Inside Stuff With MARTINS OLOJA: A COLLOQUIUM NOTEBOOK ON ‘CORRUPTION AND INSECURITY’.

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I would like to ask for permission to suspend the conversation on ‘Guberwatch’ this week because more trees have fallen on our trees and the topmost should be removed first as our elders have consistently advised.

I attended an unusual one-day conference organised by an old soldier in the world’s best profession (journalism) that everyone and other professionals teach every day.

Specifically, last Thursday, August 29 our sister, Mrs. Janet Mba-Afolabi, publisher of a digital journal, ‘SCROLL Report’ organised a one-day conference with a theme: ‘Fighting Corruption and Insecurity: The way forward’. The journalist who began her career in ‘Newswatch’ in the early 1990’s and later joined ‘Tell’ magazine as Assistant Editor involved me as a member of one of the four panels that discussed different contexts of the theme.

When she informed me about my role as a likely keynoter, I was not so impressed by the general nature of the theme.

But the well-attended colloquium was very impressive, after all. The Inspector-General of Police sent a representative from Lagos Command, Oqua Effiom Etim, Deputy Commissioner, to give a remark on ‘insecurity and corruption’.

What is more, Frank Odita, former Commissioner of Police and former Force, Public Relations Officer and Fatai Owoseni, Former Commissioner, Lagos and Benue, recently appointed by the Oyo State Governor as Special Adviser on Security and Executive Secretary of Police Trust Fund, were there. They spoke very eloquently on the twin evil plaguing the country: corruption and insecurity. They also spoke on the trouble with policing in Nigeria.

Most of the speakers may not be prominent, but they are quite significant, as Rick Warren would have noted, in this regard. Professor Abigail Ogwezzy Ndisika, Head of Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Mr. Wahab Shittu a Legal Consultant to EFCC, Toun Okewale Sonaiya, Managing Director, Women Radio,  Agatha Amata, Anchor, ‘Inside Out’ and Managing Director, ‘Rave Television’, Comrade Ojikutu Ahmed Adeniyi,  President, Computer Village, Lagos, Kenny St. Brown, an artiste, were there as resource persons.

They all spoke passionately to the theme of the conference.

The colloquium on dealing with the two troubles with Nigeria, ‘corruption and insecurity’ was unique in that the discussions were so organic that only very few remarks touched on official corruption. Most of the discussants agreed that corruption has been the reason insecurity has been ticklish and has been growing luxuriantly like yam tendrils in the rainy season.

It is not important to mention who said what and in what contexts. I would just like to share some lessons from my notebook with you. And so, state actors who have made ‘fighting corruption and insecurity’ ‘fundamental objective and directive principle of state policy’ should learn from the notebook.

The first critical failure factor that almost all the resource persons touched on is our ‘culture of impunity’. Most participants were angry that there is still no consistency in investigation and prosecution of suspects beyond curious media trials and noise. The colloquium noted that the authorities have not been ready to rely on police service to fight the monsters – corruption and insecurity – with poor funding of the force that most citizens are not aware of. ‘What would a police station in a state do with as low as N30, 000 worth of imprest in a month? To buy what?’ a panelist asked. Yet the police force is charged with the responsibility of internal security, not the army that has been well funded.

‘Sociology of Corruption and Insecurity’

One critical factor that the speakers also harped on is the role of the family, in the war on corruption and insecurity. Most stakeholders would like the parents to look inwards and examine their role when we mention endemic corruption that has ruined the image of Africa’s most populous nation. One old resource person looked into the seed of our times and said, ‘If you are a parent and you paid agents to help your child pass examinations or get admission, note that you are corrupt…If you ever paid a police officer for easy passage on a beat, you are corrupt…If you ever paid to jump any queues in any setting, you are corrupt…If you were paid to vote for a candidate of even your choice, you are corrupt…’ There were many faces of corruption, the colloquium identified outside the official circles we always pinpoint across platforms.

In other words, the ‘SCROLL Report’ platform noted that the fight against this twin evil should begin from our individual homes before we can have the moral right to shout at politically exposed people, for instance. A point was well made in this groundswell of opinion that ‘if Nigeria can defeat corruption at all levels, conditions that have given rise to insecurity will disappear’.

There was consensus that corruption is the reason insecurity has suddenly become an industry that even security agencies would not like to end.

