I could hardly make out the face of Benue State Governor Samuel Orton in his army camouflage on February 20, as he stood beside the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, when the latter called on him during the launch of operation Cat Race aimed at ending the killing spree in the state. Looking all confident and rearing to go after the marauders who have practically made the sate ungovernable for several months, the feeling of comradeship on the face of the governor was palpable.
So what has changed? Why is the Benue Governor at ease with the one and at loggerheads with the other you may ask?
Compare Governor Ortom’s welcoming posture with Tukur Buratai to his verbal wars with Ibrahim Idris, the Inspector General of Police (IGP). What is the difference between two leaders of the security apparatus of government, the one heads the Police, the other the Army. The Police was first on the scene, but was unable to function not because of perceived incompetence but on account of seemingly soft issues that overtook the needed military hardware which was not in short supply.
Reminds me of a terse message from a reader not-too-long ago: “Dear Madam, I was highly troubled by your quote on leadership and communication, this is because I am contesting election in 2019 and deficient in nearly every area of communication.” It is generally accepted that a problem identified is half solved. If an individual can pinpoint his weakest link, it becomes difficult to understand why the police has remained helpless in tackling its Archille’s heel.
The attitude of IGP Idris as the head of the police force is an eloquent testimony of the institution he leads. To the average Nigerian, the infirmity of the force is more of dearth of social skills as against technical skills which is why the cliché, ‘Police is your friend’ has remained a hard sell. The disposition towards their customers – the civil populace – is anything but warmhearted as exhibited by the IGP.
Contrary to a local proverb, which states that one does not dwell on the rantings of a grieving widow who accuses everyone of complicity in her husband’s demise, the police boss seemed bent on a deliberate mission to undermine his professional neutrality in the crisis. From one misstep to the other until the deafening calls for his sack reverberated across the land, echoing as far as the National Assembly. To add icing to the cup of foibles, the police spokesman, Moshood Jimoh, taking a cue from his boss, described Governor Ortom as a drowning man on February 6, during a programme on Channels Television.
Mortified at the irrationality, the House of Representatives, which condemned such unprofessional attitude from a high ranking officer, on Wednesday, February 7, ordered the Inspector General of Police (IGP), to apologise to Ortom as well as the removal of Moshood Jimoh, the Force Public Relations Officer.
The ensuing frosty relationship between the people of Benue State and the police therefore made any attempt at arresting the crisis a mirage. It was therefore not surprising to see the Chief of Army Staff instead launching a military exercise meant to flush out the marauders from the state.
The meat of the matter is central to the principles of etiquette. The top cop was accused, among other things, of being unprofessional, insensitive, biased in clear contradiction of constitutional responsibility of maintaining law and order and even disobedience to the orders of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria all of which are contrary to the rules of engagement.
Is the Inspector General of Police guilty of these allegations? The answer is in the negative. The worriment is that the police has maintained an ‘analogue’ approach to the modern demands of finesse and professional polish in communication. The architecture of information dissemination in the ‘digital’ age of the day makes diplomacy a crucial ingredient in our ecosystem. The police in its interface with the public must embrace essential soft skills and ensure that discharge of constitutional responsibilities is within the ambit of social graces.
Like a moving train, etiquette does not wait for any one: you either get it or you don’t. Those who do leverage and deploy it as competitive edge, those who don’t like victims of a bulldozer are left wondering what hit them. The effectiveness of the force is heavily dependent on the rapport between the institution and the populace and this is achievable only through etiquette.
The police undermined its efficacy, masterminded reputational damage on account of its discourteous approach. This is how soft issues override serious matters.
My boss always used to say, “Do not buy the rope with which you could be hanged.”
Do not undermine your self.