Ndukwe Ikoh is an industrialist and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abia State. He speaks on the need for a reform of the Nigerian Police and a total restructuring of the way the country is governed. He also speaks on Abia politics and the prospect of having an Igbo presidency in 2023.
The EndSARS protests against police brutality in Nigeria were spearheaded by young people calling for total reforms of the force. What is your impression on how President Muhammadu Buhari handled the issue?
I must begin by declaring my unalloyed solidarity with the Nigerian youths on the matter and manner of the protest. The people have completely lost faith and hope in almost all the structure and essence of governance in this country hence the spontaneous solidarity in this protest against police brutality and inhumane treatment meted out to innocent citizens as the opium pushing this civil revolt.
The president’s prolonged silence as the protest intensified was another case of a failed opportunity to provide responsive leadership and it is a shame to say the least. I also agree with his critics on his speed in approach to quenching a burning fire.
What structural reforms do you want to see in the police?
Nigeria as a whole needs foundational restructuring and everyone knows about this and has said it time and time again, including myself. It is an impossible task to restructure or attempt to carry out any meaningful structural changes in the Nigerian police force without first and foremost overhauling and changing our entire structure of governance.
Remember the function of the police is to secure lives and property, maintain law and order and enforce the law. The force derives its power to function from other arms of government. So, the fountain of authority must be sanitised for you can think of a new police. It’s just common sense.
Given that insecurity is on the increase in the North without any solution, even with SARS then in place, why do you think Northern governors opposed the disbandment of SARS?
Everyone is not happy with the modus operandi of especially the now defunct SARS arm of the Nigerian police force. They were brutal, extra judicial, inhumane and corrupt in their conduct while they lasted which is the reason we are where we are today.
Northern governors opposed the disbandment? Well, they know why but the Nigerian youth support the disbandment and that is more important for me and for all.
Maybe with SARS, they were doing better with the insecurity situation in the North and if that is the case then, SARS should remain in the North. Again, all must note that the system of policing in the South, especially South East and South South is very different from what obtains in the Northern Nigeria.
For instance, driving or traveling through the roads in the South East and South South, you will find out the difference very clearly. Here, the Police and SARS position themselves in spaced distances of not more than 100 meters apart doing the innocuous business of extortion from motorists and travelers alike in full broad daylight sometimes with a lot of inhumane treatment.
That doesn’t happen in the North. We are saying that we cannot continue with these disparities in the system of things. It is not political; it is not ethnical or tribal. It is called equity, justice and fairness.
So many Nigerians believe that the unit that replaced SARS, now known as SWAT is going to be just the same thing as SARS with only the name the only change. Do you share the popular belief that the IGP was too hasty in replacing the dissolved SARS with SWAT?
No matter the color or name change, what works in any system is good operational methodology. Training, paradigm alignment, motivation and institutional ethics will strive with good authority. We need to overhaul our institutions to meet the present secular needs. That is restructuring.
The EndSARS protests started well but eventually turned violent after it was hijacked by hoodlums in several cities. Did you foresee this happening?
I knew that certainly, the protest will lose its steam and focus at some stage. I knew that and the government knew that too. Those who plan to hijack such movements would always be there. But I also believe that the message was passed across and reached its destination. Again I congratulate the organisers and initiators for doing what the, organised labour, the pulpit warriors, could not do and it was done so perfectly. It has come as a reminder to the people in authority that you can never undermine the will of the people perpetually. Humanity must always react at some point even from nowhere.
How would you rate Buhari’s performance in terms of insecurity?
Buhari is difficult to assess even at this point. He who has conscience and could speak the truth will tell you that many things are not working. Not the way some of us in APC and die hard followers of the president would have wanted it to be. However, we shall continue to pray for our nation for the best.
Aba has had infrastructural challengers despite being a commercial city. What would you say is the reason for this challenge?
Abia and Aba have remained largely a city passing as a bad example for a place lacking in good governance because of malfeasance of the people in power. We have been very unlucky to have people in government who went in as poor people but became billionaires while in power, themselves, family and friends. Naturally, corrupt and greedy minds don’t have space to think anything good. That has been the bane of Abia especially since around 2009. In Abia, there is no governance in terms of building and or maintaining infrastructure, especially when you see what happens in other South East states. But if one speaks out or give dispassionate counsel to them, their hirelings will come insulting but we cannot stop saying it frankly.
Does Abia have infrastructural master plan for the cities and state? I doubt if anything like that exists. What are the economic plans, health goals, etc? The government is to me like one without vision, rudderless but with a mission to self and family enrichment, therefore the state suffers.
If you have the opportunity to lead Abia State, what do you think you can do to make the state economically viable and make Umuahia a true metropolis?
I will surely do something greatly different if I had the opportunity to correct the mess in Abia. Corruption will be driven afar and governance and government must be done as a business. Our revenue base shall be expanded and of course, we shall have a better GDP. As a technocrat, myself and other skilled and experienced Abians shall work together to bring in a performance that will make it an envy to other states in the federal. Abia State’s economy, development and module of governance shall be the best in Africa.
Do you think Igbo presidency in 2023 is a feasible project?
Let us watch and pray. All things are possible to them who believe and work!