call for fiscal federalism by the governors must be taken seriously .Most importantly, the President needs to address the nation on these issues and set the pace for a jaw jaw among the various interest groups in Nigeria.
There is a dire need for a radical review of the current revenue formula; many have called for a return to the first Republic era where states or regions enjoyed the bounty from their resources. However, there is a current and recurring agitation for resource control where states will have control and utilization of their resources and pay tax to the centre. If this happens states will be forced to look in wards rather than go for handouts at the center every month.
The President has kept quiet enough. His silence could be misconstrued as an endorsement of the conflagration engulfing the country, especially as it concerns the ills perpetrated by herdsmen who are his Fulani kinsmen.
By: Bon Woke
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