One of the best initiatives taken by the Federal Government a few years ago to boost the critical security sector in Nigeria was the establishment of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). Even more important was the appointment of its first Commandant General, Dr. John Ade Abolurin, a personable gentleman who combines academic profundity and administrative sagacity with unusual humility and remarkable peacefulness.
As Nigeria goes through these troubling times and leadership in many spheres of our national life is a colossal disappointment, the example of Dr Abolurin is an accentuation of E. B. White’s assertion that there is hope. “As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate,” White wrote.
It is said that seeing is believing, an encounter with Dr Abolurin in Abuja truly demonstrated that he truly deserves, or even surpasses, all the accolades that have been showered on him, including being the essential “Good Citizen of the Federal Republic” (GCFR). I found that, as Idang Alibi wrote two years ago, truly, “Abolurin epitomizes frugality, focus, patriotism, sense of mission and above all honesty and prudence in the management of public funds.”
Leadership is everything and what the NSCDC is today, a well-respected para-military organisation and an envy of other establishments ofitst like, is due to the hard work, tenacity, diligence and the personality of its Commandant General. He has the singular credit of building the corps from the scratch until it attains its current level of achievements. He is the model security officer whose discipline and commitment to excellence should be emulated by all Nigerians, especially our armed men in uniform.
At a recent Strategic Training Workshop for Senior Officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) on Conflict Prevention, Peacebuilding and Election Monitoring held at the Civil Defence Academy, Sauka, Abuja, where I was privileged to be a facilitator, I had the opportunity of seeing Dr Abolurin in close quarters. The impression he left in many of us meeting him for the first time is unmistakably overwhelming. Soft-spoken, avuncular, simple, courteous and intelligent, he strikes you as the quintessence of civility.
It was not therefore surprising that everyone that knows him spoke glowingly about him. The Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, who chaired the opening ceremony, was fulsome in extolling his virtues. His submission flowed from the heart, not just a matter of expressing platitudes often associated with such occasions as a matter of protocol. Several dignitaries, including security chiefs, abandoned all they had to do on that Monday morning to honour his invitation and demonstrate support for his commitment to enhancing the capacity of his men.
It did not take long before I came to realise that civility constitutes the heart of the NSCDC. In other words, beyond the actual meaning of NSCDC, I came to the conclusion thatt the acronym means more. NSCDC has demonstrated that it stands for Neutrality, which is the hallmark of professionalism, by not dragging itself into politics and remaining true to its constitutional duties. The organisation also symbolises Sacrifice, a true mark of any security agency that is worth its name. Other attributes represented by the other letters are Civility, Discipline and Competence and I saw all these qualities with my inner and outer eyes.
Few Nigerian public officers are as humble as Dr Abolurin, a man of wisdom and great learning. The words of T. S. Elliot seemed to have their practical manifestation in him with clinical precision: “The only wisdom we can hope to acquire/ Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.” Dr Abolurin’s humility, even while engaging his subordinates, is endless.
Nigeria actually owes Dr Abolurin a debt of gratitude because there would have been deadly clashes between the police and the NSCDC if not because of his peaceful and amiable nature. Last month, in Ikorodu, Lagos, a policeman attempted or threatened to shoot the Commandant General while on an official assignment on pipeline vandalism. Abolurin restrained his equally armed men and told the policeman to shoot him. The video clip of the event is gripping. Another person in Dr Abolurin’s position would have handled the matter differently and the outcome would have been disastrous.
Just last week, right in front of the NSCDC headquarters, there was also a sort of provocation that the NSCDC still handled with maturity. According to news reports, “about 10 policemen on Friday attacked an officer of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in front of corps headquarters….This development caused pandemonium around the Peoples Democratic Party’s headquarters and other areas leading to the NSCDC headquarters as people scampered in directions to avoid being hit by stray bullets.”
A striking discovery during the engagement with the NSCDC is that Dr Abolurin has inspired his officers and men to attain high level of academic and professional training as there are many officers of the corps who havye a docttorate degree, not to talk of Master’s. This academic pedigree has partly informed the competence and temperament of the corps, for which Dr Abolurin deserves additional credit. A man of peace in theory and practice, it is not surprising that invitations are being extended to him across the world preparatory to the completion of his tenure.
SHETTIMA’S STIRRING SPEECH
It is said that the true mettle of a man is tested not in the period of prosperity but at the time of adversity. What actually projected Winston Churchill, the war-time Prime Minister of Britain, was his uncanny ability to inspire and stir his people in the face of attacks and challenges. What Churchill did during the big war in Britain is what Shettima is doing in the current war against Boko Haram in Nigeria.
The troubled Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, won my heart with the quality of his stirring speech to his traumatised people last week. I almost shed tears when I read, “As Governor of Borno State, I am un-forgetfully aware that for every life that is lost in Borno State, I will account before Allah on the Day of Judgment if that life is lost on the basis of deliberate failures on my part, to do what I have the powers, resources and influence to do.”
Those are weighty words that would certainly give succuor to the besieged citizens of Borno State from a man who understands the burden of leadership. May God (continue to) expose, humiliate and punish those who are behind the orgy of violence that has made life short, brutish and nasty for Nigerians in the north east!