By Mansir Lawal Kaware, Katsina
A uniform instruction is always better than a fragmentation of authority in the field of issuing directives and other instructions to a group of people, a local government, a State, a Nation or even a continent. We can even extend it to the world because that is why we have the United Nations. This, we all know is a body charged with the implementation of particular decisions the world over.
The army is usually a body that is responsible for safe guarding the territorial integrity of a given country. The Police headed all other relevant agencies in ensuring the internal security of any country. There may be failures from time to time, there may be mistakes and there could be sabotage in the implementation of the decision reached by Government. Where such happens, those concerned have to sit down and think over it, find possible solutions and forge ahead. If we could not correct and repair cracks on a single calabash, how do we bring in line, 36 or 37 broken pieces?
Although, we were copying British system of Government in the first Republic before switching over to Presidential System of America that has been in practice since 1979 despite the break we had due to military interventions from 1983 to 1999, there are areas where we have to look at our people and their behaviours before venturing into some of the policies being implemented in those countries we are copying. Many of those arguing in favour of state or community police try to hinge its success in American States or some other countries. They have however, forgotten about two things, that American democracy is over two hundred years while their literacy level is above 75%. In Nigeria, we are on a shaky pillar of 20 year democratic period and an illiteracy level of 70% and above. Even our brothers in southern part of the country, where the western education had earlier begun cannot claim to have attained 50% literacy level. This is evident in the fact that they still kill one another over ethnic or land dispute which is a result of uncivilized behavior, the root of which could be associated with the illiteracy level of the communities involved.
Nigeria, like many African countries has different ethnic groups living in different geographical locations with different beliefs such as Muslims, Christians, traditional religious adherents and pagans. One problem we also need to understand is that at our community level, in any part of the country, smaller communities are complaining about domination by the larger community close to them. That is also what is happening at the national level where we always talk about Yoruba from the South – West, Ibo from the South East and Hausa/Fulani from the North. The Hausa/Fulani has over shadowed all other ethnic groups in the North, just as the Yoruba and Ibo blanket covered all others in the South, even the Ijaw and Itsekeris are only mentioned at the second level of discussion.
In the religious aspect, there had always been complaints of domination in the appointment of Christians and Muslims especially at federal level. If the President is a Muslim the Christians will be complaining of domination, if the President is a Christian the Muslims will be complaining of over domination from Christians. The problem is the same at States level, depending on which ethnic or religious group has the majority in that state. Even at the level of employment or recruitment of officers in case of security agencies that problem still exists, that is why Quota System was introduced in order to give opportunity to the less densely populated areas or those with less representations among the working class to also get there.
One good thing about Federal Police is the fact that it gives opportunity to every Nigerian to be a Police Officer. The neutrality in the choice of service area had also made the force flexible to accommodate every Nigerian irrespective of his religious, ethnic or geographical inclination.
Under the present system, a Police Officer from Enugu State can find himself in Sokoto, so also a Police Officer who is an indigene of Borno could be serving in Lagos. At this point, the officer concerned would only focus on his job. A Police Officer from Rivers could also be serving in Niger, this beautify the unity in the service. If the Inspector general of Police gave a directive it is binding on all the Police Officers in the land.
The uniform of the Police Officer is the same across the land and it is of about two to three colours which are identifiable by every Nigerian. Although, criminals do wear the Police or Army Uniform to commit crime by way of deception such acts could sometimes bluff. One may not dismiss the possibility of sectionalism, tribalism or nepotism, but it would be on or minimal scale due to the wide range of coverage.
As for a State Police or community Police, so many obstacles could be identified to have a platform for its failure. The first problem would be in the recruitment exercise. Whoever is the Governor as at the time of its establishment and those assigned to carry out the recruitment exercise are likely to over weigh it, with their ethno-religious kins to the detriment of others within the state. Political affiliation would also come to play as most of those to be recruited would have to sympathize with the Governing party of that State. Some of the Governors are militant in their behavior, if those kind of Governors control the Police, there would be persecution of innocent opponents and nobody can challenge it because it is their state and their Police. Some of the Governors could simply wake-up and sponsor a bill that could empower them to arrest other ethnic nationalities and direct his Police to go after the targeted opponents. The state Police or community Police can hide behind that cover and kill supposed enemies. It can easily be used to hinder the movement of others and ask the state legislature to enact a law to that effect and direct the state Police to implement it. With the indigenous claims by some communities and States, the State Police could easily be used to confiscate the properties of some people and send them packing. Heavy taxation is another possibility under the State Police, because even as at now, the charges being placed on some people moving with their goods to other states is outrageous. The multiple taxation is also adding salt to injury. I would also like to remind the Governors that if this issue of true federalism is to be fully implemented and entrenched into the constitution, it means it is going to outlive their tenures.
They may be the likely targets of their own making because they cannot predict what will follow. Even if one planted someone behind, the relationship could turn sour later in time. Uniform identification and synergy in terms of working relationship under it would equally make things difficult for Nigerians. There would be conflicting orders, what may be allowed in Katsina, may not be accepted in Kano and may contradict implementable norms in Kaduna. Even the variety of uniforms can make things difficult to believe and could easily assist criminals to deceive their victims. Every state had to have its uniform, just like operators of Private Schools, Vigilante or Private security outfits. These would only succeed in crippling the country.
While the South-South always shout about the Oil Money it contributes as a base for true federalism, resource control as the case may be the South-West and South-East talked about Education and business as their own pillars to the nation, the North gave the country the numerical strength in the army and other security agencies, the landmass for agricultural purposes and population density that kept other countries off-the shores and borders of the country without which it could be overrun at any given time let alone one woke-up and called a country of his own known as Nigeria. True federalism would only weaken the bond and make the country vulnerable.
The only thinking about community or State Police is that, local people who know the terrain could assist in giving information and identifying criminals that are abored those places. But the present Federal Police has taken care of that as there are Police stations and Police out posts in addition to local people of the area who are also recruited and posted within their states of origin which makes them familiar with the host communities. Another point that took care of the issue is the traditional rulers. To the best of my knowledge, traditional rulers are on salary at least at the levels of Emirs, District heads and village heads which apply to other similar office occupants in parts of the country, while ward heads are on allowances. This information is expected to come from the traditional rulers as salary earners, and nobody could claim to know the local people and the terrain better than that ladder of the traditional rulers of a given area. The only problem could be either they compromised, or they fear giving out information for their own security and that of their family. In that case government should take appropriate steps to stem the tide.
If I may digress a little, I will not hesitate to say while efforts are on to find a better exist from the problems bedeviling the country, Obasanjo has remained a thorn in the flesh of Nigeria. It is looking like the man is confused and would like to confuse everybody. It is insultive for Obasanjo to link Boko Haram and other militant activities to Islamizing and Fulanising West Africa, simply because he wants to be in the news. Obasanjo sometimes speaks as a nationalist, sometimes as a religious bigot and at other times one would hear him talking as a militant. Obasanjo should therefore not be taken seriously. Come what may, Nigeria will survive the likes of Obasanjo and their antics.
Mansir Lawal Kaware, Katsina State