By Shola Oshunkeye
If I have any pain, as an adult Nigerian, that has refused to go, it is the weakness by most of my compatriots to stone the devil that makes us downplay our positives and elevate our negatives.
How much and how often do we celebrate Nigeria as the land of Aliko Dangote, Tony Elumelu, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Akinwumi Adesina, Adebayo Ogunlesi (the investment banker who owns Gatwick Airport in London), Robert Okojie (who was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame of the United States’ National Aeronautics Space Administration, NASA), Olawale Sulaiman, (one of the best neurosurgeons and experts in spinal surgery in America), Amina Mohammed (our amazon at the United Nations dazzling the world as Deputy Secretary-General)? Or Philip Emeagwali, the Nigerian computer scientist who gave the world its high-performance computing applications? Or, Leo Stan Eke, the computer guru who gifted the world with Zinox? Or our gallant policemen flying our flag high in United Nations Peace Keeping Missions abroad? How much do we celebrate them?
Rather, we allow the world to continue with their stereotypical imagery of Nigeria as the home of the Hushpuppies of this world, a drug hub, and world headquarters of cyber thieves.
Yet, we have so much going for us as a country, despite our peculiar mess. Penkelemeesi! As for me, I will never miss any opportunity to celebrate stars illuminating our skies. I will not stop telling the world that Nigeria is not about gloom and doom. It is also a land of excellence and infinite opportunities.
That is why, today, I celebrate Dr. Solomon Ehigiator Arase, the 18th indigenous Inspector General of Police, IGP. That is why I hail President Muhammadu Buhari for choosing Arase, one of the fines officers our country ever produced, as Chairman of the Police Service Commission, PSC. The President sent his name to the Senate on Monday, January 23, 2023, and the senators ratified the nomination on Wednesday, January 25. It’s a record. And am I surprised that the ovation still lingers over a week after?
No. Unless a man suffers from the blindness of the heart and deafness of the mind (Ngugi wa Thiong’o), and his eyes see black when the object before him is white, no sane person will doubt the fact that brainy Arase is the man for the job. Without apologies to any one, I say the cap fits Arase. Even dyed-in-the-wool antagonists of the Muhammadu Buhari Administration, who pick holes in every appointment the President makes, would thumb-up this one. Arase’s choice as the new PSC helmsman is a product of good thinking; it’s another instance when merit trumped mediocrity, and national interest drowned primordial sentiments.
Like the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, noted, the appointment could not have come at a better time than this when things are in a state of disequilibrium and palpable tension roils the political space. In the organisation’s estimation, this is another appointment in which Buhari recognized and rewarded competence, character, capacity, and unadulterated commitment to national cohesion.
The new PSC Chairman embodies all these, and more. His hands are not tainted with blood money, or slush funds. Unlike most former public officers, especially the politically exposed tribe whose names are recurring decimals in EFCC’s hall of infamy, Arase’s name has never been referenced in any sleaze. And he has never been linked to any of the leprous parties jostling for soul of Nigeria.
Most important, the Nigeria Police Force is Arase’s universe; the only universe he knows. His entire professional life started with and revolved around the Force. Solo, as his friends call him, knows no other love than policing, security and appurtenances of law and order. He eats, drinks and lives anything policing and security. For him, policing is life. And he did everything to be the best in that universe.
Talk of preparation meeting opportunity, and you are talking about Solomon Arase. Track his trajectory, and you find a man who over prepared for success. He so developed himself intellectually and professionally that whoever attempts to ignore him does so at his peril. Even an attempt to write a partial profile of him would seem like writing a book.
Born on June 21, 1956, to a father from Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State and a mother from Sabongida Ora in Owan West Local Government Area, Arase, who turns 67 this June, graduated from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1980, with a degree in political science. Straight from national service, he enlisted in the Nigeria Police Force in 1981. A highly resourceful mind constantly hungry for knowledge, he acquired other degrees-an LL.B from the University of Benin, LL.M from the Lagos State University (specialising in Corporate Management and Finance Law), a Master’s in Strategic Studies from the University of Ibadan, and a PhD in Public Law from the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma.
Through sheer hard work, diligence and honesty, Arase climbed the ladder of success rapidly, holding several key positions before President Goodluck Jonathan appointed him as IGP in April 2015. His sterling performance within that short period recommended him to President Muhammadu Buhari who retained him on assumption of office on May 29, 2015. And when Arase retired as IGP on his 60th birthday on June 21, 2016, Buhari hosted him to a dinner at the State House, Abuja, the first and only retiring IGP to be so honored by an incumbent President.
