By Frank Ojiako
On November 27, 2016, Osita Chidoka, the immediate past Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Commission (COMACE) and former Aviation Minister published the above title in the Leadership Newspaper. He also pasted same on his Facebook wall.
A comment was left on his wall where I queried the propriety of his treatise given that he had failed to apply his “unquestionable integrity” and “Sunshine Act” proposition when he was entrusted with two very critical assignments – Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of FRSC and Minister of the Federal Republic. Rather, he destroyed the Special Marshal Unit of the FRSC and left the Commission in virtual coma. I wanted to know the level of “transparency” he employed when he wasted millions of scarce resources in importing used, dysfunctional and ill-fitting tyres for the Commission. I asked the former COMACE why he failed to suggest these wonderful propositions to his ravenous, election-rigging PDP government that held the country prostrate for 16 years. I insisted he allows the government in place time to correct the anomalies his party, the PDP, created in the polity since his intervention was just a self- serving sanctimonious offering.
In reply, Chidoka insisted his article was “not about our past” and queried my “dispassionate observer” status. Concerning FRSC, he asked me to “go to the website, which has won awards for providing information, and see all the reports including departmental and zonal ranking”. He said he “introduced the widely acclaimed transparent promotion examination that reduced discretion (and) allowed officers to see their script, scores and result before oral interview”. He also claimed that the FRSC/World Bank safe corridor project depicted “transparency and accountability that was the hallmark of the project”. The former minister insisted that under him FRSC received awards “as the most compliant agency in remitting internally generated revenue”. On the issue of Special Marshals (SMs) he stated; “I want to believe you are a Special Marshal, but an inactive one, if you are a Special Marshal then your views are unfortunate as on all accounts Special Marshals grew, changed their outfit and repositioned their output”. As Aviation Minister, Chidoka said he introduced the Aviation Portal where passengers could see flight arrivals and departures and airline performance on their schedules. The Ministry, he said, “opened a website that is to track performance” but regretted that the two aviation websites are now down. Finally he wanted us to “move forward and not keep looking back with a view to rationalize inactivity”.
We need to thank you for bringing this ‘’Transparency” and “State stability” issue to the fore. I consider myself a truly dispassionate observer who is uncomfortable with the ever- burgeoning pastime of miffed, piqued, harried and defeat-aggravated former high-profile political appointees, appropriating available cyberspace to ventilate ill-motivated ‘touch and go’ solutions to our present quagmire, which they created in the first place. We insist that whosoever comes to equity must necessarily do so with clean hands.
Though I acknowledged from the outset the depth of your research and presentation (Legitimising the Nigerian State: INEC and Elections), I am moved to clarify that State legitimacy should not be based on whole-hearted importation of US Senator Lawton Chiles’s Sunshine Act bill (1976). Lawton’s thesis cannot also be dumped on our electoral process. Contrarily, corruption (pure and unambiguous stealing of State resources, importation of dysfunctional materials, round-tripping, outright misapplication of resources, over-invoicing, nepotism, destruction of system structures to create room for misappropriation, maladministration, etc.) has been implicated, in diverse studies, as the primary harbinger of instability and illegitimacy of nation States. Sarah Dix et al. (2012) of the Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, in a document titled, “Risks of corruption to state legitimacy and stability in fragile situations” (produced for UK Department for International Development, DFID) had posited succinctly that in most underdeveloped/developing nations, acting to prevent corruption is a sine qua non to strengthening State legitimacy and stability. The Authors saw popular uprisings in North Africa as a powerful reminder that failure to curb corruption could directly affect the legitimacy and stability of nation States.
The debilitating and pernicious impact of corruption has long been marked to amplify transaction costs, reduce investment incentives and invariably lead to stunted economic growth and ultimately, recession. A national sample survey data from four Latin American countries; El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Paraguay (countries scored by Transparency International as ranging from moderately corrupt to highly corrupt), to test the effect of corruption on State legitimacy, revealed that, “independent of socioeconomic, demographic, and partisan identification, exposure to corruption erode belief in the political system, reduce interpersonal trust and evidentially lower legitimacy” (Mitchell A. Seligson (2002): The Impact of Corruption on Regime Legitimacy: A Comparative Study of Four Latin American Countries. The Journal of Politics, Vol. 64, No. 2; pp. 408-433).
Expectedly, the World Bank (World Development Report, 1997; Washington, DC, Oxford University Press. Pages 102-104) also enunciated inter alia: “corruption violates the public trust and corrodes social capital…. unchecked; the creeping accumulation of seemingly minor infractions can slowly erode political legitimacy.”
That said, I wish to correct the sarcastic but diversionary impression you created that I may be “an inactive” Special Marshal (SM) and that the Scheme “grew, changed their outfit and repositioned their output” during your tenure as COMACE in FRSC. I state, with candour, that I am a very active Special Marshal of the FRSC. I was once the State Coordinator of the SMP in Kwara State and later, (before and) during YOUR tenure, the Zonal Coordinator for RS8 (Kwara, Kogi and Ekiti States). I have been in the system from Professors Wole Soyinka/Olu Agunloye’s days and, with all modesty, have contributed my quota to the uplift of the Corps: I, as the then State Coordinator, led the construction of the first FRSC/ NYSC/LGA Accident Clinic in Nigeria, located at Bode Sadu, Kwara State. The accident clinic was established at no cost to the FRSC. All we did was to contact the then Local Government Chairman of Moro LGA (Engr. Yinusa Afolabi, also a Special Marshal) with the proposal for the LGA to donate a house near the ever busy and accident-prone Ibadan-Ilorin-Kaduna highway. He accepted and also offered two LGA nurses. We met with the NYSC Director who enthusiastically offered to post two NYSC doctors, every service year. The SMs organized the furnishing through State Launching. Securing the Chairmanship of the Waziri of Ilorin, the late Rt. Hon. Dr. Olusola Saraki was the clincher; companies and individuals donated all we needed to run the clinic. To sustain regular drug supply, the Road Safety Clubs (RSCs), under me, were organized to do token environmental sanitation jobs, Saturdays, for pharmaceutical companies in return for drugs, bandages, etc. We had well over 20 RSCs in Ilorin. The drugs became so much that the residents were offered free clinic every day! This symbiotic relationship majorly secured the LGA Chairman a second tenure.
