The Federal Government’s plan to reintroduce the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) campaign is expectedly generating interest in the country. It is reminiscent of the war against indiscipline in public life which went by the same name, and was launched by the current president, Muhammadu Buhari, when he was military Head of State 32 years ago.
Perhaps, conscious of the antecedents of WAI in the country, the Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Garba Abari, has said that the new campaign will feature a WAI Brigade that will be charged with enhanced civil intelligence gathering towards an orderly and secure society, in line with the change mantra of the present government. The Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, had hinted in January of a “bigger and deeper version of the old WAI”.
There is no doubt that issues of general indiscipline still persist in the polity, reflecting in our poor attitude to work, poor sanitation in public spaces and disrespect for law and order. To correct these ills, let there be emphasis on enlightenment campaigns using the efficiencies of multimedia and leadership by example. These will be in consonance with democratic practices, and more effective in achieving the desired results.
The government should upgrade our basic infrastructure. Most times, campaigns like WAI are based on the unproven premise that Nigerians are impervious to change and good conduct. So, the only way to get them to behave appropriately is to whip them into line. But, this may just be one side of the coin. Has government, which has the responsibility to provide public infrastructure such as a good public transportation system and waste disposal facilities, provided these, or their enabling environment?
As we seek to enforce and improve public discipline, we should greatly improve on our infrastructure also. Public conveniences, public transportation and waste bins are grossly inadequate and poorly distributed in the country. When citizens on the move are pressed to answer the call of nature, what are they supposed to do in the absence of public conveniences?
One of the lasting legacies of the first WAI campaign is its introduction of the queuing culture, but in a democracy, the method of achieving such a gain must change. Any effort to promote discipline in the country must take a humane approach and avoid the pitfalls of the old War Against Indiscipline.
We insist that better results will be achieved if we lay emphasis on enlightenment campaigns, showing good examples and encouraging gentle, even if firm, controls. The persons who will be charged with the implementation of these initiatives will need to be properly orientated to discharge the responsibility with utmost care and respect for the dignity of the people.