Before the advent of modern bureaucracies, European States operated a spoils system, by which every administration brings its civil servants from top to bottom. When their term of office is over, the civil servants all leave office with the government that brought them. Max Webber, who many consider as the father of bureaucracy, the modern system of government administration, blamed the spoils system for its lack of continuity and waste. Since then, bureaucracy had been the order of the day all over the world. The only exception is perhaps when you are dealing with Nigeria’s security services, especially the police force.
Our disciplined services, including the customs and immigration, operate is silos, blissfully unaware of modern systems of administration. They are so wasteful of well-trained, experienced and cherished human resources you begin to think that that is possibly why a barefooted set of bandits has stolen more than 300 girls and nobody can get them back for nearly three months.
I am frightened by the large number of well-trained officers the country continues to lose through premature retirements in the police, army, navy, airforce, Customs and immigration. A former Chief of Army Staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika, once mooted the idea of having the retirement age of service personnel raised to 70 years and I liked what he said.
They just announced the appointment of a new Inspector-General of Police in the person of Sulaiman Abba, before now, an Assistant Inspector-General, and the press is awash with reports that all serving Deputy Inspectors-General of Police and an unspecified number of AIGs will be retired. For what reason? For the fact they joined the police ahead of the new IG. “All officers that were ahead of the new IGP has (sic) been forcefully retired,” a source at the Louis Edet House, Police Headquarters was quoted as saying by the online newspaper, Greenbarge Reporters. A source at the Police Service Commission listed the victims of this career extermination exercise as being DIGs Peter Gana, Michael Zuokumor, Dauda Sulaiman Fakai, Philemon Leha, Emmanuel Udorji, Marvel Akpoyibo, Abdulrahman A. Kano, Atiku Kafur.
The sources quoted by the newspaper went on to add that “the likes of Solomon Arase, AIG in charge of Intelligence Bureau, and Dan Azumi Doma, AIG Force Secretary… might be affected, as they were strong contenders for the post of IGP. Their retirement may become necessary to avert any form of personality clash.…”
Notwithstanding the exciting news of the appointment of a new IGP, we must be the only in the world where the creme of the top echelon of the police is kicked out nearly every two years. Before IG Mohammed Abubakar, who just left, the one he succeeded, Hafiz Ringim, was also fired along with six DIGs.
Ringim’s six DIGs expelled at the point of his departure were Ivy Uche Okoronkwo, Azubuike Udoh, Sardauna Abubakar, Audu Abubakar, Saleh Abubakar and Muhammadu Yusuf.
I know that all these DIGs and the AIGs who are being expelled were not a bunch of rotten apples. They were well trained at home and abroad, some of it by the United Nations. They had impeccable careers that warranted their promotion to the top. They were not rogues in the system. They were not operating a gang within the police, out to ruin the other good officers. Based on their sheer number alone, nothing can be more cruel, wasteful and destructive. If anyone is a keen observer, the only conclusion to draw from these expulsions is that there is no culture of public and social service in the so called disciplined organization. It is either out of the sadistic nature of people who delight in seeing heads roll or out of a deliberate plot to create fear and uncertainty as necessary ingredients for entrenched corruption. It is important however that our leaders be more human in the way they treat fellow human beings. It is wrong that they behave like high school bullies who only pick on the weakest and the most defenceless.
It is equally important that we get our priorities right. Experience is necessary to execute any work. If you take away Ogbonna Onovo, who featured as IGP in a freak-like incident for about only a year, no serving Deputy Inspector-General ever made it to the all-important post in the last 20 years to 25 years. I don’t know what they have against the deputies, that each time there is an opening to name a new IG, they always chose them from the third-ranking post of AIGs. With that, all DIGs are expelled. These past IGs, who served in the period mentioned above, are Aliyu Atta, Ibrahim Coomassie, Musliu Smith, Mustapha Adebayo Balogun, Sunday Ehindero, Mike Mbama Okiro, Hafiz Rimgim, Mohammed Abubakar and now Sulaiman Abba – all AIGs. So what is the DIG post for? An unfortunate and jinxed post? They have made it a burial ground for brilliant careers and I think this is wrong. Perhaps it is time to revise the process through which the IGPs and the heads of military and quasi-military institutions are chosen. It is important that there is federal character. This has the noble goal of promoting inclusiveness. But this must be taken together with a merit-based system. Nigeria is rapidly growing and its institutions are evolving. At this stage of our development, the country needs its finest minds in the security and public services.
It will be better to determine careers by effectiveness of officers than by how long or worse, a spoils system. Officers in the police should be subject to written examinations, followed with an interview to assess their abilities to raise policing. They should be tested on their analytical and problem-solving skills and anyone found lacking should have their jobs taken from them. A DIG who has acquired great skills through training and experience in say, fighting terrorism and is doing well on the job shouldn’t be expelled simply on account of a lower-ranking officer being made head of the police. Doing that deprives the nation of an officer the service and the country need. We all know that the appointment of an IG or army chief is more political than anything. There is no need pretending that it is not, even if the reason we do so is to save careers and retain well-trained and skilled service personnel. Enough of this wastage of acutely needed human resources.