By Tonnie Iredia
I was pleasantly surprised to stumble into a television documentary during the week which featured Mohammed D. Abubakar, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) functioning as a traffic warden. Unfortunately, I did not get to watch the entire episode but the two short scenes I saw made salient points. In one case, he was portrayed directing the free flow of traffic at a busy location.
In the other scene, he sat behind the counter in a typical police station attending with uncommon attention to public complaints. In both cases, Abubakar carried himself with candour and displayed traits of trained, competent and dutiful policemen of the developed world.
It is difficult to fault the decision of the IGP to embrace the old adage which says that examples are better than precepts. It is of course not enough to deliver daily sermons designed to put operatives in shape and in line; rather, showing them that the man at the top can capably implement what he proposes and constantly insists upon is a better leadership quality.
It can indeed evoke confidence in the staff as well as make them handle issues against the backdrop of what they see of their leaders. I congratulate Mohammed Abubakar for taking supervision to the point of assignment and creating for his institution, some semblance of uniformity in operations and a unity of direction.
Abubakar should order his documentary producers to make copies for all police formations for reference purposes. He should also evolve a practical course on it at the Police College where the documentary can be studied and examinations organized on the different processes and procedures therein. In addition, the experiment should not be an adhoc affair; instead it should be integrated into the segment on police ethics.
To sustain it, the IGP should play the role at least once a month and schedule all his immediate deputies and assistants as well as Commissioners of Police in the states to take their turns in the assignment. One obvious gain of the device is that it can bring dignity to police functions with every lowly placed operative doing his work with joy since the high and the mighty are seen to possess a similar productivity disposition.
The nation has so much to gain if government can direct other Chief Executives to emulate Abubakar’s example. If this is done, there would be ample reduction in the current trend where novices are imposed on institutions on the basis of prescriptive criteria such as place of origin, sex, religion etc. Not too long ago, a friend narrated his experience when he sought to dissuade government from appointing the most junior director in his organization to become its Chief Executive.
According to the story, he was told that the inexperienced director would learn! Of course that will take us nowhere near the 200 most developed economies in countless years. The truth is that Nigeria has much to gain if the Chief Executives of our public institutions have the necessary cognate experience and expertise that can make them enjoy the professional confidence of their work force.
Otherwise, we may continue to have institutions who as a result of inept leadership contribute nothing to the nation’s development
We are also likely to have executives whose functions would remain the same in every organization namely: to read a few newspapers, watch television for a while, drink tea, receive visitors and get summoned by the relevant committees of the legislature to negotiate oversight functions.
Thereafter, they spend the rest of the day paying compliments at different sections of what in Nigeria is known as parent ministry-an office from where the minister of the sector operates. The point to be made is that all those in authority are not likely to summon the IGP on the days he is known to be functioning as traffic warden or desk officer in one police station especially in faraway difficult terrains of Nigeria.
Here, personal experience illuminates this point because in my days in office, every person in authority avoided me each time i moved away from the comfort zone of Director General of NTA to serve as a ‘devastating’ presenter of the station’s network interview programme-Point Blank.
It would thus be nice to see how far the police can sustain the Abubakar innovation. It is likely to be tedious to accomplish but like in all human endeavours, nothing is impossible. In any case, the assignment happens routinely in many sectors. I remember vividly some outstanding university vice chancellors who still keep some hours of lectures in their original fields of specialization.
What the police requires is the determination and the will to succeed. To start with, a few hours of Abubakar serving as a traffic warden can hardly make the average traffic warden have the same job satisfaction as the IGP. The reasons are not hard to find. In the documentary that I watched, the IGP was chauffer driven from his experimental duty post of traffic warden to being a desk officer at a local station.
Those upon whom such functions fall as a routine have to start the day with the pain of how to get to work. They are also kept there for hours longer than the labour code prescribes. Secondly, until we see the IGP directing traffic in the rain, many operatives are not likely to remember his example or even the precepts. Put differently, the average Nigerian policeman is in dire need of substantive motivation.
A few suggestions would do. A typical police barracks need not have the unending face of a slum. Our policemen are citizens too and would love to live well. The Nigeria Police should thus not remain the poorest paid in Africa. We should stop the dehumanizing policy in which too many policemen in Nigeria are into mundane guard duties devoid of intelligence gathering. As this column once opined, the Ministry of Police Affairs in addition to the Police Council as well as a Police Service Commission constitutes too many cooks in the police kitchen. They are a veritable distraction to effective policing