This Graveyard called Nigeria
(A very urgent need for the restructuring of the policing system in Nigeria)
My group of Nigerian friends who sat together with melancholy glued to their countenances on that cold winter morning at the popular Nigerian Restaurant in Canning Town, East London, probably underestimated the depth of social decadence and violence sweeping through our nation. This gathering was far back in 1986 following the unexplained parcel bomb death of Dele Giwa. In retrospect, they were unprepared for the social mayhem that this despicable act unfolded in the country. Nigeria has of today turned to a graveyard of sort for her children where life is cheap and meaningless. Life has become a commodity that can be dispensed of at the slightest whim. The sights of corpses and assassins have become an everyday phenomenon on our streets. We have systematically entrenched violence into our psyche and into that of our young children. Heaven knows the type of nation we are intent on creating for ourselves!
Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) in his essay, From Man was made to Mourn (a dirge; 1785), affirmed that “Man’s inhumanity to man, makes countless others mourn”. It is perhaps in total obedience to this apocalyptic observation that mankind has engaged in the chilling pastime of murder from time immemorial. It has been reported that the death of Julius Caesar (44 BC) going through to that of Abraham Lincoln (1865), Franz Ferdinand (1914), Mahatma Ghandi (1948), John F Kennedy (1961) and Martin Luther King Jnr (1968), amongst others, shook the world. However, Robert Burns in his wildest imagination could not have figured our overzealousness at the genocide we are currently perpetuating in a supposedly peaceful time. It is apparent that the world was not prepared for the torrents of killings Nigerians are unleashing on themselves.
To borrow the words of Sunny Lawrence Oputa (Nigeria: A case of political abattoir), Nigeria has now been turned into a gigantic abattoir where citizens are slaughtered at will and the government looks on with impotence. The nation has become a lawless jungle where the basic laws of preservation are constantly being violated. Nigerians face dangers daily from many causes, both obvious and obscure. Death lurks behind every Nigerian, in Nigeria, like a Siamese twin that failed the surgeon’s knife. We stare at death in the face, breathe death and live death daily. It is a morbid state of existence and one that requires urgent rectification. It is extremely disheartening that we have allowed our insincerity at nation building to create a climate of supreme insecurity and fear almost bothering on paranoia.
In trying to rationalise the insanity that has pervaded the land, Shehu Sani listed greed, desperation for power, refusal to allow healthy political or business rivalries and intolerance of dissenting opinions as the major factors for this seemingly unredeemable journey to extinction for which we appeared headed to (Shehu Sani: Political Assassinations in Nigeria). He was able to divide our chequered history into different periods of murderous turbulence. He affirmed that prior to the 1990s, the only kind of assassination that the country knew of resulted from military incursions into governance via coup d’etat. However, in 1986, during the era of Ibrahim Babangida, the nation was awoken to the rude reality of another senseless dimension with the mysterious killing of the founding editor of Newswatch magazine, Dele Giwa. That still to be resolved killing heralded the nation into an era of social problem that became magnified during the period of the one with the dark goggles, Sanni Abacha. The nation is perhaps at the state it is today as a result of military incursion into governance and the associated social, moral and political bankruptcy which created a climate of lawlessness, fear, distrust and murders which has continued even into civilian regimes. Thus, it is not just sufficient to impoverish Nigerians; even life became a meaningless asset.
Amongst others, senseless deaths in Nigeria include those arising out of road traffic accidents, severe state of neglect of our public hospitals and the unpardonable primitiveness of our healthcare system, mishaps arising out of perpetual problem with unstable power supply, armed robbery, agitation for self determination and control of natural resources as presently obtained in the Niger Delta, ethno-religious uprisings and political assassinations. This list is, of course, not exhaustive as it does not include the numerous deaths attributed to the effects of malnutrition and hunger, effect of the activities of unscrupulous religious bigots and sundry other causes in the land.
