Police protest in Maiduguri
I have always admired the ingenuity of spokesmen of the Nigeria Police. Whether at the federal, zonal or state level, these officers sure know how to tell a fib. And I have not said they lie or are liars. But they strike me, always, as persons very skilled in the art of mendacity. Is there something they swallow or strap to their tongue that makes them eternally inclined to disingenuous inventions, the type that calls white black and death life? Or is it just pressure of office?
Yes, perception management can be difficult. Especially if the subject is a perilously bad product. Like managing the image of a Nigerian politician. It can be a tough call. Bad manners, low or zero integrity, a propensity to stealing public funds, an orgasmic inclination to foul up the air with indecorous manifestations, including lying to themselves are some of the dour traits that a perception manager would have to deal with.
I understand all that. But what I don’t understand is why the same perception manager would think everybody out there is a dunderhead, some dumb heads who would believe whatever they are told. No matter, the image maker must give his audience some intelligence; he must credit them with some sense of discernment and rationality.
This is why I find the explanation of the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Mr. Jimoh Moshood, on the Monday protest by some mobile cops in Maiduguri monstrously ridiculous. The story was straightforward. Mobile policemen posted to Maiduguri on special assignment have not been paid their duty allowances since January this year. That adds up to six months. They are in Maiduguri to complement military efforts at taming terror. They are supposed to get special duty allowances but it is not forthcoming.
Angry and probably hungry, they massed through the streets of Maiduguri to the Command headquarters to register their grievances. They shot into the air. They threw canisters of teargas. They did not harm anybody. They did not harass passersby. They knew what they wanted: to get the attention of the police top hierarchy and anybody in authority who will intervene on their behalf. Did I hear someone say treason? Well, not when they are hungry; not when their lives are on the line and somebody is sitting on their money. Some are family men with wives and children. Their families need succour but they can’t provide it. Anger surely will brew and it did brew. And I sympathise with them. The real felons in this matter are those sitting on their money; money meant for the comfort of those thrown into the theatre of war.
People saw these protesting Mopol. They heard gunshots; they smelt the noxious, pungent teargas. Video and still pictures of the protest were streaming through cyberspace simultaneously. It was so, so real; so, so true that all was not well in the Mopol platoon. In the midst of such overwhelming evidence of a serious security crisis, the police mouthpiece, Moshood, told Nigerians that no protest ever took place. He said the Mopol only went to the Command headquarters to make enquiry as to when their allowances would be paid. Really?
I reckon that this must be a novel way to make enquiry in the Nigeria Police. Splendid! My only fear is that if a mere enquiry on why they have not been paid could assume this terrifying show of force with guns blazing amid a caustic stench of teargas what would happen on the actual day of payment? They sure will roll out an armada of Amoured Personnel Carriers (APCs). Mr. Moshood’s explanation simply insults. It offends as it slurs the intelligence of Nigerians. In perception management, there are times you come out wholly to state it as it is. You do not resort to embellishment or dissimulation. No subterfuge, no guile. Just stay frank. This is one of such times. Stating the truth with a caveat, as he added, that the delay in passing the 2018 budget stalled the payment of their allowances would have attracted public sympathy especially when he also added that such allowances would be paid any moment from now following the recent passage and accent to the appropriation bill.
But he decided to turn logic on its head. He gave enquiry a new and curious meaning. He didn’t have to. Yet, Moshood’s galling fib should not dissuade us from a critical analysis and implication of the Maiduguri show of shame. And it is not a shame on the protesting Mopol. Never! It is a shame on the police authorities who would dispatch human beings to a battleground and leave them hungry. This singular act of denying armed policemen their allowances and making them go hungry is the real act of treason not the protest by the cops. You do not keep your security operatives hungry and angry. Even as an individual, those minding your security should operate with the confidence and consciousness that their labour is not in vain. You must make real effort to keep them happy otherwise your own security is jeopardized. A hungry and angry man, armed with a gun, is a danger to society.
I have always argued that Nigeria does not treat police operatives kindly. The burden of our internal security in on them yet they are themselves beclouded by a halo of insecurity. We make the police insecure when we deny them their allowances and entitlements. We make them insecure when we owe police retirees their pensions and emoluments. And you cannot entrust your security to the hand of an insecure man. That’s an invitation to anarchy.
The Maiduguri protest is not new. During the presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a bigger protest erupted from the ranks of policemen over non-payment of salaries and allowances. After the dust settled, the then Inspector-General of Police Tafa Balogun was accused of amassing so much wealth at the expense of his men. He was prosecuted and convicted and a hefty N17 billion heist was traced to him.
The current IGP, Ibrahim Idris, must not walk this ignominious path. It is already a blight to his name that under his watch, a critical component of our national security, Mopol, would mass through streets to protest non-payment of allowances, budget delay or not.
The President should order an independent inquest into this. There could be more to these Mopol being owed allowances for six months. Buhari should learn from the pitfalls of his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, whose nonchalant attitude to internal security paved way for mindless looting of security funds by those entrusted with the responsibility of minding such funds.
Meanwhile, the PPRO, Moshood, should be told in very clear terms that Nigerians are smarter than he thinks. He does himself grave harm when he deploys sophism and artifice as tools of his trade. He is managing the image of a character-challenged institution, to wit the police; he should not add to the thickness of the veneer of dishonesty that currently weighs down this institution.
Courtesy: Sunday Sun newspaper