Jun 24, 2014

Corruption Wasn’t a Campaign Promise

Goodluck Jonathan courtesy www.Huewire.com
I hear that the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan wants to contest again in 2015. There are two reasons why he may not be President on May 29th, 2015. First, in the depth of their gluttony, politicians have failed to lay bare the self-restrain essential for a desired democratic stamina and as such democracy may not be with us by mid-2015. If you have the conviction that democracy is the desired political ideology, then you should not only use it but work to sustain it as well.
The most recent toast in Nigeria’s political space is the dust stirred by Air Vice Marshal Alex Badeh, Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Staff, when he tried to dispel rumors of a the prospect of a military takeover in Nigeria. There is no smoke without fire and the dire layback pose of the administration has created an ambiance where certain persons have started thinking that the seeming political power failure in Aso Rock has pushed too far that a forceful takeover may be looming.

The happy-go-lucky attitude of Nigerian politicians has always been the impetus behind the shortening of democratic regimes in the history of the country. The records are not hidden -the longest interlude of military tolerance of political recklessness in our history is the current spell (1999 -2014). Until now, the life span of a democratic regime in Nigeria has never been anything beyond five years. On January 15, 1966, a set of juvenile military officers of Ibo extraction revolted against Nigeria’s independent democracy as, according to them, it was unfavorably skewed against the Ibo tribe. During the Second Republic (1979 – 1983) politicians manifested lack of discipline and led an intellectually bankrupt democracy. The Nigerian edifice, built through the hard work and discipline of previous administrations crumbled exponentially as a result. Two gun-wielding soldiers, Mohammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon, “came to the rescue” on December 31, 1983.

The second reason why Jonathan may not be president in 2015 is if Nigerians decide that they have had enough of the use of Nigeria as a laboratory for the simulation of apocalypse.

No administration has ever been welcomed like the Jonathan administration in the history of Nigeria. The much talked about religious/regional dichotomy of the voting pattern was never perfect; there were many ordinary Muslims in the North who voted Jonathan, tired of the disappointments of series of northern leaders since independence. Internationally, there were powerful visitations to show support for Jonathan. I watched on the Nigerian Television Authority the visits by President Obama’s precursor, George Walker Bush who came in company of his Secretary of State while he was the President: Condoleezza Rice. There was also a visit by David Cameron and Angela Markel of Britain and Germany correspondingly. Later, former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair showed he wasn’t going to be left out.  

The opinion here is that the Jonathan administration failed this breadth of supporters, starting from the voters at home to the world powers. In addition to its terrible habit of deferment of action needed to fix fraying ends until it is belated, the bane of the Jonathan administration is its anomalous tolerance of corruption.

The same foreign powers warned that corruption will be the bane of the war against Boko Haram in Nigeria. This, in my opinion, is the first show of support. Brazenly, however, the administration brushed aside the warnings and acted as though corruption was a campaign promise it made to Nigerians. The administration ensured corruption spanned across its sub-domains: oil and gas, pension, defense, aviation, presidency, the prisons, the police, etc. Perhaps Jonathan thought he would find continuous support from Nigerians by tolerating all manner of evil aspirations. This leadership style, where people’s support is won by the tolerance of all manner of wishes of the people, has been used in some states of the country. It seems that the Jonathan administration is making the first attempt to make it universal, failing to understand that the mentality of Nigerians actually vary from region to region.

If only the administration had taken, seriously, the warning that corruption will only feed Boko Haram, it would have known that the option would only lead to a sort of apocalypse for the nation, a situation in which we now find ourselves. We have heard stories of the military taking bribes to allow contrabands destined to Boko Haram enclaves. It explains why soldiers would fold their hands even after receiving warnings notifying them of an advancing army of Boko Haramists to a town.

The obligation of building a prosperous nation rests, equally, on the shoulders of every Nigerian. While the leaders have a role to play, ordinary people, at the bottom, also have an indispensable role to play. When leaders fail to execute their own tasks fairly, common people ask why they should be the only ones discharging their portions of the obligations, honestly. Hence there are always protests from the bottom in the form of disregard to law and order. In the northeast, enrolment into Boko Haram (going by its history) represents a protest for the carefree attitude of administrations in Borno State and in Abuja. Elsewhere, the protest could take the form of sabotage to oil pipelines to steal its contents, scam, stealing of ballot boxes, “jungle justice” by citizens who have lost faith in a corrupt police force. The painful ripples of “jungle justice” come in the form of religious, tribal and communal clashes. In the end, the nation is ungovernable.

Each time one logs into Facebook and condemns the administration for building a stage for corruption rather than undermining it, our friends form the South-east and South-south will argue that corruption did not start during the administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. That is true! A lot of Nigerians, however, voted Jonathan believing he was going to fight corruption; they are conscious that corruption is behind the electric power shortages, poor quality of education, bad roads, hospitals with absence or inadequate doctors and drugs, the proliferation of bogus drugs, an ineffective police force, proliferation of firearms that undermine security, violation of human rights, etc

Nigerians have always known that the successions of leaders they have had in the past are unpatriotic; every action or inaction of theirs always find roots in covetousness. The Jonathan administration has demonstrated this more than all its ancestors. One thing that is obvious, however, is the fact that one has to place a limit to how much luxury he wishes to enjoy. Anything contrary will involve the constant search for means to support the endless desires and any effort to abstain from corruption becomes unsustainable. For a president who once paced barefoot, it should have been easy for him to teach Nigerians how to place limits on their love for luxuries.

