President Goodluck Jonathan paid a surprise visit to the Police College, Ikeja, Lagos, on Friday, and witnessed the scandalous living condition of the cadets.
The president was shown looking askance, shocked and possibly angry in the pictures published by the media. I was surprised that the president was surprised. Is this not the consequence of the corruption some of us have been talking and writing about and the president has not as much as acknowledged? I keep dogs in my house in Kaduna. The kennels where my dogs live are far neater and infinitely more hospitable than the barbaric accommodation provided for the cadets of the Police College, Ikeja.
But why was the president shocked? A recently graduated policeman from Kaduna Police College has just informed me that what we saw of the Ikeja Police College is far better than the Kaduna Police College. In other words, the Kaduna Police College is far worse. At the Kaduna Police College, some of the cadets sleep on tables and slabs. If the police have been doing so badly, I thought the president would have attempted to find out why a long time ago. Maybe the president also doesn't know that on top of the barbarism of their living conditions, the cadets are also paid N3,500 (three thousand, five hundred naira) monthly. Some government establishments have obviously forgotten that N18,000 is the official minimum wage in the country. And when they graduate, they are paid N42,000 monthly. And this is a country where N2.6 trillion was stolen in a single year in a single expense unit and more than N100 billion has been stolen from the pension fund.
Should we then be surprised that the police have been unable to tackle the Niger Delta militants, MASSOB, Boko Haram, armed robbers, kidnappers and ritualists? And, indeed, why are we surprised that the Nigeria Police Force is one of the most corrupt state institutions in the world? Not long ago at a police checkpoint out of Abuja, I was openly asked by the policemen there to give them "something for the boys". I was very upset and asked them why they were doing that "nonsense". One of the things they said to me was that most of the time when their stations hand over vehicles to them for patrol, for instance, they do not give them fuel or money to fuel the vehicles. They pointed to their almost new saloon car parked by the side which they said had no fuel to get back to base. Out of sympathy or maybe empathy, I counted N5,000 and handed it over to them to fuel the car. They gave me the most outstanding salute I had ever seen in my life and I drove away. Is this how to run a country?
But let's be serious. How much of the appropriated budget does the Jonathan government actually disburse to the police every year? There is the need to make these figures public or maybe the National Assembly should force the police to make the figures public. In the year that N2.6 trillion was stolen, only 18 per cent of the police budget was actually disbursed to them. The following year, less than 10 per cent was disbursed. The president should therefore start directing his anger elsewhere. He needs to ask (or maybe he already knows) why the police do not get the funds legitimately appropriated for them. How far does the president expect any government agency to go with just 18 per cent of its appropriated budget? Agreed, even out of this 18 per cent or 10 per cent, more than half would still be stolen by the police high command, but how do you blame the houseboy for stealing when he knows that the oga is stealing much more than him?
But it is still good news that the president decided to pay that surprise visit to the Police College, Ikeja. In Nigeria, surprise visits have been deployed by serious heads of state to know the true situation on ground. So, maybe President Jonathan has now decided to change his style of governance. I have told people that even with this surprise visit and the president's apparent indignation at what he saw at the Police College, Ikeja, he will do nothing and, therefore, nothing will change. I have not met any single person who understands the president's governance philosophy or management style. But it is still possible that this is the beginning of a new dawn. That will be very good for the president but even more so for all of us since, as it now appears, we are stuck with this president for the next 28 months.
The president must urgently start paying more surprise visits. Let him start with the East-West road that Reverend Hyacinth Egbedo told him about during the late General Azazi's funeral and for which the president was quite upset with the man of God. Reverend Egbedo said such projects were abandoned because of corruption and that was what piqued the president. In inspecting the road, let the president ask his aides to dig up the information on the sheer amount of funds that has been disbursed for the road construction so far.
And instead of making his disagreement with Governor Rotimi Amaechi personal, let him also find out whether the Rivers State governor is saying the truth or not. Governor Amaechi has described Elder Godsday Orubebe, the minister of Niger Delta, as a failure who has been unable to complete one single road project. This is a very serious allegation coming from a governor who, warts and all, is performing well. Shouldn't the president pay a surprise visit to ascertain whether Amaechi's allegation is true or not? Not one single ministry has received nearly as much favour in terms of federal allocation as the Niger Delta Ministry since President Jonathan came to power. Let the president simply cut the crap and find out between Amaechi and Orubebe who is on the side of the nation.
