By Tonnie Iredia
One of the submissions of this column last week was that Nigeria must stop leaving substance to pursue shadows. It was argued that if 25,000 police operatives posted to a state during an election cannot prevent hoodlums from snatching ballot boxes, why should anybody leave that substantive matter to discuss how the Inspector General of Police chooses to dress?
Why should Nigerians be more concerned about whether the Immigration boss wears his organizational uniform or not when the booklet for the issuance of travelling passports to our citizens is always in short supply? Indeed, if our prisons have over the years remained congested, of what use is a prison boss that is ever well adorned in his official uniform?
So, after our senators had successfully stopped customs from invading our homes under the guise of searching for improperly cleared vehicles, the invitation to the Comptroller General of Customs, Col Hameed Ali to compulsorily wear the approved uniform to appear before them had other motives that are still unfolding. That notwithstanding, why should Ali refuse to wear the official uniform of his current appointment? The explanations that have been given in support of the posture of the retired army colonel may establish in our opinion that Ali got a wrong appointment.
Those who are familiar with the man’s sterling antecedents along with his close working relationship with President Buhari would agree that he ought to be one of the President’s top most aides. But to send him to lead the customs “football team” that is expected to play in the current super league of national development does not appear well thought out because the captain of a football team that derives little or no joy in his team’s jersey can inadvertently create a casual team.
The army may be good at fighting a war but we cannot guarantee that its members would perform customs assignments better than those with the requisite training and cognate experience. Put differently, every assignment is important and no matter how mundane an assignment is, certain persons are better than others in its execution and they should be allowed to handle it. Surely, just as it is preposterous to send a customs official to serve as Chief of Army Staff, so would the reverse be.
Accordingly, the appointment of the current customs boss needs to be reviewed. Another appointment to be watched is the post of Director General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Since 1973 when the establishment took-off, government developed an inexplicable but immutable convention that the boss of the place must be a military officer as if the organization is a Military Parastatal. Interestingly, the less than one month portion of the one-year programme that requires some training sessions or anti- fatigue exercise is so insignificant as the corps members are thereafter sent to societal institutions for the rest of the service year to appreciate our heterogeneous nation. So, why must the leadership position of the place be filled to the exclusion of citizens who are career employees of the organization and who have the best knowledge of the place having worked there for 35 years?
The NYSC has therefore existed as an organization in which none of its employees no matter his knowledge and charisma can ever become the Chief Executive. It is a policy that needs to be reviewed in these times of change. Otherwise, NYSC officials would be tempted to smartly enrich themselves as soon as they become Directors knowing full well that they can never enjoy the chief executive perquisites.
It is not impossible that such a development may have filtered into the Police in which more often than not, the position of Deputy Inspector General (DIG) is all an officer can look forward to. This is because in several cases, a new Inspector General of Police is picked from the post of Assistant Inspector General (AIG) thereby prematurely removing from office all DIGs. Again, the argument that whenever that happens, government was reportedly unable to identify a suitable candidate among the DIGs is not persuasive as it implies that it is mostly ‘deadwoods’ that are appointed as DIGs. We suggest that efforts should be made to create a better empirical succession plan in the Police.
To this end, the Police Service Commission in conjunction the serving IGP should be mandated to always groom and present the best 3 officers at that level from which government can pick one. Except this is done, the nation stands to lose on two grounds. First, our DIGs on whom the organization heavily invests in the area of manpower development would not bequeath professional knowledge to posterity as a pay-back strategy. Second, the earlier point made about the NYSC would arise as many DIGs may, as soon as they are appointed, begin to casually perform official duties while vigorously capturing lucrative end-of- service assignments.
There are many other appointments which the President needs to watch in his determination to build strong institutions. For instance, quite often, government appoints people into offices in certain organizations in contravention of the enabling law setting up such organizations. Sometimes, this results from the failure to painstakingly scrutinize the appointees.
At other times, government deliberately closes its eyes to such illegalities because it is anxious to share the spoils of office to partisan loyalists. For example, although the law setting-up the National Orientation Agency (NOA) stipulates that the Agency should be headed by non-partisan persons, government from time to time appoints members of the ruling political party, to the post.
At state level, political stalwarts also assumed the power to nominate their party members as NOA State Directors. With little or no knowledge of even the rudiments of the job, such political appointees displace career professionals who had been groomed over the years in the techniques of mass mobilization. The implications of bringing such partisan novices into an agency that was supposed to convince people to have faith in government are not considered. Yet, the Agency was set up to mobilize favourable public opinions for government policies and programmes. Thus government’s contributory negligence is part of why our teeming masses never know what government actually does.