By Helen Ovbiagele, Woman Editor
For millions of us around the world who need to watch their weight, any headline that has the word â€˜slimâ€™ in it, is a must-read for us.
The title â€˜Fat Cops To â€˜Slimâ€™ Downâ€™ which appeared on the internet the other day was of great interest to me.Â The news report was from South Africa.
â€˜Police Officers will be â€˜slim and trimâ€™ for the World Cup, MPs heard in Parliament on Tuesday.
Major-General Robbie Roberts told the Joint Public Hearing on 2010 preparations that officers from senior management down, were on fitness and Weigh-Less programmes and were â€˜losing weightâ€™ in the run up to the tournament.
â€œWe are putting focus on the fitness of our members,â€ Roberts said.Â He added that all police members were trained in crowd control, which included a fitness programme. â€œThey are called up once a week to form part of the fitness exercises regarding crowd control.Â I can give you an assurance that we are working to getting our policemen slim and trimâ€
MP Elizabeth Thabethe had asked Roberts about overweight policemen, after witnessing three quarters of them struggling through a practice drill at Cape Town Stadium.
â€œIn Cape Town they were practising as we were viewing the stadium.Â Three-quarters of them were overweight.Â How are you doing with that programme, because surely they must be able to run if there is an emergency and not be blocked by their weight.â€â€™
My write-up is not on how fit members of our law enforcement agencies are, or whether they need to lose weight or add to their weight.Â Rather, it is on how the South African members of Parliament took seriously, a thing that is very vital to security, but which in ourÂ country no-one would consider important to the task at hand.
Funny enough, it was a woman who noticed the fitness state of those policemen who were drilling at the stadium; how some of them were struggling through a practice drill.Â She was part of the committee which had gone on inspection of the stadium as part of the preparations for the World Cup which South Africa is hosting.
She voiced her fears on the overweight policemen she had seen, and the house of parliament considered it important to invite the Major-General to come give an account of the fitness of his men, and how prepared they were to handle issues relating to orderliness and security during the event.
Would our members of parliament be conscientious enough to take that step concerning the fitness of our security agencies?Â I doubt it.
They might have considered the observation of thatÂ female member of parliament a non-issue, and not agree to invite the head of the police to come assure them and the country,Â that his men were fit enough for duties during the world cup.
Fitness of the mind and body are very important to every human being, more especially those whose duty it is to provide security for the nation.Â They have to be alert and nimble on their feet so that they can be on top of any situation.
It isnâ€™t just the ability to carry a gun and point at innocent citizens to intimidate them, or extract money from them.Â The focus should be on being fit enough to be vigilant and be able to tackle disorder before it gets out of hand.
At the world cup, South Africa is showcasing their country, from top to bottom.Â The presence of so many people will bring in revenue in various forms, but it is also an opportunity to let the world know how their country functions; what social services work efficiently, the issue of security of lives and property, etc.Â Every detail has to be handled well so as to promote their country.
If we were the hosts of such a world event, wonâ€™t our major concern be the award of contracts about the various aspects of it?Â How we would corner some for ourselves, friends and members of our families and ethnic group?Â The desire to make money at all cost from any situation is our main undoing in this country, and one of the reasons many things donâ€™t work.
When government contracts are being given out, our main concern would be how much of the money we would get for ourselves, not how efficient the company given the contract is, on handling such work.
The result is shoddy work being done for the government with no accountability whatsoever.Â Inferior materials are used, and the contractor cannot be called to order because palms have been greased.Â Some contractors get half or full payment even before they lift a finger.
Supplies are paid for but goods are not delivered, or, they are inferior to the one specified in the contract.Â Any wonder that it is easy to abandon projects?
What have we to show the world that our country is developing?Â Is it efficient social services – provision of flawless electricity, clean potable water, easy and efficient means of transportation, security of lives and property, clean environment?
We would not think of things that would edify our nation and establish it as a country to be reckoned with.Â Ethnic bias which we place above national interest also blocks our national development.
Those Mps from the ethnic group of that South African Major-General would have taken offence that he was going to be invited to come explain the fitness of his men at the joint public hearing.
They might even see it as a threat to his job, and an attempt to reduce their quota of federal character in the force.
Of course the crime rate in South Africa is high and there are the issues of bribery and corruption, discrimination, etc.Â just like in our country.Â But while theyâ€™re doing their best to be transparent in governance, and areÂ trying to show the world that theyâ€™re moving forward, there are those amongst us whose minds are blocked to modern development.
This is a pity because weâ€™re creating problems for the future generation who need to interact with the developed world at all levels.Â Weâ€™re not equipping them for the future.
At fifty, Nigeria should clearly be seen as the leader in Africa, but sadly weâ€™re not.Â Weâ€™re known mostly for things which debase the nation.
Letâ€™s hope that our young peopleâ€™s eyes would be open to the wrong-doings at present, andÂ themselves acquire traits with which to move the nation forward.