27 January 2013

Nigeria: Police College - Presidential Paranoia and Brutal Capitalism


I realized a while ago, that there is a genre of film-making that is almost totally neglected in Nigeria, where almost everyone thinks in terms of how much money will come into their pockets. I had visited a slum somewhere in Gudu, on the other side of our Legislative Quarters. I saw how people survived against all odds, and I also saw, in the midst of that poverty, the fact that every shack had a DSTV antenna on top of it! I was alarmed. I have since summoned the courage and presence of mind to do a few documentaries of my own. I have done something with regards to the mindless 'uglification' of Abuja, with posters, perhaps with the express approval of Bala Mohammed and his crew. I have also filmed people rushing across the express roads in Abuja while speeding cars take pot shots at them.

I did a comparison with the way bus stops, trains and taxis operate in Dubai, a country that gained independence 41 years ago, and which asked Nigeria for a loan 20 years ago to fund the lofty ideas of its leaders. Nigeria refused to give that loan, perhaps like our banks, Nigeria is averse to funding viable projects. But today, thousands of us pour in there daily to give them the money for free. The painful thing is that we are not even learning anything from all our sojourns to such places. All my videos are available freely online. Please go to www.youtube.com and search for my name.

I have told as many people as I know, that rather than search for power where it does not exist, or wait for a bloody revolution, we the people have the power already. Information technology, and social media, have tilted the power in our favour. We must however be careful, to suggest workable solutions and not just critise for no reason.

When President Jonathan, in his last chat with the people, mentioned something to the effect that he did not promise to 'reduce poverty', but that he promised to 'create wealth', or that he believes in creating wealth and not reducing poverty, I was perhaps the most alarmed Nigerian. But I immediately saw the way his mind works, and why he, and Nigerians, have become hostage to perhaps the most corrosive brand of capitalism in the history of capitalism! President Jonathan has spent an inordinate amount of his time in office, actually opening opportunities for 'wealth creation', and actually feathering the nests of a few, that he has not even bothered to govern, or lead Nigeria. That is the fact. While that ensued, his closest aides, including the likes of Abati, have run rings around the man, and held him prisoner to their machinations. And of course, he is on course to being the most dismal leader Nigeria has ever had!

A necessary part of governance is that a leader must create his own thinking time. In a place like Nigeria, leaders are not allowed any thinking time at all. Their days are a fuzzy blur of unnecessary meetings, banquets, commissioning of useless projects, and of course, pressure from powerful countries - attendance of summits, conferences and whatnot. It therefore behoves on a leader to break the barriers and have his own ideas. I realized while filming the on-going trashing of Abuja, that there was no way the president will see those ugly posters that now deface the whole city, or the people who run across expressways or the dead bodies of school children who are killed on those roads almost on a daily basis. All he sees are Bala Mohammed and co, when they bring those crazy contracts for approval and announcement every Wednesday. The FEC meeting itself is a mere Tenders Board. Nothing of value comes therefrom. The president is always being rushed along by his aides, after roads have been cleared for hours! How will he see the reality of what Nigeria has become? He is therefore NOT leading Nigeria, but a fictional country, on paper.

The documentary that took the cake was done by Ms Ayoola of Channels, and featured the despicable condition under which Nigeria's Police Cadets are groomed. We saw, in the video that went viral, the disease-prone, sewage-littered bathrooms and toilets, the threadbare, bug-infested beds they sleep, the mats, the watery stews they are given in a bathing bucket, for them to eat the constant meal of eba (garri), and wait for this - we saw that one small Tilapia fish was shared by 50 people! I cannot describe the anger that welled up in me when I saw one cadet pinching the fish (half an inch per person), as he shared for his colleagues! Where did we go wrong? What happened to us as a people? Why are we this way? Why are we so wicked? With that video, as a friend stated, we all lost the rights to criticize the police. In fact, if after anyone goes through that Police College, they don't turn into full-blown armed robbers, we should give them national awards, not the thieving fatcats that we 'honour' every year!

The Police College has been like that for decades now. It started under the Military regimes, and the civilians too did nothing. Chances are that we have hundreds of such colleges around the country. The police and army barracks in parts of Nigeria are in worse conditions. I have been shouting lately for even us private citizens to give a thought to our environment and help out with our wealth. For Nigeria has evolved into the most oppressive society in the world, where no one cares at all about the next person, and we expect to have a peaceful society, and expect to leave this legacy for our children! That police college is a victim of all the Presidents and their deputies, the Ministers, IGs of Police, the DIGs/AIGs and the Commissioners, and the Commandant and Deputies, even the man in charge of the kitchen! See what we have done to ourselves!?

Obasanjo once formed a committee headed by his inlaw, Kenny Martins, where billions were raised for the police, which promptly disappeared into the pockets of a few. What will Nigerians not get up to just to be rich? Heck, they routinely steal from pensioners, from the weak and sick, from the dead!

I hoped that Mr President's brave idea to pay an impromptu visit to the college, was an act borne out of genuine concern and contrition. I hoped he would have finally seen the folly of 'creating wealth' as against 'reducing poverty'. Because what is required in that college, is not more wealth in the pockets of the police big wigs and their civil 'servant' collaborators, but the reduction of poverty among the cadets! I hoped the president would have devoted the rest of his term to paying impromptu visits - to barracks, to hospitals, to roads, to schools, to public facilities.

I hoped he would have realized that he is in the midst of enemies posing as friends/advisers, and that his heart has not been in the right place since. Imagine my shock after praising the man, only for him to upbraid the police for allowing Channels TV do that documentary??!!

He said it was the work of his detractors! Did the man enjoy what he saw? Would he have seen it but for Channels? Does he have human feelings at all? Is he saying he is not ready to do anything to help? I can't get over President Jonathan. Seems he is our biggest problem as a people.

Under him and his American-sponsored team, Nigeria's brand of capitalism was a model from the devil himself!

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