By ABDULRAHMAN MU’AZU
When the debate on the desirability or otherwise of having a State Police in Nigeria started, I dismissed it with the wave of the hand thinking that no Nigerian will give it any serious thought and that it will die a natural death given the reasons why there was a general consensus on having not only a centralized police force but a strong central government that will guarantee the continued unity and stability of the country.
I was however proved wrong when the issue went to the level of the Nigerian Governors Forum where a sharp division emerged with the southern states plus predictably plateau state voting for state police while the remaining states which happen to all come from the north voting against it. It was at this stage that I became worried why a straight forward issue like having a state police at this material time with all its obvious implications should be accorded this prominence. I wondered why the debate should be allowed to get to this level when we have experienced people who should rise to the occasion by reminding the nation how we got to where we are and why.
Alhaji Ahmed Joda, a respected retired Federal permanent secretary who retired some 35 years ago, came to the rescue with his article titled “Policing Nigeria” which appeared in the guest column of leadership weekend of August 11, 2012. After going through the article, I got a lot of relief and thanked God, that with the explanation given by the author on the genesis of the centralization of the police force, reason will prevail which will help in no small measure in dousing this unreasonable demand for state police.
The relief I got by reading Alhaji Ahmed Joda’s article was, however short-lived as precisely six days later, I came across a statement credited to the former president Ibrahim Babangida captioned “IBB: State police will work well” which appeared on page 11 of the daily Trust Newspaper on Friday, August 17, 2012.
This is apparently in reaction to the contribution of Alhaji Ahmed Joda and the forum of ex-Inspectors General of police which were all against the idea. In the said publication, IBB “….wondered why the fear of the state police that manifested in the 50’s and 60’s was still hunting the country because of the native authority police that was used to intimidate political opponents during pre-independence and First Republic political era. He equally dismissed the fear entertained in some quarters that governors would abuse the good intention for the establishment of state police, saying “I don’t think the incumbent governors can use state police to intimidate anybody. Honestly, the fear is unfounded”.
When on 27th August, 1985, in his maiden broadcast to the nation after overthrowing retired Major General Mohammadu Buhari in a coup de tat, IBB said that history will forgive one for taking a wrong decision but will not forgive him for not taking a decision. This happened about one year after I returned from national service and had taken-up appointment with the defunct Gongola State Civil Service and was just about to get married and settle down to face the future.
From that time, I kept on wondering how can taking a wrong decision be better than not taking a decision. What can be the logic? I have always believed that it is better to be sure about the consequences of the decision one is about to take before proceeding with it. If one is not sure, it is better to leave or suspend action on the matter until one is sure of what he or she is doing. This tallies with the well known adage which says “it is better to err on the side of caution”.
IBB lived to his own words as subsequent actions and decisions he took on Nigerians proved to be consistent with his statement regarding taking a wrong decision which he made in his maiden broadcast to the nation referred to earlier which clearly shows he believed in taking any decision without bothering himself to weigh the pros and the cons provided it serves his narrow short term interest no matter the effect on the nation and its people.
It is therefore not surprising that IBB turned Nigeria into a laboratory of a kind where he experimented with Nigeria and Nigerians on anything that caught his fancy as can be seen from the many decisions he took while in power for eight years with dire consequences to Nigeria and Nigerians.
· The Economy
One of the important and sensitive decision IBB took shortly after coming to power was the introduction of structural adjustment programme (SAP). He introduced the programme through the backdoor after conducting what can be described as a mini referendum in which the proposal was roundly defeated by the people. It was crystal clear people rejected it but, because IBB must take a decision rightly or wrongly, he forcefully implemented it with all its negative effects.
The programme which was sponsored by the two brettonwood institutions of IMF and World Bank led to the impoverishment of the Nigerian people through the forceful devaluation of the Naira, downsizing of the workforce, cutting down on spending on social services and the privatization of Public Enterprises the cumulative effect of which completely wiped out the middle class. As a result of this wrong and unpopular decision, the indigenous economy became distorted to the extent that he IBB himself told a correspondent of the defunct Daily Times Newspaper he granted an interview to as a sitting President of Nigeria that he was surprised that Nigeria’s economy did not collapse.
IMF and World Bank supported by Late American President Ronald Regan and the former British Prime Minister Margret Thatcher had categorized Nigerians as rent seekers and Nigeria a rentier state, whose policies were not geared towards productivity but consumption. They therefore thought that by prescribing those bitter pills, Nigeria and Nigerians will become productive.
Twenty years after the ill-informed introduction of SAP, with its attendant negative effects and with the benefit of hindsight, I will categorically say without any hesitation that should another round of referendum be conducted on SAP Vis-à-vis Nigeria, even the IMF and the World Bank, not to talk of Nigerians will prefer the pre- SAP rentier Nigeria than the present SAP induced country of failed institutions inhibited by looters who today more than ever before, have become more unproductive and instead embraced primitive accumulation which many will agree is much worse than rent seeking.
IBB midwifed the longest political transition programme which like his other programmes, reflected his mind Set of introducing innovations which were not meant to serve the interest of Nigerians but full of hidden agenda which predictably ended up in disaster leaving the country in serious political crisis the ripple effect of which is still being felt.
IBB started his political programme on grand deception. He requested politicians to form political associations which they did but he rejected them for reasons known to only him and proceeded to form two political parties namely National Republican Convention (NRC) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) and directed politicians to join any of them. He insisted that all members of the parties were equal as there was no founder and no joiner. He also described the parties as one “being a little to the left” (SDP) and the other “a little to the right” (NRC). It should be recalled that midway into the implementation of his political programme, IBB made a categorical statement to the effect that he did not know who will succeed him, but he surely knew those who will not.
However, what surprised many political observers in Nigeria at that point in time was that instead of rejecting those political parties founded by the Government (which were aptly described as government parastatals) and insist on being allowed to form their own association consisting of like minds in line with democratic principles, they all sheepishly joined those contraptions and justled for positions naively believing that something positive will come out of that deceptive political programme.
IBB did not stop there, he went on to build party secretariats across the country, wrote constitution for the parties and even appointed serving Federal Civil Servants as Sole Administrators of the parties without the political elites raising a finger in objection to this clear undemocratic practices which was ridiculous and unprecedented in Nigeria’s political history.
In continuation with his mischievous experimentation, IBB resorted to banning and unbanning of candidates for political offices, especially Presidential and Governorship candidates which later culminated in the emergence of the second eleven in the persons of Chief M.K.O Abiola and Alhaji Bashir Tofa having banned the first front runners i.e. Late General Shehu Musa Yaradua, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma etc. Second rate Governors had already emerged and sworn-in at the State levels. How can this process devoid of any iota of fairness lead to what people fraudulently claim to be the freest and fairest election ever in the history of Nigeria? The credibility of the process ought to reflect in the final result.