Apart from the Niger Delta Ministry under Orubebe, 100 per cent of NDDC projects in the universities in the Niger Delta area have been abandoned. The president should not take my word for it; he should pay a surprise visit to all these places and find out for himself.
Let the president also pay a surprise visit to the teaching hospitals and find out why, in spite of all the allocations of the last several years, the bed sheets, mattresses and equipment in most of the teaching hospitals were the last ones supplied by the PTF before PDP came to power in 1999. He shouldn't ask for reports; he should simply pay a surprise visit to the hospitals the same way he did to the Police College, Ikeja, and see for himself. And let the president also pay a surprise visit to the universities. Many of them are not better than what we saw at the police college. Some of the University of Maiduguri students sleep on bare floor, as do the University of Calabar students at the Malabo Republic Hostel, wittily so named because of its closeness to Equitorial Guinea. At the University of Maiduguri, a laundry was converted to a hostel. At the Ahmadu Bello University's Asmau Mustapha Hall, there are 529 students to one toilet. The hostel, which was built to accommodate 312 students, now accommodates more than 3,178 students, thus an average of 529 students to a toilet. What a shame! These pieces of information and other more disturbing revelations are contained in the report of the needs assessment committee set up by the federal government, i.e., by Jonathan himself. On Thursday, a day before the president's surprise visit to the police college, a coalition of civil society organisations under the aegis of Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (SDMG) met in Abuja to discuss the future of tertiary education in Nigeria. They ended their meeting with a strong message, calling on the president to implement the report of his own needs assessment committee on the Nigerian public universities. I hope the president listens to them.
All these are the direct effects of corruption. No public officeholder or civil servant fears anyone anymore. Even the small boys in the ministries ask for bribes openly and challenge you to tell their minister or the president "if you like". And, by the way, why hasn't the minister of police affairs found out what the president just discovered at the Police College, Ikeja?
Mr. President, Nigeria is falling apart under your watch. And we should not be surprised that the youths of this country are increasingly taking up arms against the state. This is what would happen in any country where N2.6 trillion could be stolen and nothing happens or where N2.4 trillion was "expended" during Obasanjo's government days to provide electricity and all we got was a change of name from NEPA to PHCN.
It's corruption, stupid!
The Mali Operation
The fact that it was the French who took the initiative to lead an offensive against Malian terrorists who were almost succeeding in owning a country they can call theirs spoke volumes about the shrinking influence of Nigeria in West Africa. Granted, Mali is a French-speaking country and was a French colony, but Mali, together with the whole of West Africa, still remains within Nigeria's sphere of influence. If these were other times, things would have been different. This dwindling influence didn't start today. It took the same French to chase out former President Laurent Gbagbo who lost an election in Cote d'Ivoire but refused to vacate as president.
In those days, things were different. Remember, even at a time former President Olusegun Obasanjo was busy rigging elections in Nigeria, he still found the mojo to bully the current president of Togo, Faure Gnassingbe, and son of the immediate former president Eyadema Gnassingbe to leave the presidency of Togo he had arbitrarily occupied in the wake of his father's death. Faure just took over after his father's death without an election. Obasanjo simply stormed Lome, the Togolese capital, and forced Faure to vacate the seat and properly contest an election. Faure won eventually, becoming president, but at least due process was followed, thanks to Nigeria. You also remember when General Sani Abacha chased out the coup plotters in Sierra Leone who had ousted a duly-elected president. Abacha, who called the soldiers "the junta in Sierra Leone", even though his own government was also a junta, chased out the coupists led by Major General Johnny Koroma and installed Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the democratically-elected president. Remember also how General Ibrahim Babangida neutralised both Charles Taylor and Prince Yormie Johnson in Liberia? Our influence used to extend beyond West Africa even. Remember when General Murtala Muhammed stormed an OAU meeting and decisively carved a new direction against minority white rule in southern African countries? Gone are those days.
The other point to note about the Mali operation is that our government must give a thought to the aftermath of the imminent defeat of the rebels or terrorists depending on what you want to call them. After their defeat, they will obviously scatter but they will go with most of their weapons and the easiest place for them to relocate to with vengeance on their minds would be Nigeria through our legendarily porous borders. Of all the countries around Mali, Nigeria has the most porous borders. Even though we do not share a border with Mali, there is evidence that many of the Boko Haram operatives were previously trained in Mali. This is hoping the Jonathan government has given an intelligent thought to this before we have another monster on our hands again in addition to everything we now have to contend and deal with as a nation.