As the Zonal Coordinator, I helped in securing, through the State government, the location of the FRSC Zonal HQ in GRA, Ilorin. The SMs built the Zonal Conference Hall (first of its kind) in RS8HQ, Ilorin, which YOU commissioned during Austin Aikpo’s tenure as Zonal Commanding Officer. Again, all I did was to collaborate with traditional FRSC stakeholders – NURTW, RTEAN, NUPENG, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Doyin Industries, etc. to get the job done. In return, we offered them Service Certificates and free training for their drivers. I have, through public spirited individuals and companies like Global Soap and Detergent Company Limited, refurbished dilapidated FRSC vehicles. Several commendation letters from FRSC testify to these. Indeed, there wouldn’t have been the FRSC for you to have presided over but for the spirited effort of the SM’s under the National Coordinator-ship of Are Bisi Lawal who fought to demerge the Commission from the Police. I fought in that ‘battle’- picketing the National Assembly, making wide consultations, etc. I have delivered several FRSC – related lectures, established many Road Safety Clubs in RS8 and beyond and, instructively, when you took over as COMACE, forwarded a template of what I considered the roadmap to improving that vital arm of the Corps to you. I represented the SMs in the National Executive Committee of the FRSC for nearly a decade. The afore-stated can hardly fit the bill of “an inactive” Special Marshal.
Having spent well over 25 years, in free dedicated service to country, in the Corps, I consider myself qualified to posit INFORMED and EMPIRICALLY PROVABLE comments concerning the affairs of the Commission. I am also enlightened enough to so do. With due respects to the achievements you posited, the SM&P did not “grow” but suffered near irretrievable damage during your tenure. The Corps, “under your watch”, appropriated and got allocations for the Commission (clearly indicating the quota for the CONSTITUTIONAL EQUAL ARM (the SM&P) which were grossly misapplied and or misappropriated! You forgot that the founders of the Commission had clear reasons for making the SMs CONSTITUTIONAL EQUAL partners, though unremunerated, in the Scheme. Yes, the SMs “changed their outfit” but for the first time since inception of the Commission, under your leadership, the SMs had to pay for their Kits (imported from China at about $5 and sold to Marshals at N4,000; when the exchange rate was approximately $1 to N120). The Kits are usually appropriated in the budget to be issued free to volunteers. You were the very first COMACE to so do. You also decreed (despite our protestations at National Executive Committee meetings) and forced SMs to pay for and arrange their own trainings (Sectorial, Zonal and National Conventions). Again these expenditures were budgetary allocations to the Commission! I insist, without equivocation, that none of these issues raised passed through your “Sunshine Act” nor were “every portion of every meeting of the agency (shall be) open to public observation” while I sat as NEC member during your tenure. In fact, at a point we (the SM) representatives in NEC decided to be keeping our own minutes since the one that emanates from you were usually severely doctored. The end result of your “watch” was a completely disenchanted, disillusioned, near moribund vital arm of the system.
With due respect Sir; I am not fazed by international acclaims and awards. Rather, I remain dazed by the number of Nigerians who died daily due to NON-PHYSICAL PRESENCE of Corps members on our roads. During your tenure, one could drive from Maiduguri to Port Harcourt without noticing Marshals (Regular or Uniformed) on the highway. Why don’t you regale us with the statistics of the sky-high mortality rates during your tenure? Though improved communication and its concomitants – Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. decreased vehicular movements (vis avis number of vehicles in the country) the fatality rates increased due to excessive speeding. The SMs who could have offered the needed bulwark (at designated speed break points, since they are more in number) were systematically driven underground.
Under your watch, FRSC had higher corruption index than the oft maligned Police. Without the SMs on highways, toll collections on roads were, more or less, legitimized. When Prof. Wole Soyinka created the SMs (the current COMACE, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi, can bear witness to this), one of the planks was to make the SMs (then populated by highly educated, visible men and women) act as veritable ‘ombudsman’ in the Commission. In fact, there were SM “Road Watch” units in every Sector. These units mainly acted as ‘secret police’ whose members were only known to the Sector Commanders. The SMs worked with the Regulars and this synergy helped in controlling bribery and corruption in the System. The vision of Prof. Wole Soyinka that necessitated the inclusion of the SMs as an arm of the Corps was lost on you. That same vision is what the Police have rekindled in “Community Policing” and the Military as “Civilian Joint Task Force” in critical operation sites.
Finally, I agree with your proposition that we move forward. I, however, hasten to know the direction of the movement. Your party, the PDP, has been known to use that phrase to mean; “let’s cover the rot and move onto other viable areas”! Your oft recourse to regaling one with websites and internet awards reminds me of a former PDP Governor in one of the southeastern States who ran the State primarily on the web. Huge constructions, flyovers, artificial lakes etc. were constructed in the air. The man also got awards from unsuspecting Nigerians abroad. The truth: despite the hardship occasioned by the debilitating recession, well-meaning and discerning Nigerians know that the leadership mean well. We now have a steadfast and more stable government that has daringly delved into ‘reserved’ areas no corrupt government could have dared.
Dr. Frank O. Ojiako, Owerri, Imo State, [email protected]