Whenever a new Inspector General of Police is appointed, he calls together the top echelon of the Police, with great media attention, to unfold his vision and mission. The recently appointed IGP, Alhaji Suleiman Abba, is no different. Abba has made it clear that the Nigerian Police under his charge would be modelled as, not just a friend but also a "helper". According to him, it is only when a policeman demonstrates his eagerness to help members of society that he is accepted as a friend.
According to Abba, the policeman will now be strongly reoriented, not just to arrest, investigate and prosecute criminals, but also to be able to administer such humanitarian services as first aid, emergency management and other activities that will make citizens glad to see a policeman, rather than being afraid or contemptuous.
It is a good way to start. But we are witnesses to the fact that successive police bosses always come full of promises and hope but eventually leave the Force no better than they meet it. Some come in pledging to abolish police roadblocks and offering to strengthen mobile patrols. Some come in, emphasising on respect for human rights, while some promise to strengthen police/public relations and partnership or boost welfare as a means of combating crime in society. But in many cases, IGP's have left the Force in blaze scandals and corruption, with the promised reforms never attended to.
We as a society and nation must bear in mind that the Police is what we make of it. Our Police Force is a mirror-image of our society. The Police cannot help itself unless the government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria make up their minds to give unto themselves a police force they can be proud of.
A police IG can come with glowing ideas, but unless the officers, men and women of the force are properly trained, equipped, paid and given a conducive atmosphere to give their best, the pledges by successive IGP's to produce rabbits from the hat will remain mere platitudes.
For the Nigerian policemen to truly become helpers and friends, they must be totally reoriented to ensure they do away with their military mentality. They must realise that the arms they bear are for the security of lives and property of the citizenry, and that it is a gross abuse of office and power to use same to terrorise and extort them.
We wish the new IGP success in implementing his vision, especially in the run-up to the crucial general elections of 2015. Nigeria will be a happier place when, indeed, the Police become the helpers and friends of the people.