While there is no gain in procrastinating over the obvious solution to the death traps which our roads have become, it is imperative to state that only a government devoted to tackling other instances of unwarranted deaths in the country would be committed to ensuring that Nigerians have safe roads to ply. Nigerian roads constitute some of the most dangerous in the world with a annual death rate between 4000 to 5000 (Federal Road Safety Corp) or 32000 (World Health Organisation).The same rational deduction applies to the non-functional state of our hospitals and healthcare system. However, the twin problems of armed robbery and political assassinations are almost intertwined and sometimes ably aided by the perennial power shortage symbolic of our dear nation and the dearth of advance forensic and intelligence gathering equipment, methods and facilities. Recourse to the basic principles of equity and fairness, with sincerity in nation building, would only ensure cohesion and termination of the monster which the agitation for self determination and control of resources has become.
Ibrahim Babangida’s era set the tone for the legion of widows and orphans littering the states of the amorphous federation today. Following in the trail of the heinous murder of Mr Dele Giwa, many Nigerians have been butchered on the calamitous Nigerian slate. Casualties are far and varied in an ever growing manner. The list includes Mr Alfred Rewane, Igwe Francis Nwankwo, Alhaji Sama Kano, Kudirat Abiola, Toyin Onagoruwa, Captain Tunde Ashafa, Chief Layi Balogun, Chief and Mrs Barnabas Igwe, Marshall Harry, Chief Bola Ige (a former attorney-general of the federation) and Funsho Williams (a gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State). Ayodeji Daramola ( a World Bank Consultant and former gubernatorial candidate in Ekiti State), Ahmed Onipede (a former Special Adviser to Governor Tinubu of Lagos State), Abubakar Abba Umar (of the Corporate Affairs Commission), Eze Adaga of the EFCC, Chief Andrew Agom (former Managing Director of Nigeria Airways) and lately Dipo Dina (an ex-gubernatorial candidate in Ogun State), Bayo Ohu and most recently, Edo Sule Ugbagwu (a judiciary correspondent with The Nation newspaper) who was murdered on April 24, 2010. In a statistics released by the International Society for the Civil Liberty and Rule of Law, there have been over 160 assassinations since 1999 when the current democratic dispensation commenced. With an often alarming ease, the Nigeria Police have discarded most as plain armed robbery attacks.
These seemingly political assassinations apart, another emerging trend of frightening dimension is the new craze for killing Nigerians resident abroad while on home visits to their motherland. Apart from the casualty ratio from preventable road traffic accidents, the guns of the hired assassins are also descending with terrifying force on this group of Nigerians. This is a situation that deserves serious attention, more so, as only few cases have been proven to be due to plain robbery. On March 30, 2010, some Niger
ian newspapers reported the gruesome death of a US-based Nigerian medical doctor who was on a home visit. Dr Charles Ndule must have greatly anticipated the reunion with his parents, not knowing the fatal fate that awaited him. The brutal manner with which bullets were pumped into his body to ensure that life was unmistakably snuffed out of him gave a frightening scenario of dangers faced by Nigerians in Diaspora whilst on home visits. No matter what the grievances rightly or wrongly held by his assailants, our new found propensity for settling malice through the barrel of the gun would do the country no good. At best, it would only serve to create a permanent race of Nigerians in Diaspora, Nigerians whose only show of affection for dear country would be largely limited to nostalgic reminiscences and dreams.
The Jrank law organization ((http://law.jrank.org/pages/542/Assassination-Causes-patterns.html#ixzz0k83cixI9) tried to link assumptions about political violence in an effort to explain the problem of assassination. Two hypotheses emerged based on the following reasons:
• If violence for political reasons is considered to be unusual and unjustifiable, the causes of assassination are expected to lie in the psychopathology of individual killers.
• If political violence is thought to be aberrant but sometimes justifiable, or at least understandable, causes are sought in threatening or oppressive social conditions, which in principle can be changed so as to eliminate the violence.
