How old is Mr. President again? I think it’s safe for me to conclude that Mr. President is a Septuagenarian. There comes a time when nothing but change will do. I think that time has come. But let me not get ahead of myself. Let’s start with Nigeria’s broken institutions. Many have lost their essence, their reason for being. It’s all about people employed to serve instead enriching their own lives, their cronies, instant gratification from corruption proceeds and clinging on to power.
Institutions are complicated things that often take many years to build. Within any single institution, formal rules must be supported by beliefs about how others are likely to behave, norms that describe appropriate behaviour, and organizations that enforce and disseminate the rules.
Our public institutions have become political and extractive, concentrating both political and economic power in the hands of the few at the expense of an inclusive or “open access” institutions that support full participation of every citizen in both the political and economic life of the community.
This isn’t sustainable anymore. The next generation can’t put up with the mess we’ve put them in.
We need to go back to the basics. The rule of law needs to be established; both national and local governments cannot continue to be corruption haven. Both the health and the educational systems are currently a joke. We can’t compete with neighbouring countries if things continue this way. Let’s take a look at one of such institutions.
THE NIGERIA POLICE
For me, it’s much deeper than welfare. I know the police barracks are in a despicable state, I know they’re poorly funded or should I say the funds gets misappropriated. I know there’s corruption within its ranks. However, orientation has to change. The purpose of the force should be at the forefront of this reform. When there’s a general belief or culture of impunity attributed to wearing a uniform. No welfare package can fix that. If the hierarchy, rank and file see the uniform as a platform to be above the law, platform to disobey traffic rules for instance, platform to disregard and abuse civilians. Not much will change even with the 5for5 boxes being ticked.
What is the purpose of the Nigeria police? I would imagine it’s “to combat crime, ensure security of lives and properties of the citizenry.” This is the first step in the reform process. From top to bottom. And it will inform how the force will rid itself of bad eggs whether it’s the IGP or the constable manning the Nigerian roads. With this purpose deeply engrained in the recruitment process, training sessions, there won’t be a need for citizens to trend hashtags about violation of human rights. Because a police officer that drags a protester into the barracks, beating them black and blue certainly contravened the purpose of the force and his office. Punitive actions must thus be meted out to such officers regardless of their ranks.
As I speak to you right now, the official Nigeria Police website is suspended. That speaks to the poorly funded argument I raised earlier. How can such a critical arm of governance not have its website up and running? A critical decision maker certainly does not feel the website is that important. Ladies and gentlemen, this is 2020!
The ego problem I call it. Several years ago, when I was still living in England, I was watching BBC news and on TV gathered a number of disgruntled people. They were waiting on the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, just at the entrance into the hall he was to have a town hall meeting. Upon approaching, a lady among the crew lashed out at Tony for cutting benefits to a medication or something along that line. As the Prime Minister tried to explain himself, the lady walked out on him. The Prime Minister then resigned to his fate but he seemed dejected the lady did not allow him explain. Like an employee that just failed to convince a major shareholder on a business decision, he reluctantly moved on.
This is not the case in Nigeria. Why have things deteriorated to this level? It’s the ego problem. The culture of leaders dismissing the plight of the youth. Leaders lacking empathy. Political offices and appointments are now seen solely as avenues to enrich and maintain the status quo. A lot of the status quo has been maintained due to the weaponization of poverty. Like the Snickers bar tagline, you’re not you when you’re hungry.” Which is why a voter will sell his right to vote for N10,000. How can the leader take you seriously? He needs to recoup his money. Your rants about police brutality are the least of his concerns.
Hardly will you see a leader that thinks he is in office to serve. And can I extend this further. It’s widespread. You will even see influencers who block anyone that opposes their views or ideas. So it’s no coincidence they get into public office and act no different from the current crop of leaders they seemingly loathe.
IT ALL RISES & FALLS WITH LEADERSHIP
What has Mr. President got to lose? As the country’s leader, does he want to go down in history as the leader that chose to create a path for real change? Mr. President unlike others around him does not need to reposition, strategize or play politics for relevance or higher office. A changed mindset from authoritarian and dismissive leadership to that of service to the people is where it starts. A leadership focused on people, respect for people and all-inclusive leadership. I’m sure he would want that. And so he needs to act it. I won’t make much of his ‘giggle’ when Governor Sanwo-olu was presenting him with the demands from the youths in Lagos.
A leadership focused on people would have acted long before this protest. The human rights violations has been in the public glare for years. Setting up a SWAT team without addressing the demands of the youth such as identifying and bringing to book rogue officers that physically abused protesters or have at some point been involved in extra judicial killings is the part of the ego problem.
Mr. President needs to leave the Villa and see things for himself if need be. He has to create a change path among heightened and often competing demands from the constituents and other stakeholders.
- He must set a future direction, then lead by going first in achieving them.
- Focus on the people he swore and took an oath to be faithful to which is a rich source for inspiration and energy.
- Focus energy and commitment to driving institutions forward in creating outstanding service.
- Be courageous and committed to initiating and maintaining momentum.
- Be humble and treat the youth with respect.
WHAT MUST THE YOUTH DO?
- Keep this energy till and beyond 2023: This is much more than Asun, breakfast and Chicken Republic pastries. It’s about showing the leaders who their real employers are. The electorate. I want you to think about this wave of change like a reality show. I know you love reality shows. They are more interesting than listening to leaders make empty promises. But you can’t go this far and pull away. Like you vote to keep your favourites in the reality show, come all out and vote. It won’t cost you N1,000 per vote, it will cost you energy, time and resilience. All the tactics they have employed so far to frustrate and truncate your efforts will be redeployed during the general elections. Start taking notes and strategize. And to those ready for public office, your time starts now. Let’s not leave politics for self-seeking people alone. Please Focus!
- Do not let saboteurs take advantage or sell you out: This is about you. It’s not about any celebrity, anyone with a self-acclaimed record of defeating seating presidents or persons with blue ticks. Stay focused on the goal. You are more powerful than them and the entire leadership put together. Stay united.
- Continue to fight with a loud voice but shun violence. Steps must be taken however, to defend yourselves with the unfortunate incidence in Alausa Ikeja today. Clean up the spot once the protest for the day is over. We must be seen as leaders ready to manage our own future.
- Lastly, you can’t do it alone. Which is why if you want police brutality to end, if you want to force their hand to meet your demands, you need allies. Quit dragging just about everyone. Yorubas usually say “Omo buruku lojo tie” … which translates to “a bad child has his/her days.” Let’s not alienate people we can use to get what we want and strengthen the antagonists in the process.
PS: I’m really proud of you. What you have started please sustain with focus and purpose. You aren’t just doing this for yourself or generations to come, but for Africa. Your struggle will emancipate Africa and rid the continent of failed leadership.