The Under-Policing of the Nigeria Space

Image source: Th Nigerian Presidency
I search, online, the database of the Nigerian Population Commission, NPC, for the population figure of the town of Vom Vwang in Jos South of Plateau State, to no avail. Through other benchmarks however, one could give a picture of how big or small the town is. 

The town of Vom Vwang has eight secondary schools, each with an average population of about 250 students. In the same town, there is the Vom Christian Hospital which was founded by the Church of Christ in Nigeria in 1922.  The town also boasts of a College of Nursing and Midwifery. It is sad that a town of this magnitude has only four police personnel.

It is very easy to see the under-policing of Nigeria on the roads or highways. At a busy Junction, a female police officer directed traffic one evening. It was a T-junction. She grappled with traffic from the north, south and eastern ends. Some naughty boys down the road rode tricycles in the wrong direction, a situation that would lead to a traffic squeeze. She wished a colleague was around to handle the boys, but there was not. She couldn’t leave her primary assignment to walk down the road and deal with the boys. Eventually, the boys caused the stalemate she worked to avoid that evening. It rendered her effort of the evening a waste.

In Nigeria, it is a cliché to see vehicles making violations along the road. Vehicle owners drive across kerbs, along pedestrian paths in the wrong directions, causing inconveniences for pedestrians and panicking law-abiding road users. So long as the roads seem clear, some vehicle owners move on when traffic lights “say” stop. These are all caused by the hasty and intolerant culture of Nigerians and what is seen on the streets and highways is actually a microcosm of what one finds in the general fabric of the nation.

Years back, road users in Nigeria were scared of traffic violations, fearing the law would catch-up with them. The lawful usage of the roads started fizzling out however, when it became clear they could get away with their highway misdeeds, leading to a culture of road madness and the sour ripples always tied with it.

Road offenders get away with driving crimes because there aren’t enough police personnel along the roads or highways to discourage the illegalities. If under-policing means that crimes are not sufficiently fought, the forgotten plight of the force makes it even worse. The “I-don’t-give-a-damn” posture of the authorities has created an ambiance where taking bribes to turn a blind eye on criminal acts has become so entrenched that it is seen as an acceptable custom.

It is also the reason why the officers often transfer their traditional beliefs into the profession. Nigeria, a country of my birth and which I love so dearly, is a theater of, sometimes, deeply hilarious drama in which some police officers believe there could be crime scenes where the criminals are invisible and fire visible and deadly bullets.  At such instances, it is needless to engage the criminal. Instead, you go back and just wait for the month-end to receive a pay for crimes not fought. This represents an unquantifiable degree of under-policing.

The Nigerian Police and its affiliates are exclusive appendages of the Federal Government (FG). The FG recruits a handful of men and women into the force and disperses them to the thirty-six state and the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT) commands across the country. Often, the only things that follow are the regular entitlements of the recruited men, entitlements that often arrive famished due to the rough paths the benefits often pass through. Since there are always inadequacies of working resources for the men and women of the force, state governments often shoulder these responsibilities, mostly the provision of operational vehicles, despite this being the constitutional liability of the FG. The rationale behind this generosity is in the knowledge that such goodwill will only work to keep crime levels low in the donor states.

When Plateau State suffered a sequence of conflicts between polarized groups, the tragic events played up the need for state police in Nigeria. The Plateau State Governor, Jonah David Jang, observed that each time trouble started, police reinforcements were often required and since he hasn’t powers to mobilize a police contingent from other parts of the country, it was the reason why succor often came late. Furthermore, the police command in his Plateau State isn’t really answerable to him and where the President fails to promptly give an urgently needed directive, it leads to regrettable damages. He was motivated, by these realizations, to propose the idea of state police in Nigeria. Support to his proposal was divided; northern governors and legislators kicked against the proposal while their counterparts from the south supported the proposal. Since the FG was not in support of the proposal, it did not endure through the night to see the light of day.

Then the problem of Boko Haram surfaced and became a monster, messing up the Nigerian nation direly. At a point, Shettima Mustapha, the reigning Governor of Borno State, where Boko Haram is headquartered and largely operates, was ignorantly blamed for his inability to end the bloody chaos. His respond was that he hasn’t any control of the security apparatus in Nigeria: the police and the military are all organs of the FG. Also the Ombatse problem in Nassarawa State broke out and the Governor of Nassarawa State, Tanko Al-Makura was also berated for allowing the recurrence of the unrest. His respond rhymed with the respond of his counterpart from Borno State. Thus the true presence of a manpower vacuum in the force led colleagues, who initially opposed Governor Jang, to subconsciously gravitate to his position on the debate.

It is obvious that the FG’s refusal to support the idea of state police is founded purely on the pedestal of morbid interest as the force is often deployed to serve them, especially during elections when it is used to bully political challengers. The significance of humanity must, however, be stressed. The FG must see the damage the deficiency of manpower in the force causes the nation and recruit the thousands of men and women needed to close the manpower gap. On the reverse, it can legislate to allow states to own police forces to guarantee effective policing of Nigeria.

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