TO medical science, change is about growth and development within and outside the human body. Expanded, change is about your body functions (physiology); its’s about the chemical and physicochemical processes that occur within your body (biochemistry); it’s even about your facial features (physiognomy). To psychology, humans remain a mystery and they constantly change. But while psychology defines “the physical change that a particular individual undergoes” as growth, it qualifies “the overall growth of humans throughout their lifespan” as development.
Perhaps, it is the sum total of all these, and more, that makes thinkers agree that change is the only constant in life. They believe that, to make progress in life, you cannot afford to continue doing things the same way all the time.
Transposed to a nation as a living quantity, a country has to periodically review or change the way of doing business-economically, socially and politically-to make progress. It is this quest for continuous progress that makes constitutional democracy prescribe term limits for elected officials to enable a nation inject fresh ideas into its processes. That was why Nigerians roundly rejected former President Goodluck Jonathan at the polls, last year, and voted Muhammadu Buhari, a staunch apostle of change in his stead.
Men of power and history, across the ages, justified the need for change in the life of a country and individuals. “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”, said Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister between 1940 and 1945, and from 1951 to 1955. Simply put, to stagnate is to die. “Change is the law of life,” asserted John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, who governed from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963. “And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
I have been pondering the word CHANGE in my mind since July 1, 2016, when a storm suddenly swept 21 well trained, competent and full of vigour Assistant Inspector Generals of Police, AIGs, off their jobs. Even though they still have so much energy in them, even though they still have a lot to offer the country, and even though most of them are not yet qualified for retirement as per the mandatory retirement age of 60 or 35 years in service, they were axed, regardless.
They fell victim to an anachronistic convention in the military and quasi-military establishments, like the Nigeria Police Force, that bays for the blood of superior officers once their subordinates are appointed as head of the force. I had thought that the so-called convention had reached its apogee and had been buried with the old order. I never thought it could resurrect in a regime of ‘Change’ like the type currently calling the shots from Abuja. I was dead wrong.
On June 21, 2016, Mr. Ibrahim Idris Kpotum, 57, was named the Acting Inspector General of Police, to succeed Mr. Solomon Ehigiator Arase, Nigeria’s 18th Inspector General of Police, IGP, who retired that day having attained the mandatory age of 60. Until his new appointment, Mr. Idris Kpotum, a native of Bida, Niger State, was an AIG in charge of operations. And to make his seat at Louis Edet House a bit comfortable, 21 AIGs had to be gored into premature retirement July 1. On Monday, July 11, seven new DIGs and one AIG were decorated with the insignia of their new offices. That signalled the death of the careers of the seven DIGs that served under Arase. With that, the Police Headquarters has, once again, confirmed its unenviable status as the graveyard of high-flying careers.
Since Louis Edet, the first indigenous officer to be appointed Inspector General of Police (IGP) in 1964, this democracy has produced the highest turn-over of IGPs. Between 1999 and now, a period of 17 years, Nigeria has had 10. Idris is the 11th. That aggregates one IGP in every one and a half years.
The slaughter of the jobs of the 21 AIGs is what Maya Angelou would describe as the rust of the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult to Nigeria’s taxpayers and a colossal waste of the country’s investment in the retired but not tired officers. It is one tragedy a regime that commits itself to CHANGE shouldn’t have allowed. It is the cruellest blow a warped system could inflict on a hapless nation.
Sadly, Dr. Mike Okiro, a retired IGP, and Chairman of the Police Service Commission, PSC, didn’t see anything wrong in that monumental disaster. Indeed, he justified it by declaring that the federal government never erred nor contravened either the Police Act or the constitution in approving the controversial retirements. “…When Alhaji Muhammadu Gambo was appointed IGP, he was a DIG, so, there were no retirements,” Okiro began his stout defence. “When Aliyu Attah was appointed, he was an AIG, so all the DIGs were retired. “Tafa Balogun came in as AIG; all the senior officers were retired. Hafiz Ringim came in as AIG, all the DIG’s were retired. M.D. Abubakar came in as AIG, all the DIGs were retired. Ehindero, I and Ogbonna Onovo were DIGs, there was no retirements. IGP Solomon Arase was a DIG before taking over, so, there was no retirements. Now that Ibrahim Idris has taken over, he should be allowed to work.”
