Dr. Ibrahim Yakubu Lame was a Minister of Police Affairs during the late President Yar’Adua administration. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the chairman of Fariah Foundation states that no society can develop well if it does not have a good security system in place.
As a former Minister of Police Affairs, how would you rate the Nigeria Police now?
For the few months I headed that ministry, I understood the problem of the Nigeria Police. I understood their capacity and what was available to them, their problems and solutions.
What are their problems?
They are under-utilised because they have not been given the environment to operate. They are not well equippe. They are not well trained and their welfare is not well addressed. Their leadership is also an issue.
Has the Federal Government addressed these problems over the years?
It has degenerated and the number of the police is equally inadequate compared to the United Nations ratio. This can be addressed if other things are available. We need massive technology to police Nigeria. We need to have a system that will really police this country. We need to install CCTV cameras everywhere and modern communication systems must be given to the police to enhance their performance. Their training must also be addressed. You will be surprised when you see how the police participate in difficult situations in spite of our poor conditions. These days, the policemen and women now sew their uniforms by themselves.
Nigerians have a negative perception of the Police. What can be done to change it?
The Nigeria Police is part of the Nigerian society. If you want to change the perception Nigerians have about the police, you must change the perception of the people and leadership. You must pity the Nigeria Police because they have guns in their hands, yet people do a lot of negative things in the society. If you must blame the police, then you must also consider what they go through on a daily basis because the police are made to work with governors, ministers, commissioners and other prominent people in society. They see how these people waste resources and live flamboyant lives, yet they are suffering. Nearly one-third of the police force is doing these kind of job. They see how we abuse power and government resources daily. Any police working with you is not working for you. He is giving report on you to his office and when he doesn’t do that, he knows everything about you. He knows you are stealing government money and yet they have no barracks, some still use baton or antiquated weapons to fight crime. So how do you expect them to function properly?
What will it take to make Nigeria Police a world-class police?
First of all, we need to restructure the police. We need to regulate the authority of the police from the lowest level to the top. We need to give a level of independence to the units like DPO, divisional heads, commissioners and other senior officers. The office of the DPO must be well equipped with what he will need to function because he stays within the community and needs all the instrument he will need to fight crime in that community. The DPO should be given the environment to function effectively. The DPO must be able to prepare his budget and he must be one of the high ranking officers so that they can understand the communities and be able to interact with the community members. You cannot effectively police a state when you don’t have the necessary instrument to work with. All of them should be given a certain level of confidence and authority to function. In the long run, I believe each unit of government should have its own police.
Are you in support of the agitation to create a state police?
Yes, I am fully in support of state police because we are a federation. The units must have a structure that will make them perform their basic functions. You must give them their own police. You can have national police, state police, local government and even universities should have their police because security is the mainstay of the society. Then you will need to have a common control room or center that will monitor and coordinate these different segments of police. No society will develop well if you don’t have good security system in place, you will just be wasting your time. China and America have the same orientation of community policing.
If you go to Israel even Rwanda, it is the same because you cannot compromise security. You don’t just pick anybody and make him Minister of Police or Inspector-General of Police. In other climes, the IGP is an appointment from outside the police force. It’s not only the police that give security but they are the institution that are charged to secure the citizens. If the police are properly equipped and trained, the military will go back to its main function of protecting the territory integrity of the country not like what we have now where the military are virtually in every state. The military capacity is being overstretched.
Let’s talk politics. Some members of the APC believe that if the crises arising from the last governorship primaries are not resolved, the party could disintegrate. Do you share this view?