Besides, the conference would like the authorities, non-governmental organisations and individuals to note that, ‘whenever corruption becomes a king, there will always be criminal networks, civil disobedience and disorder….and so the king, called corruption should be dethroned for insecurity to lose its strength ….’

‘Federalism, corruption and national security’.

Meanwhile, the conference also noted that corruption and insecurity couldn’t  be fought with the unitary system of government we practise at the moment. So, people, authorities and indeed our representatives in all the federal and state assemblies in Nigeria should not pay lip service to the on-going conversations and consultations on political restructuring of the federation. It was noted that restructuring would return us to the structure that led to development in all the four regions that the ‘Federal Republic of the Nigerian Army’ ruined in 1966.

‘The FBI’s G-77 Hall of Shame’

One panelist simplified some consequences of corruption on the country’s brand reputation and development when he noted in a comic relief context that, ‘Because of corruption, Nigeria, being a developing economy is not a member of G-7, but was not invited to last week’s meeting of G-7 in France as many African leaders (including South Africa’s) were there; Nigeria is not a member of G-20 but South Africa is; Nigeria is not a member of BRICs, a new powerful Club of Emerging Markets comprising (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa; But Nigeria is now a member of G-77, just ‘formed’ by the United States’ FBI…What a way to hit the headlines for the wrong reason, no thanks to corruption and homeland insecurity unchecked….’

‘Let’s all be angry with the demon’

Lest I forget, one of the many women panellists who made the conversations business unusual, pointed out that for us to confront the monster (corruption and insecurity) that has held us down, we need to be angry. According to her, we need to be sufficiently angry, for instance about our lack of commitment to fighting corruption and insecurity in the land.

In addition to that, the colloquium noted that as a people, we should not celebrate products and proceeds of corruption. We should demonstrate against and condemn ostentatious lifestyles of our political leaders that are inconsistent with their incomes. In the same vein, there was a suggestion that our leaders should be prosecuted to forfeit the assets acquired as proceeds of corruption.

 ‘Media, corruption and homeland insecurity’.

Most speakers at the forum were unhappy with the role of today’s media in contextual reporting and analysis of the state of fighting corruption and insecurity in the country. It was said that for social change to occur there must be robust coverage of corruption and insecurity through thorough investigations. But the forum was told that unfortunately it appeared that the news media in the country at the moment lacked capacity and resources to cover corruption and insecurity.

And so, the consequence has been covering up, instead of covering the locusts that have eaten our years. In the main, the forum urged the civil society and other stakeholders to join the bandwagon of citizen journalism in covering the system as it was done during the fight for actualisation of June 12 presidential election result in 1993 when the civil society organisations supported the media with data and facts to fight the military coupists who annulled the free and fair election result.

People were told to use their powerful and not-so-powerful telephone cameras to take photographs of bad roads and schools in their areas and states, for instance and send same to the local news media. The participants were told to build robust relationships with local media reporters and editors for publications of their photo reports and scoops as part of monitoring of governance.

One contributor said, ‘because corruption targets our commonwealth, we should all rise up to defeat the public enemy that has brought us to the ‘G-77 Hall of Shame’.

All told, one of the highpoints at the colloquium was how to deploy technology to fight corruption and this homeland insecurity. A Nigerian resource person from Computer Village, told us a story a police officer told him while researching his discussion points for the conference. According to him, some police officers just returned from China where they were taught how to us some digital camera equipment mounted in just a few places that could expose vehicles loaded with explosive devices and even guns from far distances. But the trouble now is that the police could not find authorities to purchase the equipment for crime prevention and detection. But in the main, participants were told to put pressure on government through their representatives to deploy technology in preventing corruption and insecurity.

Specifically, the ‘SCROLL Report’ 2019 Conference wondered when the whole gamut of identity management systems from SIM registration, through International Passport, Driver’s Licence Scheme to National Identity Cards would be integrated with other biometric platforms and features to locate and identify individuals in this vast country.

‘Inexperienced motivational speakers can corrupt’

Lest we forget, one of the speakers would like us to regard a situation whereby a young school leaver in his 20’s who has never worked anywhere, for instance, is engaged as a motivational speaker on issues he never experienced, as condemnable in our society.

Welcome to the Ember months!

Source: ‘The Guardian’, September 1, 2019, P.10.

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