Ezike’s riot act for volatile Rivers
At that point, Americans were caught between the old and the new in their political ideologies and thought processes. But, with this particular speech, the then Governor of New Jersey clearly declared where he stood. He stood for the new way of doing things.
Thus, after its delivery in his 1912 presidential campaign, a completely roused American populace knew it was time to run on a fresh impetus for their country.
Regardless, the enduring import remains quite germane for every society and situation. Things must continuously and continually move from one point to the other.
The essence of this message found a fresh expression a few days ago in Rivers State, when the new Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Ezike, engaged his officers and men, while unfolding a marshal plan for an enduring security template for the state.
Rivers State needs no introduction in terms of activities that have showcased the worst side of Nigerian society. Few examples will suffice. For allegedly stealing mobile phones and computers, four students of University of Port Harcourt, were, in October, 2012 summarily clobbered to death and set ablaze at Umuokiri Community, Aluu in Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state. A shocked world beheld that macabre spectacle in a video that was made of it, which went viral in various forms.
A year later, in July, 2013, members of the House of Assembly practically threw legislative decorum to the winds and descended into a gory free-for-all, employing every imaginary weaponry within their reach, like mediaeval gladiators to prosecute their war right in the hallowed chambers of the state assembly.
In the wake of the just concluded general elections, the state was mentioned for the wrong reasons, as wanton wastage of human lives in every form imaginable and in the most bestial manner, again took the centre stage. This was accentuated by the incidents of high-level kidnappings and cult wars, a phenomenon that appears to have assumed a form of tradition in the state.
Unfortunately, in all these scenarios, the police seem to have played a central role. Not a few of officers and men were suspected to have provided the arsenal with which the various wars were prosecuted. It is in this context that the import of Ezike’s marshal plan, particularly, his vow to reverse the trend, is located.
Hear him: “Specifically, kidnapping and armed robbery fuelled and energised by cultism have been on the increase. Consequently, the focus of my leadership shall be to reverse the trend and halt the drift. Accordingly, we shall provide qualitative service to the people of Rivers State, fight serious crimes of armed robbery, kidnapping and cultism with every strength we can muster, partner with other security agencies and non-state actors in a professional and transparent manner on this journey, respect the rights of the citizens and abhor corruption and corrupt tendencies.
“The 2015 elections have come and gone. However the ‘aftershocks’ still remain. The police under my watch must remain neutral, professional, fair but very firm. Any policeman who has political interest or is so committed to the ideals of any political party is advised to resign to enable him/her register as a political party member. All officers and men are to ensure that their actions and conducts remain within the provisions of the Nigeria Constitution, Police Acts and Regulations and other extant legislations.
“Within the same framework, any police officer that abuses the goodwill he enjoys or wallops same on the platform of ineptitude or corruption, will have full sanctions visited on him as applicable. Conversely, those subjected to indignation, attack or unprovoked humiliation will be adequately protected and defended within the provisions of the law.”
With those words, there is no doubt that the new police boss understands the monumental task on his shoulders. Luckily, he is one of those who could be counted as possessing the right credentials for the job he has been called to do, having joined the police with a clear vision. Ezike, an intellectual of the first class hue, is said to belong to the elite club that has provided the police with a lot of cerebral backbone for its policies and operations. That his pedigree as an activist, having cut his teeth as one-time president of students’ union of the prestigious University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), has equipped him enough to do things differently, cannot be in doubt. This, coupled with the various positions he has held in the institution, the last, being the Deputy Commissioner in charge of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad of Lagos State; can only inspire further confidence and engender enthusiasm that a radical approach, which the Rivers situation requires, would be emplaced to contain it.
Of course, it would be foolhardy to expect him to act unilaterally in this regard. Nobody succeeds by so doing. In the context of the well-established dictum that chain is as strong as its weakest link, there is no doubt that he would be needing all the support he could muster from all the stakeholders – his bosses in Abuja, subordinates in his command, the government at the state and federal levels, other security agencies and the Rivers community to succeed.
Granted that he is only one of the loops in this chain, his task would essentially be how to ensure that whilst his own is well oiled, he must equally get the same treatment along the line to ensure that none becomes rusty to necessitate any form of friction that could cause its breaking up.
Having made the right noises in that inspiring speech, and already taking clear actions towards walking his talk, it can only be left to time and space to determine how well he comes out. For, this is a terrain in which many like him have not come out smelling roses.
However, this is one man who could be an exception, if there would ever be any. That may be the reason for his choice at this time. It will certainly not be a walk in the park; it is that Midas touch that has earned him the quintessential and much-cherished tag of an officer and a gentleman within the force and outside that is expected to come handy here.
For those expecting the best, theirs is to continue praying, take a drink and wait to call the party later.
•Igboanugo, a journalist, wrote from Abuja.
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