On his way up, Arase, a Fellow of Nigeria Defence College, recipient of the National Police Medal, and holder of the National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic, CFR, served in virtually all the strategic departments of the Force, including Operations, Investigation, Administration and Intelligence. He was Commissioner of Police in Akwa Ibom State where he developed anti-robbery and anti-kidnapping operational protocols that tamed the soaring crime rate in the state at the time.
Arase served three Inspectors-General of Police as Principal Staff Officer before being promoted Assistant Inspector General, AIG, and Head of the Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB). He acquitted himself well on the beat, executing landmark reforms and restructuring initiatives that culminated in the establishment of the Force’s Gender Unit. He also secured handsome funding from the Ford Foundation.
As Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG) in charge of the Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department (FCIID) of the Force, Arase collaborated with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to establish a Case Tracking and Analysis Unit. He introduced and enforced a Pre-Trial Detention Policy that drastically reduced incidents of arbitrary detentions in the force. He also established a state-of-the-art technical intelligence platform that restored the primacy of the Bureau as the most strategic intelligence agency in Nigeria’s internal security architecture.
Arase distinguished himself as a thorough-bred and much-sought officer on the international scene. An important member of the Nigeria Police contingent to the United Nations Mission in Namibia, the new PSC Chairman is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), International Bar Association (IBA) and Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). He currently serves as the National Legal Adviser of the Alumni Association of the National Defence College (AANDEC).
Earlier in his stellar career, the super cop served on several high-profile panels of investigation. He was a member of the Failed Bank Inquiry set up by the Federal Government to investigate the massive fraud that brought the Nigerian Banking Sector to its knees in the early 1990s. He was also in the Special Homicide Investigation Team that scrutinized the murder of the late Chief Bola Ige, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation in the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidency, who was shot dead at his Ibadan residence on December 23, 2001.
Still on his way up, Arase also served as Head of the Lagos State Criminal Investigations Department where he collaborated with the state’s Ministry of Justice and the Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA (Criminal Justice Programme), to midwife landmark reforms and evaluation mechanisms. At other times, he was Secretary to the Presidential Committee on Nigeria Police Reform (2006), and member, Nigeria Police Committee on Review of the Nigerian Constitution/Police Act.
A man of high intellect and insatiable appetite for knowledge, the PSC Chairman has contributed several scholarly essays to various local and international publications, and participated in several workshops and other professional engagements in United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS.
As IGP, Arase implemented policies that headlined him as an essential police reformist. A consummate team player, he adopted intelligence-led policing strategies, community partnership, cutting-edge technology to policing functions at all levels, stopped the abuse of pre-trial detention powers of cops, and engendered strong capacity building initiatives that enhanced the intelligence and operational capacity of the Force.
If Arase was a dynamo in uniform while in service, he is a fireball in retirement. Superbly energetic, the man is as busy as he was in office. Shortly after his retirement, he was appointed Chairman of a Task Force for the implementation of the Edo State Anti-Community Development Association Law.
Policing apart, he runs a state-of-the-art law firm, Solomon Arase & Associates, in Wuye district, Abuja. A security consultant with expansive national and international connections, the new PSC Chairman consults for several corporate organisations, institutions and state governments; as well as international bodies like the European Union and United Nations. A member of the Geneva-based Association for the Prevention of Torture, APT, Arase is one of the drafters of the protocol on investigative interviewing to guide detectives and other police officers in their work. It is called the Mendez Principles.
The Mendez Principles enjoy staunch support from many countries across the world. At the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, last September, Chile led 53 countries to issue a strong statement of support when the document was presented. The soaring international support reached a milestone when the Mendez Principles were referenced twice at the august assembly.
Despite his intimidating credentials, there may still be some naysayers who would say, so what? Oun nikan ni? Is he the only one? To them, I say: go home and lick your wound. The train has left the station. For how long are we going to roast merit in the fiery cauldron of mediocrity and continue to lift the very devil that has almost turned our land to a wasteland? For our country to rise again and compete well with its peers in the congregation of decent nations, we must exorcise the evil spirits of corruption, mediocrity, godfatherism, ethnicity, religion or political sentiments, and enthrone merit. Like Peter Obi has consistently advocated, our leaders must stop pushing merit under the table and promote character, competence, capacity and selfless service to Fatherland. These qualities find convergence in Solomon Arase. That’s why I hail his appointment as Chairman of the Police Service Commission.
One more thing: we must kill and bury prebendalism-the political system where elected officials and public servants behave as if they reserve the right to share public funds according to their whims, and dispense favours to their supporters, co-religionists and ethnic affiliates at the expense of the common good. God bless Nigeria.