By Kola Odepeju
Another voice was last week added to the persistent calls for decentralization of the Nigeria Police. This time, the voice was that of the unassuming Governor Gboyega Oyetola of the State of Osun, who, in a lecture he delivered at the University of Abuja last week, offered a panacea to the seeming insurmmontable security challenges facing the country.
According to Governor Oyetola, if the country is to overcome insecurity confronting it, it must, as a matter of urgency, decentralise the police, as the present highly centralised policing system in the country is not working and cannot work. For me, the governor has made a valid point. His position is absolutely correct and it calls for no argumentation. Thus, without an iota of doubt in my mind, l believe the governor has spoken the minds of the majority.
As a matter of fact, the issue of decentralization of the Nigerian police has become more germane than ever in view of worsening insecurity in the country. To say that the country is tottering on the brink of collapse is to simply state the obvious. Without mincing words, life in our country today is best encapsulated in Thomas Hobbes description: “Nasty, brutish and short.” Or how else can we describe life in this country today? There is of course no better description, except one only wants to be economical with the truth.
A situation where people cannot sleep with their two eyes closed is nightmarish. A situation where everyone, high and low, cannot walk free in the street without the fear of being kidnapped is nasty. A situation where hewers of wood and drawers of water are not free to engage in what brings daily bread to them and their families is highly demoralising and killing. A situation where those who till the land to produce food for our consumption cannot go to their farms freely without the fear of being kidnapped, raped or gunned down by Fulani herdsmen is nothing but Hobbesian. A situation where kings cannot sit on the stools of their forefathers with peace of mind without the fear of being visited by gunmen in their palaces is somehow nasty; and brutish is a situation where couples cannot perform their conjugal act of reproduction in their own apartments without the fear of being cut short in the act by bandits.
And what’s more, a situation where you cannot eat the food on your table (after passing through so much stress and rigour to get it) with rest of mind is quite worrisome. The majority will agree with me that, in this country today, we now live as if we are in a war situation. For it is during a war situation that one lacks the peace of mind to do anything. As day dawns today, no one can be said to be safe. Death has become 10 a penny due to the lethal activities of Boko Haramites, insurgents, bandits and some unscrupulous Fulani herdsmen and you never can tell who will be the next victim; even as coronavirus in its own deadly nature is threatening all categories of people with untimely death. Of course it is litotes to say the situation is worrisome. Like the Yoruba say: “Life is no longer worth living while heaven is difficult to go to.”
What a sorry pass!
So, to call a spade its real name, the current policing system in the country is not working, as opined by Governor Oyetola. It is unarguably ineffective and not yielding desired results. Our experience has shown that it is not working and undoubtedly it just cannot work. And like the saying goes: “Doing the same thing in the same way all the time and expecting to get a different result is not only daydreaming but also tantamount to living in fool’s paradise.”
This is why I agree substantially with Governor Oyetola and other advocates of police decentralization.
If we are to be sincere to ourselves, it’s high time we came to terms with the reality on ground and accept the fact that there can be no better time than now to decentralise the Nigeria Police in a way that the different tiers of government as they exist today can have their own police being controlled directly by them as obtains in saner climes where states, municipals, even universities and some other institutions control their own police.
The way things are now, state governors have no complete power to deal with security matters in their states as they must take orders from the centre before they can act on matters relating to insecurity. This is why one cannot blame them for failing to nip in the bud the insecurity they are facing in their different states. They are only referred to as chief security officers of their states but that’s just by name only. The power to carry out that function is lacking as they are just like the proverbial dog that can only bark but cannot bite. And this is due to the awkward nature of our ‘federalism’. Nigeria is the only country in the world that proffesses federalism as its governmental system but in practical terms is running a unitary system of government. This is really absurd.
We must commend Governor Oyetola and others who are summoning the courage to speak up. No doubt, this period demands speaking truth to power. It calls for people of conscience to rise and speak up. More voices should be added. For, like Martin Luther King once quipped, “I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, during a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.”
columnist, is senior special
assistant to Governor Oyetola on public affairs