• If violence is seen as an intrinsic dimension and a common instrument of politics, causes are to be found in the varying fortunes and tactics of social groups attempting to defend or increase their life chances.
In the case of Nigeria, it is perhaps apt to state that the first and last reasoning hold steadfast. However, despite the rampant killing, both for political and pecuniary gains, the second reason is sadly missing. The absence of this, perhaps, explains the senseless of it all. However, the law organization concluded that a “developed scientific theory of assassination presumably would avoid moral assumptions about political violence and would encompass all three causal sources, treating them as sets of variables whose interrelationships result in an increasing or decreasing probability of assassination events”. However, to date, no such theory has been firmly elucidated, leading to the proposal of the following two hypotheses:
• 1. The more threatening or oppressive social conditions are for a particular group the more likely the group is to resort to assassination and other forms of violence.
• 2. Individuals with certain psychopathologic characteristics are more likely to be selected for the actual work of killing; alternatively, those selected develop psychopathological characteristics because of the guilt, isolation, fear, suffering, or other experiences associated with their “dirty work.”
Whilst our chequered history has been littered with oppressive social conditions, we as a people have never consciously resorted to organized political assassinations (hypothesis 1) to eliminate the political parasites and leeches that have continually impeded our desire to transform into a technologically advanced, progressive modern nation. Rather, we have only experienced snippets of assassinations based mostly on corrupted ideologies and protectionism, such as the numerous coups d’état which our country was notorious for.
The first hypothesis above would perhaps serve as the social ingredient for mass revolt in effecting egalitarian changes in any nation’s body polity. However, despite the mayhem and the frenzied state of the Nigerian nation, it is arguable that we, as a nation, are yet to reach that state that probably induced revolutions such as that obtained in France and Russia some few centuries ago. These revolutions marked a significant turn of events in these states and signaled unparalleled political and economic changes. It is precisely the absence of this relevant weapon that makes an urgent case for concerted solution to the senseless killings pervading the land.
A case for the complete overhaul of Nigeria’s policing system
There are different policing systems worldwide with the American system remaining unique. It has been reported that the US has approximately 20,000 state and local police agencies while Canada has 461, the UK 43 and India 22. There has been a recent clamour for the reform of the British system based on research data that pointed to the superiority and effectiveness of smaller police forces in curtailing crime. Hence, it has been proposed that the current 43 forces in the UK should be split to about 95; this is in a country about one quarter the size of Nigeria.
No particular management style has been found to be most effective in running a police organization, however, a noted iron rule is that specific police organizations should adapt to specific circumstances of their environments. This is known as the Contingency Rule of policing. It is also imperative to change the people within such people organizations by the development of recruitment and training strategies that produce a new breed of police officer. For example, for community policing to be effective, appointed officers would be interested in serving the community as well as fighting crime. Also, the relevance and benefits of modern information management system cannot be over-emphasized. This is vital in improving overall efficiency and performance and is an important challenge for a truly modern police force.
A thorough analysis of the current reign of terror gripping Nigeria points to a compulsive submissiveness to the violent grip of those with psychopathic dispensation. Thus, a complex symbiosis of psychopathic liaison is turning the land into a growing cemetery. Expediency is hence required in weeding out this social menace. Since no specific profile exists for identifying a would-be assassin, it is imperative to be ingenious in employing local resources which could be usefully combined with state paraphernalia in our bid to restore sanity to the land.
Perhaps as a reflection of the urgent need to restructure the Nigeria Police Force, Sunny Lawrence-Oputa (Nigeria: A Case of Political Abattoir) suggested the creation of what was termed Homeland Security in taming the monstrosity of this pervading evil of assassination roaming the land. He also suggested what could amount to empowered village (local) vigilante groups. By interpretation, the creation of a homeland security apparatus is a measured response and an acceptance on the part of government of a social menace that has defied logical solution. And going via the path of village vigilantes is recognition of the fact that these killers and those employing them are in our midst, a tacit admission of the fact that the nation abounds with legions of potential killers. A stark reality with the abundant trademarks of poverty which has created an army of unemployed youths, political thugs, area boys, identified and unidentified militia groups, ethno-religious champions, armed robbers, touts, street boys and girls and an ever expanding legion of homeless people. While some of these characters are very visible in our society, the fact is that the vast majority remain faceless.