Primaries are always the foundation of a stable regime. In a democracy especially the type we are operating, you cannot become a political leader until and unless you belong to a political party. We don’t have a provision for an independent candidacy and you cannot be a candidate until you are chosen and your name submitted by your party. The primaries of any political party constitute the recruitment of quality leadership. So when the primaries are not done properly, the people don’t get what they truly deserve. The APC primaries was nothing but a sham. It’s the most disappointing primaries I have ever seen that I participated in. I have participated in all primaries from 1999 in all the major political parties, I have never seen a primaries that was so badly conducted, so dangerously portrayed like the last primaries. I said that because this party was built on the foundation of credibility, democracy, and of change. So we expect that the rules of the game will be fair because once you lose that, you will lose everything. The last primaries brought about a lot of probleme to the APC. There was massive corruption, the rules and guideline of the party were abused.
By the party
Was it at the state or national level?
At all levels because it is the responsibility of the party to organise the primaries. So whether you say it’s at the national or state, it is the party’s fault. It didn’t take its time to organise a credible primaries and the people who have constituted themselves into an obstacle took opportunity of these loopholes. People who came to the party because they needed a platform, they never believe in the philosophy of the APC which we brought to Bauchi state. These people came in and our mistake was to accept them into the party. We opened up our gates and many people came in at the last hour because it was clear to them that, their party was losing elections and they needed a platform to continue their privileged positions.
So they wanted to use another platform to come into position of prominence and they rushed into APC with a lot of money to buy positions. Immediately after the primaries of our party in Lagos in 2014, APC started crumbling and this is because the people that came in came for the purpose of getting positions and once they got it, they started planning how to destroy the party and secure their own future. It started from the election in the National Assembly. The result that came out was clear manifestation of the purpose of those that came to use the APC as a platform. We couldn’t blame the different parties that came together and formed APC because it made us achieve our aim, but immediately the president emerged in 2015 as our candidate, the party went into its cacoon.
Are you agreeing with the assertion that APC is just a marriage of convenience?
Yes it was a marriage of convenience but you have to understand that the initial movers of the merger meant well for this country. Unfortunately we thought opening our doors to other people will strengthen our chances of winning elections. Some of us saw it at that time that, it will be the beginning of our destruction. I was one of those who believed that we could go alone the way we started without getting these multitude of people that came in and I believe many of us shared that view. If we had gone ahead with our initial focus, we would have still won the elections and it would have been better for us. We would have blended easily and formed a government that will be fast in implementing the programs of the party.
With what has played out during and after the primaries, do you still have faith it the APC?
APC is my party and I believe we can still do something to rectify the problem.
Given the opportunity to advise the leadership on how to resolve these crises that came with the primaries, what will it be?
The problem is from the party and some of the functionaries of the APC, especially the state governors must be made to understand that the party is supreme, so that the party can function without depending on certain organs of government. The party can be funded through membership contributions so that there will be a demarcation between the function of the executives who are members of our party. We shouldn’t allow a group of people to hijack the party and determine who aspire to what and who gets what position. We have been having this problem since the PDP days.
Don’t you think the APC is now doing those things the PDP used to do that made them lost the general elections in 2015?
The party has not lived up to its responsibilities and the rules and regulations of the party have not been observed. So, I don’t know the state of the PDP now but I know what the APC is doing that is wrong.
Most aggrieved members of the APC have laid the blame for what played out at the primaries at the door step of APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole. Do you share that view?
Adams Oshiomhole is the chairman of the party, I believe he has his own problems. As the leader of the party, he is handling the situation and I believes in what he wants to do. I believe he wants to bring back the supremacy of the party. Once you say you are a member of a party and doesn’t have authority on who you recruit, it’s some people that sit somewhere and write names of people and expect the party to accept it, then there is a big problem. I think what Adams attempted to do was take the membership of the party back to the people. If I were him, I would have make sure I have all the necessary data and machineries needed, else you will find it difficult because the people in control of the party will sabotage your efforts. As a former governor, he should know that these guys will fight back.
So, are you in support of him to resign or stay?
No, I am not. I don’t believe he should resign at this critical moment especially when the elections are around the corner. I believe he should rectify whatever problem is there. He must have the courage to rectify this injustice that was done to honest and committed party members by some state governors.