No doubt, those are solid facts. But what Dr. Okiro deliberately left out was the destructive effects of this antiquated convention on the force, and its enormous cost to a nation whose economy is slipping into depression.
Although the Acting IGP was a course mate of the retired AIGs, in terms of promotion, he was their junior. I’m unable to confirm this as I write this. But I can confirm that the affected AIGs were among the best trained in recent police history. Second, the process that threw up Idris was opaque. It was shrouded in secrecy. The only thing that recommended Idris for the job, Nigerians were made to believe, was a phantom ‘integrity check’ reportedly conducted by the Presidency in which the man emerged the cleanest. The Acting IGP reportedly scored that goal because investigators discovered that he was living in a three-bedroom mortgage flat in Abuja while his only other known house was a modest building in his village.
I say ‘Bravo’ to the new IGP. The only snag is that the Police Service Commission and the Presidency ought to have told Nigerians the scores of the other AIGs on the ‘integrity chart’. Their failure to do that reinforced the suspicion that someone in Aso Rock just sat down, anointed Idris and pushed his file to the President for approval. Of course, the architect of all this knew that there was no chance on earth that President Buhari would personally know all the DIGs and AIGs in the force, not to talk of being familiar with the ‘sterling qualities’ of the Acting IGP.
There is only one name for this kind of selection: nepotism. And nepotism can have the same devastating effects on the service just like the cancer of corruption that the Buhari Administration is struggling to kill. Apart from breeding corruption, a rigged system as this will nail merit, fairness and justice to a bleeding cross, and promote mediocrity, and unhealthy rivalry among officers. A nation fighting deadly insurgency in the north and militancy in the south and corruption and sundry crimes can ill-afford a divided police force.
Good enough, the affected officers have headed to court to subject their unjust retirement to legal scrutiny. Pending the decision of the court, the Presidency and the Police Service Commission would need to start working in earnest to recalibrate the requirements for leadership and improved performance in the police force. In doing so, they would need to recourse to the recommendations, made in 2012, by a Civil Society Organisations, CSO, Panel on reforms within the force.
According to the panel, although Section 215(1) of the Constitution provides that the IGP “shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Police Council from amongst serving members of the Nigeria Police Force,” the document does not provide for competence and other requirements for the appointment of an IGP. “Significantly, it did not even provide that the officer must be of any particular rank.” Implication: a constable could be constitutionally appointed IGP one day.
The panel also noted that “neither the Constitution, nor the Police Act, nor the Police Regulations provides any elaboration on the procedure for the appointment of an IGP or, indeed, any other leadership position in the NPF.” Consequently, and as noted by a panel member and expert on police and policing, Prof. Etannibi Alemika, “appointments into the Nigeria Police Force are determined largely by seniority and representation, and influenced by nepotism, political patronage and regime interests and preferences. As a result, organisational management and leadership development have been lacking, leading to organisational ineffectiveness.”
To redress this, the CSO Panel canvassed a constitutional amendment that would provide for an open, competitive and transparent process for the appointment of an IGP. The position should be widely advertised and the criteria clearly spelt out. Interested candidates shall apply through the PSC, which will screen the applications and refer all qualified candidates to the Senate for another round of screening. Then, the Senate will forward shortlisted candidates to the Police Council. The body, which includes all State Governors, will then make a recommendation to the President to appoint the chosen one for a “five-year non-renewable term of office…in order to ensure a one-year overlap with an incoming political administration, or guarantee a three year term which will be renewable only once.”
Finally, an IGP would only be removed upon a motion by the Senate. And “the basis for such removal shall be gross misconduct (as defined in section 143(11) of the Constitution), or incapacity of mind or body such as to render him or her incapable of performing the functions of the office. The process for removal should also include a public hearing by the Senate.”
Need I add more?