The village vigilante group concept could further be extended into the creation of Neighborhood Police Forces (NPS). These forces could be created and funded by the local councils, perhaps a very useful way of spending public fund rather than the orgy of mass embezzlement that currently obtains. The flow path would be the NPS working in tandem with and coordinating the activities of the local vigilante groups. The NPS in return reports to the Homeland Security Force which would have command structures in each state capital but nationally coordina
ted. On the surface, this suggestion might create an unwieldy pattern of policing but the reality is that a grassroots’ orientation of intelligence gathering would have been developed. With efficient management devoid of political interference, this policing arrangement would aid enormously in crime detection and prevention. The aim is not to surreptitiously turn the country into a police state, but then, if this is the panacea towards minimizing crime in our society, then who cares?
Strenuous efforts to avoid the pitfalls that have turned the present Nigeria Police Force into the laughable chasm it is today become mandatory, especially worth stressing is the need to make this new force as apolitical as possible. It is also viable and relevant to emphasize on creating an educated and very mobile and intelligent Neighborhood Police and Homeland Forces. Intelligence gathering using modern and sophisticated methods should form the core of these forces. While these forces would not be solely focused on crimes relating to assassinations, a special task force solely committed to tackling crimes relating to assassinations would become necessary. This could be given any name, The Tornado Unit, Rainbow Task Force, call it what you may. This special task force would be sited at the command levels of the Homeland Forces and would use the vigilante groups and the Neighborhood Police as the springboard for effective intelligence gathering. This task force would employ sophistication as its watchword and use efficiency, mobility and scientific intelligence analysis as its modus operandi. From this suggested re-structuring of our policing system, many valuable areas of our national life can be designed to receive adequate attention from the new system.
It is perhaps getting really late in the day to sing the dirge for the present corrupt and inefficient police force we have in Nigeria. Restructuring of the policing system goes beyond mere name change or cosmetic change of uniform, it calls for a drastic overhaul. The suggestion above takes cognizance of the numerous shortcomings of the present force and the dearth of superior manpower and processes in its approach to issues. This force has successfully alienated itself from the citizenry and has become a nightmare to most. It is inefficient and has become part of our national burden.
Suggestion herein presented is borne on the principle that the present policing arrangement in Nigeria has been completely compromised and truncated such that it cannot effectively tackle the rising cases of willful killings and sundry other crimes in the country. Above all, it is recognized that the war against the voluntary path of extinction that the country seems irrevocably committed to cannot be reversed or altered without adequate commitment to eradicating poverty, creating more jobs and generally improving the quality of life of Nigerians. The development of a sustainable and effective policing system goes parri passu with efforts at increasing the socio-economic fortunes of the country. To paraphrase Edwin Madunagu (Political Assassinations; http://www.nigerdeltacongress.com/particles/political_assassination.htm), a political or criminal weapon would not just disappear no matter self-righteous or vigorous our opposition to it. Such weapons only disappear when the circumstances that brought them into being and nourish them disappear. Thus, eliminating the frightening reservoir of potential killers in our midst by our assiduous commitment to economic prosperity is perhaps the only way to righteously put a lid into the open grave which the country has become.
It is time for us as a people to say enough is enough to unnecessary deaths, either through road traffic accidents, ethno-religious uprisings, armed robberies or political assassinations. We as a people should strenuously strive to hold our destined in our hands as this remains the only option for a sustainable tomorrow for our children and grandchildren.
Dr Olusegun Fakoya is a physician, teacher, writer and socio-political commentator residing in the UK.