It has been a tumultuous week of protests. It will be helpful to take a backward glance as we navigate the future and a way out of the current impasse – #EndSARS and Police reform. Observing the dysfunction in the affairs of the state in the run-up to Louis Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon in France, Karl Marx noted that, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” In every tenuous circumstance, what is of critical importance in navigating pre-existing conditions is that, “the tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living”. As of yesterday, the nightmare scenario was still playing out on the streets of hitherto deceptively sleepy Osogbo, Lagos, Ogbomoso, and elsewhere.
The policing system in Nigeria is in urgent need of surgical intervention because it is a colonial relic now hobbled by an unimaginative, dysfunctional quasi-federalism (to be polite). The colonial state had its work cut out, to hold on and extract tribute from a vast territory with limited troops, thousands of miles from homeland. The structure and mindset of policing as a necessity reflected this objective.
At no time since Sir Robert Peel (of the Bobby’s fame) invented the modern police force have the British ever used the structure deployed for tactical convenience in the colonies in the United Kingdom, and such a structure will anyway be a contradiction in terms for a democracy and a free people. The structure is sensibly decentralised policing boards reporting to the home secretary (minister of the Interior), and the unimaginable for a conservative country – the heads of policing formations are now elected like in the United States, presumably putting them under democratic control and, of course, no one has ever heard of something called the inspector general of Police. This is not surprising, for such a post is designed for a colony of conquered peoples. And, of course, the equally antediluvian concept of Police Barracks is unknown, since the police are members of communities, where they should reside in.
The sage, Nelson Mandela, showed determination from the start, to build a policing system relevant to the needs of a new post-apartheid democracy. President Buhari must exhibit the same intellectual honesty to accept that the present policing system has exhausted the limits of its possibilities. Mandela, in revamping the police, brought in the acknowledged management skills of a savvy manager, N.M. Meyer, the much admired CEO of South African breweries. Meyer carried out a seminal surgical operation, rebooting the force along modern lines from bottom to top. Buhari has to follow suit. This is no time for timidity and kowtowing to special interests, like the self-serving Police Service Commission. The president demonstrated courage by bringing in an outsider to reboot the ailing Customs Service; he might as well beat the path of reform again.
Overall, a new policing system must reflect the decentralisation thrust inherent in a federal state. It must be community-based and properly funded. No sensible system can be underfinanced, as the entrenched “culture of returns” is the direct consequence of underfunding. Had the governors in the states not contributed financially, the situation would have been much dire. Nigeria’s problem is that of opportunity costs and the inability to defer immediate gratification. For the state and poorly developed level of the economy, you cannot absurdly maintain 119 “foreign missions” and deny the policing system of adequate funding. The policing structure is dysfunctional and its underfunding is designed to ensure the stultification of the Police. Nothing, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, happens by accident in politics.
Kudos should be given to young people for demonstrating the supremacy of civil society over political society, this is what democracy is at its best. This is a time for bravehearts.
Source: Premium Times