The Nigerian Police Force seems to be in the news quite a bit. I wish it were for a dramatic reduction in the rate of kidnapping, armed robbery and the violent slaying of innocents by terrorists. The police is in the news more for the wrong reasons which raise alarms about the rule of law and the partisan inclinations of the institutions of the state.
This institution that is a subject of much debate about its structure and where it should be controlled from, the centre, or subnational level, has attracted the spotlight for disrupting the meeting of PDP Governors at some level of disputation with elements in their party. They have also been much in the news for either blocking access to the Governor’s lodge in Port Harcourt to the bona fide resident, Rivers State Governor and Nigerian Governor’s Forum Chairman, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, or preventing him from welcoming guests at the Airport.
A bit of irony in all of this. Several of the people that have been on the receiving end of this undisguised partisanship of the centralized national policing authority were so recently opposed to the idea of a state police initiative. I recall arguing that if the state police is considered problematic because some remember how local authority policing was abused in the First Republic, how they could assure that a Government at the centre could not do the same. I argued in fact that it was easier to contain a partisan sub national police than it was to manage an out of control centralized national police force. I gave examples of how in the United States, the use of local police to violate the rights of people of colour in parts of the United States led to reforms in which civil rights violations automatically triggered Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) action.
Now that a very partisan police force which is national is being unleashed on foes and wavering friends, it seems the wisdom of my point of view has come home.
But it is not just the partisanship of the police that has become troubling in the current political dispensation. Too many business people I meet lament they are unable to do business without declaring affiliation with the party in power. Lately the matter has been further compounded by the use of the military ostensibly to maintain order at elections but increasingly in a way that advances partisan interests. I saw this in action at the recent senatorial bye – elections of Delta Central, in Warri, in which the residents were frightened by what looked like an Army of occupation, into staying indoors. Add to this the fact that of our 36 states themilitary are actually routinely active in policing operations in about 28 states and you wonder if we are not getting into a double jeopardy of an actively partisan military and the making of a police state with such an over bearing presence of armed men in uniform. The great irony is that the police states have calm and surface peace, even if it be the peace of the graveyard but, unfortunately there is no peace in sight here as kidnappers, robbers and terrorists are having free reign, approximating what was feared in Robert Kaplan’s frightful vision of our sub region in his book ‘The Coming Anarchy’.
Leadership of state institutions owe it a duty that their role is for the good of all citizens are not the benefit of the few with temporal political power. History is replete with the cost of not having an even hand for people at the top, who danced to the music of those in power with reckless abandon. Indeed I recall recent history of a Police Inspector – General of Police who addressing his top brass described the Force, in cynical condor as uniformed Toughs of the Party in Power and how the party in power he served so well did not raise a hand to save him, when he got into trouble.
Here again much blame goes to the failure of citizenship and civil society. We need to educate policemen, soldiers, civil servants and all who matter that partisanship is about a process for choice of trends of policies and contestation of elections. The day after the elections what matters is serving all the people with guidance from the preferred policies chosen at elections.
To all who seat in positions of authority, civilization is that all Nigerians, for your party or in opposition, get a fair consideration on all matters, justice, business opportunity etc. the alternative is to either get a sheepish nation or invite anarchy.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.
source- Prof. Pat Utomi