By Abiodun Komolafe
There was a time in Nigeria when the name, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) suggested a dynamic, positive and functional institution. Perilous, and as the war against drug crimes and related offences was, society and criminals were conscious of the institution’s existence. During that time, everything was bright and beautiful for the Agency but, somewhere along the line, there was a lull and that lull represented a brief moment. It was as if it was strange to happen to Nigeria but, of course, it wasn’t strange to the world for a period of that nature to occur in public administration. Considering the level of corruption and institutional decay that has been deliberately overlooked in times past, the good news is that vibrant days are back under the present leadership.
It is one of the less-used attributes of historicism to be able to deduce the patterns and styles of administration from the antecedents of leadership structure. In the present dispensation, the expectations of the masses, written or unwritten, sum up the total willpower and goodwill of the founding fathers. Therefore, whoever is chosen to head the government establishment no doubt reflects the assurance of the government that such aims and functions of the NDLEA would be achieved under him.
Mohammed Buba Marwa was appointed as NDLEA Chairman at a critical time in Nigeria’s rich history. With only two years in office, it is interesting to note that the man at the apex of the institution has proved to Nigerians that he has something to offer; and those being mentored must not take it for granted, for this is the only way to sustain society. The management and staff of NDLEA must also be commended for previous achievements and improvements in the service to dear fatherland.
By all appearances, Marwa has made a positive impact on the NLDEA. The 70-year-old, Kaduna State-born retired military officer has relevant, diverse and better exposure in training, and he has brought the effects of those qualities to bear on the Agency and used them to deliver the goals of that office. If we are looking for an ideal model in public office, Marwa is one sure candidate. As a former governor, the Armoured Officer is well connected. So, he has the adequate finesse to run that office. He lives among the people. His experiential knowledge in administration has also helped. He is also level-headed and very quiet. He’s neither lousy nor one of those reckless ‘owambe’ gangs, yet he’s efficient. If Tinubu’s government wants to succeed, these are the kinds of people to use. How we also wish countries where the threats of illicit substances and their purveyors have “crossed borders and destroyed societies and dreams” would allow the Marwas of this world to help them!
As President Bola Tinubu said in a Keynote Address to the 31st meeting of the Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Africa (HONLAF) recently, the African continent would “remain in chains in a diseased and amoral world, as will our children and their children,” until it is able to “dismantle the criminal enterprises that threaten our future and build a brighter tomorrow for all Africans”. The tragic truth is that the devil has been around for long, cautious, yet determined. But again, that there’s an escalation of substance abuse in Nigeria has painted a picture of mere creation of a platform for surface scratching. For instance, how on earth will one claim to be fighting a societal menace while conditions that facilitate the same are being knowingly and intentionally watered and nurtured? How can Marwa dry the drug river that has already outburst its channel, with the spring of this dangerous river getting more illegally legitimate with each passing day? How can demons cast out demons and how can the Marlian emperor deal with his empire? Won’t success always be a steep hill to climb as long as the real lords of narcotics and highly influential cartels in the country continue to beat the long arm of the law to its strategies?
How can Nigeria plough the best course when “the future of our youth, the strength of our institutions, and the well-being of our communities” are architectured by a carnival of uncertainties? Why won’t ours be a world “at the mercy of a threat that knows neither race nor geography, neither gender nor social class” when, year in, year out, we allocate huge budgets to security and defence at the expense of equally critical sectors like Health and Agriculture? How can we enhance the production of goods and services in “a population at war with drugs”?
Right from time, Marwa has been a shrewd, decent and dutiful officer. But he is just a strong person doing well. But what happens after his tenure? The more reason those coming behind must watch what they do. A benchmark has already been set. It remains to be shown the aesthetics of management parley among future leaders. That’s what will distinguish the leadership of each institution because every leadership brings something that’s peculiar to it. Yes, that’s been our trajectory in Nigeria.
Since vigilance is the eternal price of victory, NDLEA must never lose its guard. The Agency is like a house of glass. Therefore, caution must not be thrown to the wind because the cost of rectification may be too much to pay for a struggling country like Nigeria. As an institution that works, the government must ensure that NDLEA is sustained. It must be well-funded and given all supportive mechanisms to keep it afloat until a tradition of perfection is established and sustained.
By the way, Naira Marley is a warning, not only to the NDLEA but also others, not to move with the tide. Had the Agency conducted proper due diligence before venturing into the choice of a face, the Marlian malady that’s currently troubling its public perception would have been avoided. If a boss is tough, it’s better for him to wear it as a badge of honour. If the world likes, let it misconstrue the word, ‘tough’ for ‘bad’; a focused leader doesn’t have to be moved because ‘tough’ is what gets the job done.
Whatever floats its boat, if it is necessary that NDLEA must have a face, let him or her be a credible person!
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
-Komolafe wrote in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (firstname.lastname@example.org)