Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: What's the Meaning of Jonathan's Visit to Ikeja Police College?

I'M still at a loss understanding the purpose of President Jonathan's visit to the Police Training College in Ikeja given the very confused and confusing comments coming from him and the presidency.

With each passing day and event, the president gives one the strong impression that he is unprepared for the office he occupies.

The mental and intellectual demands of this office are increasingly beyond the president. Indeed, the very nature of the political system Nigeria operates, by which I mean the presidential system, makes a greatly disproportionate number of our politicians and public officials totally unprepared for the task they are entrusted with.

More of this shortly- first to the Channels Television expose on the rot in the police college. Just days before the presidential visit, I had seen a promotional report of the utter rot and physical dilapidation that has taken over the Ikeja Police Training College, Nigeria's premier training school for police recruits.

It was shocking and but for the fact that cameras captured scenes that many, no doubt, quite recognised it would have been difficult to believe the recorded images of the college in that report.

The interior of the college revealed our police officers were actually being trained and made to live in environments unfit for human habitation. Literally, the footage before the eye was that of a pigsty- wretched and dingy as it could ever possibly be.

Even though I was shocked anew by the pictures, they were no different from what I saw a couple of years ago when I walked through the College and the police barracks located there.

It was during the funeral events for Chief Gani Fawehinmi. At some point either before or after the funerary ceremonies, I took a look around and went as far as the barracks for junior officers. The entire environment looked utterly run-down, dirty and unhygienic.

For the son of a police officer who was raised in one such place I couldn't believe what I saw.

The buildings looked tiny and ugly with faded walls, broken sewers and drainages. No one looking at the Ikeja Police College from outside would believe the rot inside. It is the veritable biblical whitened sepulchre that is full of rot and dead bones.

The fact of its location in the heart of the country's number one city makes its bad fortune truly scandalous and lamentable. A hint of the rot inside can be had from looking across the walls outside.

But everybody pretends not to see it or that it simply doesn't exist only to complain loudly when we are confronted by police officers and other uniformed security personnel, obviously products of training schools like this, who end up killing citizens for mere N20 bribe or leaving their duty posts to rape hapless innocent women labelled prostitutes as soldiers of the Brigade of Guards, people with responsibility for the protection of the president, did this past December in Abuja.

Nigerians couldn't have forgotten a similar scandal broke in the early 1990s when Abacha presided as the Chief of Army staff and the army barracks in Ojo area of Lagos was in a state of total ruin. The thieving that characterised the Abacha years had obviously begun well before he became head of state but as usual we were too unconcerned to see.

But now that Channels has, hopefully, shocked the conscience of those who still have in them anything that goes by that name among our politicians- now the television station has brought the wreck that is our foremost police training school, a picture of what goes on in the other training schools, to the notice of Abuja and the rest of Nigeria what is baffling for me is the reaction of the presidency and President Jonathan himself. Some have praised the president for what they call his prompt response to the footage of the Police College.

But I'm yet to understand the basis of such praise or in fact of the president's visit. And this is precisely because of the comments the president made during his visit and news reports of his reaction since then.

Remember he was on his way to Cote D'Voire when he stopped over at the college? He was reported as wondering how people could be made to live like 'poultry chicken' which would suggest his discomfiture at what he saw.

Thereafter, he asked those around including the Commandant of the college, Irimiya Yerima, to know how Channels gained entry into the college to record the transmitted footage of the college which the president himself claimed was the reason for his visit.

Apparently nobody could explain how but the president went on to say the entire report was an attempt to embarrass his administration, wondering if the Ikeja police college was the only one in the country.

In one breath the president sounded outraged by the condition of the college; in the next breath he saw mischief makers out to tarnish his administration at work.

What sort of contradiction is this? Is the president denying the fact of his own eyes? At least he can't claim here that the footage he saw was manufactured? Or is he saying the other police colleges across the country have a better deal and that the Ikeja college is alone in its misfortune, as his second comment seems to suggest?

But Nigerians know that from Ibadan to Enugu, Kano and Jos it's the same story of neglect across our police training schools in particular and training schools for other paramilitary and military organisations in general.

Our president talks in this contradictory manner because he lacks, like many of our politicians in the National Assembly and state houses, the right grooming for speaking and answering questions in public.

The presidential system provides a cover for many of our politicians from being questioned on their activities and as such shields them from acquiring political skills necessary for their office.

Reports abound of legislators in Abuja and the states who, throughout their time in office, never stood up to speak for once- either initiating or supporting a motion, or defending a position, a line of action or whatever else that politicians in other places do.

This is unlike the case in the parliamentary system where lively debate is the order of the day. In such system, President Jonathan would by now be fighting to justify his stay in office rather than lower people being held responsible for the failure of his administration as with this cheap talk of heads rolling after his visit to the Police College in Ikeja.

Indeed heads should roll and the decapitation should begin from Abuja starting from the presidency, down to the Ministry for Police Affairs.

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