Policy summersault or derailment is our pastime; our trademark. It is even one of our strongest policies. And we cherish it with reckless relish. We forget that it is not strictly about making policies, but their faithful and honest implementation.
We see a lot of loopholes in our policies. And we are completely blind to our faulty implementation. That is why our policies never last the distance. We change them like the waves of the storm. We are neither here nor there.
We never allow our policies to stand the test of time. We are a bunch of poor implementers. We are always in a senseless hurry to change our policies as soon as they are made.
Our laws are not so terrible. They are implementable, to a certain reasonable extent. The implementers are our greatest undoing. Sadly, we have them in useless abundance.
They would intentionally engineer derailment almost as soon as the policies are made. For every policy rolled out, we are eager to lay a landmine for its crash.
We wickedly throw huge spanners in the works. We halt our wheel of progress indiscriminately, no matter its level, all by ourselves. We are strange species of a weird gender. Shamelessly, we shift the goalposts right in the middle of the game; when it is hottest. That means nothing to us anyway. No decorum. Rules and regulations are alien to us. Yet, we churn them out almost every day. We find it extremely repulsive to obey any of them.
That awkward pattern has become our way of life. We flaunt it because we are proud of it. We stray aimlessly; back and forth. We end up with motion without movement. Still, we carry on as if nothing happens, nothing tangible at stake.
We put a lot of our energy into motion. We tragically opt to ignore movement. So, we forever remain where we are. And when wear and tear set in, we are worse off. We become worn out and torn away.
This Prisons name change is something else. It is a hard mix of facts and fallacies. It has the strange trappings of commendation and condemnation. They are strongly fused together. They are a set of Siamese twins.
You are even at a crossroads; to praise or to wail. True, our prisons desperately need a change. But not a mere change of name that is cosmetic. And it is far deeper than that. It has to be holistic.
But in this weird clime, we have a legion of examples to showcase our waywardness. The latest catch is the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS), formerly known and called the Nigeria Prisons Services (NPS).
Positive change, it would seem. President Muhammadu Buhari has even given his nod to that in the spirit of his taunted “Change” mantra. He hates to call it prison but a correctional centre. That sounds good, pleasant and pleasing to the ear.
The President’s former Senior Special Assistant to the National Assembly (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, was full of life when Buhari turned the bill to law. He told us:
“This Act repeals the Prisons Act and changes the name from Nigeria Prisons Service to Nigerian Correctional Service, otherwise known as Correctional Service.”
One important section of the new Act is item “E” of its Custodial Service section: “Implementing reformation, and rehabilitation programs to enhance reintegration of inmates back (sic) into the society.”
I swear, that aspect was the most abused in the defunct Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS). That old and ugly NPS couldn’t have reformed, rehabilitated and reintegrated any prison inmate into the society, the warped manner it was scripted.
It was a tall dream that couldn’t have been achieved in any way possible. It was wishful thinking ab initio. No deliberate effort was made towards that direction and to make it work. It was a mere political statement.
That should be the task of the born-again Nigerian Correctional Service. Name change is good but it is never enough. The in-thing is the attitudinal change. It ought to be the revolution in the newfound correctional centres. They are no longer prison yards. We have to demonstrate that as much.
Old and dilapidated buildings of the colonial era still dot our prisons. They are visible all over the country. They stare you in the face. I witnessed and experienced all this for 32 days in May/June 1998 when I was detained by the dreaded State Security Service (SSS) for 11 days.
I got transferred to the notorious Iyaganku Police Station, Ibadan, where I spent a weekend. From the Iyaganku Chief Magistrate’s Court, I landed in Agodi Prisons on remand for three weeks.
It was not palatable, not a tea party either. Whenever I play it back in mind, it is always like a horror film. And keep wondering how I survived those days in the dark age of the General Sani Abacha military junta.
From the old SSS, through the police to Agodi Prisons, there was nothing to write home about. The conditions were and still are inhuman and barbaric. It was like a training ground for hardened criminals. That I survived and came out alive remains a miracle.
That was where I completely lost my sense of smell. One of my ears nearly went the same way. The psychological torture has not completely gone. I still feel the pain. I was arrested, detained and docked for an offence I never even remotely committed. That is an indelible scar. It refuses to go away.
First thing first. The inside ought to have been corrected before correcting the outside. The outside is made glittering, but the inside is rotten and stinking to high heavens. That is whitewashing, window dressing of sorts.
It is never too late. Now that the outside is corrected, so to speak, the Herculean task is the inside. Our prisons need deliverance in all areas. They include, but are not limited to, over-population, poor feeding, deficient medical services, hostile and unhygienic environment as well as venomous prison warders.
Old things (NPS) must pass away. Let all things (NCS) become new.