After five gracious and memorable years as chairman of Police Service Commission , Sir Mike Mbama Okiro can jolly well beat his chest and claim to have seen it all in the police environment (more on Okiro in subsequent editions of this column).lnterestingly, with the announcement of Musiliu Adeola Kumbi Smith as a possible replacement to Okiro, this may not have come as a surprise to many. Reason being that an enduring experience of police administrative service is all that is needed for such a prestigious position.
Smith’s first outing as the Inspector-General of Police was short-lived. Incidentally, to the uninformed, that first outing could be described as ‘disastrous’ while those who knew him and his pedigree believe he was a victim of circumstance and well-orchestrated power play aimed specifically to sabotage and tarnish his blossoming career. It was a game of calling a man a bad name just to hang him. However, before he was appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999, to take over the police mantle of leadership from lbrahim Commassie, who had held sway for over eight years, Smith took over the saddle of leadership of the Nigeria police. Ironically, he started the democratic policing dispensation, emerging from years of military dictatorship. It was going to be difficult to shed off the effects of military lifestyle. He stepped into a high-powered trap by the Obasanjo administration and that eclipsed his wonderful career. That was to be MAK Smith’s first coming. What actually happened at the time: It was a trend that, whenever a military man was ruling, police budget was usually released in bits, more pronounced even today. Smith as the IGP was having problems paying the men and officers of the Nigeria Police Force. The other ranks were agitating and using their walkie-talkie to air abusive messages against the police leadership. It got to a stage where policemen became street radicals and threatened to start trade unionism. Smith was said to have met President Obasanjo to assist him resolve the unpaid salary palaver, which was the main root of the problem. He was biven assurances and he became a pawn in a chess game, for Smith who had believed Obasanjo. The truth was that Obasanjo was not at home with Smith who was before then a member of the Provisional Ruling Council.
However, while Smith was waiting for the financial palliative from government, the news broke out that policemen had gone to the streets demonstrating over the non-payment of their salaries. That became the straw that broke the camel’s back.
MKA Smith is a man with nine lives. After his removal, he packed his bag and baggage and headed back to his home state, Lagos, where he met Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He was accorded a rousing welcome and Smith tabled the template of his idea to reform the police to Tinubu who was then the Governor of Lagos State. His security programme became a strategic guideline for securing the entire Lagos metropolis by empowering the police in Lagos. No wonder all the commissioners of police since the exit of Obasanjo as democratic President, have continued to be the flagship of though security, and have been exemplary to other states. There is, therefore, ample reason why President Muhammadu Buhari went off board to appoint him as the new chairman of Police Service Commission (PSC). Smith’s second coming as a police leader can only be attributed to God, who is knowingly a hater of injustice.
Smith’s avowed love for policing and security makes him more selectable. He may be challenged by the big shoes left behind by Okiro, that notwithstanding, Smith has to fully embrace the structure on ground and make the best out of it. His age notwithstanding, he is already groomed to hard nature, coming from Lagos State. However, Smith should be cautioned about the high-powered politicking that the police has recently been enmeshed in. It is such an unwarranted situation that can be seen as a banana peel. It is very important for the incoming chairman to understand that the police headquarters he left over two decades ago has drastically evolved and is much more sophisticated, with the IGP, who no longer respects the office of the chairman, rather, strong contact is made with personalities in the Presidency. It is not known in security circles that an IGP would totally evade the office of the police service chairman. The new chairman should start from the onset to be firm. He should shun ethnicity and religious softness. He should endeavor to restore the lost dignity of the police. His second coming, like the second coming of Jesus, should be a cleansing and total reformation of the police. Never in the history of the police has the organisation been so polarised and politicised such that it has become a caricature at every public fora. It is a well known fact that the total assignment of the chairman is like that of an ombudsman, while the IGP is like the pilot.
If only Smith can help to smoothen the bad image of the police, then we can all go home singing Hosana.
You invite me, l invite you (1)
Security is more powerful than politics. The world over, security controls the political pattern of a country. When security speaks, politicians bow and tremble. The recent power play between the Inspector-General of Police, lbrahim Idris, and the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, makes for important reading and movie script for movie writers. Such scripts don’t unfold in decades. Many claimed Nigeria was a movie playground, where events unfold with no prompting. Security has exhibited might while politics derives its power from the Constitution but it is powered by security might.
(To be continued)