UNITY and faith, peace and progress ÔÇô so goes Nigeria's official motto.
It appears, however, that the powers-that-be in Nigeria have taken a literal, if not absolutist, interpretation in their application of this expression which otherwise should simply engender a progressive union under a banner of social equality and justice.
In many facets of the Nigerian life, particularly ones that are determined by government choices or actions, a pattern of desperation to impose [rather than create] unity at any cost is all too common ÔÇô even where the sense in any of these ideas remains for the most part questionable.
Such misapplication is perhaps evident in the continued maintenance of inefficient national bureaucracies across the board in a manner that defies the most basic of logic, the most glaring of which is the continued sustenance of a hemorrhaging central police apparatus to maintain law and order in a complex union of mini-nations as Nigeria.
The Nigerian Police has evolved in nomenclature and in organization over the years, beginning with its earliest form as a consular guard comprising 30 members of the Lagos Colony in 1861. But as the years progressed, and Nigeria grew more complex in nature and structure, the foundational structure of Nigeria's national police has practically remained the same as it was under the British colonial authority.
The British created the police to protect its colonial interest in Nigeria, with the first large law enforcement contingent being the Hausa Constabulary in 1897. The idea of the Hausa Constabulary was later used as the basis, or platform, upon which the rest of the network of law enforcement was built across colonial-era Nigeria, with formations in Lagos, Lokoja and Calabar, etc. In the end, following the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates of the country, the Nigeria Police Force emerged.
That force ÔÇô the Nigeria Police Force ÔÇô has existed to date.
It does not matter that in the recent past, the word "force" was dropped from the old official name of ÔÇśNigeria Police Force' to reflect that the police was then less about ÔÇśforce' than service. What matters is that the foundational structure of the Nigeria Police, along with the original intent at its founding [where the police was seen as a protective buffer against any threat to colonial authority in Nigeria,] exists to date.
Despite the obvious, Nigeria's most powerful leaders, including current President Goodluck Jonathan, have continued to argue that a decentralized police as seen in many of the world's more complex political entities is an unsafe choice.
"State Police may be theoretically good," said Mr. Jonathan in Ilorin, Kwara State, last December, "but looking at our political environment, it could be abused to the detriment of the country."
In other words, localized policing may be exploited by politicians at the state and local government levels to undermine political opponents under their jurisdiction. Therefore, according to these leaders, Nigeria is "not ripe" for a more efficient alternative to what currently subsists for law enforcement in the country.
That an obvious solution may not be deployed because of anticipatory problems is defeatist. It is even more regrettable that an extensive understudy of the possible solution of localized policing has not even been broached, much less commissioned, hence causing one to wonder what really the Nigerian leadership is afraid of.
Whereas when responsible leadership of any progressive society is faced with challenges to an idea it already described as "theoretically good," such leadership is often seen working to convene an understudy of the situation to make such good ideas work for the society, as opposed to dismissing the idea after capitulating to anticipated problems and hoping that the same failed method would someday begin to yield alternative results.
There is always more than one approach to solving problems. Sticking with the same old solution of a national police outfit to challenges in community policing speaks to the kind of mental situation that Albert Einstein associated with expecting different results while repeating the same action. The belief that a national police will be efficient in tackling law enforcement challenges in Nigeria is as laughable as expecting that Burkinabe and Cameroonian gendarmes will do an effecting policing in Nigeria.
Perhaps the truth is that, more than anything else, an abiding desire to protect the current imbalance that benefits the status-quo for the minority elite in Nigeria, feeds the obstinacy against the idea of localized policing across the country for the common good.
The center will not easily give up its grip on power derived by its near-absolute control of the security apparatus in Nigeria. The benefits of such control are immense, and it is not willing to lose that kind of control to powers at the state and local government level. Former Speaker Dimeji Bankole must be aware of this, given his resort to a political warrior-chant a couple years ago in Ekiti, where he sang and danced at a governorship campaign rally, saying in Yoruba: "Like we did before, we will use military power again!"
Many interpreted the comment from the former Speaker of the National Assembly to mean that military power will be deployed to influence the outcome of the election. Is it any wonder then why people in the center, like the former Speaker, would oppose the idea of state police?
The implication here is that those against the idea of localized policing in Nigeria will not give up their position without an all-out fight. Those who benefit of the status-quo will deploy all their resources, financial and otherwise, to defeat the idea ÔÇô because if or when local police become a reality in Nigerian communities, many other things will follow that will effectively curtail the power of the central government in Abuja.
But those who prefer that things remain the way they are need not fear, for none of that is going to happen anytime soon, so long as Abuja remains as powerful as it is, and the Nigerian population remain, well, powerless in the scheme of things. And that is even assuming that anybody cares.