Not unlike the Biblical thief in the night, state police has stolen back into public discourse.

Suddenly everyone — or well, almost — seems to realize how integral it is to the federal security infrastructure.

Since the rather misleading report that President Muhammadu Buhari had “approved” state police; the Presidency’s almost instant disavowal to say the president had only set up an advisory panel on the matter; and the somewhat cheery news that state governors were approaching some unanimity on the matter, the polity had been in a whirr.

For protagonists, it’s a whirr of great expectations (to echo one of the classics of English novelist, Charles Dickens) — at last!

For antagonists, however, it’s grim brace-up for the final, do-or-die push against a subject that, under the federal doctrine, ought to be trite; but which got infected with needless bile — no thanks to opportunistic “restructuring” campaigners.

On state police, the polity would sure experience serious fireworks in the following weeks, if not months!

But first thing first: it is not presidential business to “approve” or reject state police. If one president could approve, then another could reject.

State police is too fundamental to be condemned to such presidential yo-yo. Rather, it is a constitutional matter that, once resolved, must be binding on all.

Still, it’s gratifying that PMB, not the most fervent federalist by any stretch; and certainly a command-and-control mind by his military training, appears nudging towards state police.

You could, therefore, say state police appears an idea whose time has come. But that would be in the clouds, where myth and concept mix in a puzzling mist.

Terra-firma, however, it’s the futility of meeting federal (read far-flung local) problems with a distant, one-shoe-fits-all unitary solutions.

That pathology is manifest in the current nationwide security scourge. But more and more, across all spheres, Nigerians must learn to develop local antidotes to peculiar local problems; rather than eternally await some central Leviathan to come work some magic.

That draws the discourse to the controversy likely to dawn, in the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), with opposing strands led by razor-sharp minds, among their ranks.

Ekiti Governor and new NGF chairman, Kayode Fayemi, symbolizes the pro-lobby.

Dr. Fayemi might be relatively young. But long before restructuring became convenient, emergency crusading, which neophytes speak in passionate tongues, the Ekiti governor had long been in the trenches for state police, as imperative to Nigeria’s re-federalization process.

Kaduna Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, one of the most cerebral among the governors’ rank, would likely champion the state police nay-lobby.

Though Malam El-Rufai boasts a tick-tock mind, brilliant and dazzling, he has already availed himself the luxury of that popular, if nauseating, Nigerian cliche — “Nigeria is not ripe”, on the state police question.

Now, proponents of state police are no saints any more than opponents are devils. Both are just a product of their socio-political evolution, even if both are bred in Nigeria, though in different parts.

Ironically, that very dichotomy in thinking should settle the argument: that Nigeria’s re-federalization is inevitable; and the present gloried unitary system is futile, since different parts of Nigeria boast different socio-political evolution.

Besides, Nigeria is huge and vast. Beyond the commonality of being Nigerian, its people are different and complex in their own ways.

Federalism, therefore, provides excellent tools for navigating these complexities, without necessarily dismantling the common strength: a powerful, hugely populated, big and vast country.

So, in the NGF, let both the Fayemi and El-Rufai strands bring it on! Let’s have the fireworks!

But let everyone know this is strictly no democratic contest (though it dawns under democratic tenets); where the majority must carry the vote.

It is rather a contest of rigorous ideas; where a tiny but critical mass may well trump a flabby majority, scared stiff by change; and willing to paper over its ruins. That would be a grave disservice to the future and its generations.

Students of literature know English Romantic poetry accounts for one of the most evocative: providing succeeding generations with excellent pathos and even bathos.

But even with the perils of climate change, what would modern living have been without the gains of the Industrial Revolution, which Romantic poetry rued with such evocative cries, pleasurable pains and sweet grief?

There is pain in change. But from such pains come gains. So, let it be for Nigeria’s re-federalization. At least, the security front has shown the present central system is clearly at the end of its tether.

So, let equity, not majority opinion, guide the NGF debate. Let the federal question be settled; and the place of state police in it. But let each state exercise its right to own police at its own convenient time.

For the federal authorities, please shun the “Nigeria is not ripe” orchestra. Like other cliches, that would appear another convenient cover by those who have not given — or won’t give — the subject a serious thought.

So, let the Federal Government do the needful; and push to parliament an enabling bill — an enabling bill that would not only amend the Constitution to allow state police but also set up rigorous procedures to avoid past abuses, that forced a sole central police on the polity.

For states, having own police is neither burden nor prestige. It is simply a tool to do urgent security work.

Though state police is not yet official, Lagos has different “police”, tackling different urban challenges: the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA (traffic), Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps, LASESC (environment) and the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps , LSNC (neighourhood safety).

All three perform some “policing” function. Lagos, tiniest in land mass but one of the most populated, has devised a means to protect its own environment.

So, should it be for every state. With the sad turn of events, it is clear the central Nigeria Police is ill-suited go it all alone.

Still, state police should shunt aside the last barrier against Nigeria’s full re-federalization. States should work own resources and control most of them, subject to tax laws in the land.

Had that been so, Zamfara would have mined its gold and other costly stones; pay the Federal Government the agreed share in taxation and royalty, as a way of sharing its good fortune with the rest of the country; and used its wealth to put in place a police that could secure its citizens against bandits.

That is the federal way. That is the way to go, if Nigeria must realize its full potential.



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