OPINION: AREGBESOLA AND THE CORRECTIONAL CENTRES

Rauf Aregbesola

Oddities they say make the news. This time-honoured saying explains the recent reaction elicited when Rauf Aregbesola, upon assumption of office as the new Minister of Interior Affairs, declared that; he does not really know much about the operation or policies of the ministry apart from stories about the ministry on the pages of the newspapers; that his relationship with the ministry is distant.

Essentially, apart from the fact that we are in a nation where one size is expected to fit-all, what particularly characterized the comment as newsy is that the declaration came from a highly placed public officer in a country where every political leader, irrespective of how lowly placed, see themselves as all-knowing, more generous, more nationalistic, selfless, more honest or kind, more intelligent, good looking or well-briefed than other stakeholders.

Coupled with the fact that it came at a time when the Federal Government was making effort to reposition the Nigeria Prison service-a major parastatal in the \Ministry that recently transformed via an Act recently passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by Mr. President- which among other structural and administrative modifications changed its name from Nigeria Prison service to Nigeria Correctional Service.

Indeed, while many may construe  Aregbeshola’s  comment  to mean a self-declared vote of no confidence, it could to others, represent a smart  way of telling Nigerians not to expect much from his office, but  the truth judging from the global leadership model, is that by exposing his weakness, Aregbeshola demonstrated a leadership.trait that is in short supply in Nigeria.

Put in plain words, in the words of Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones, both Professors of Organizational Behaviors at London Business School, in a research report, titled; Why should anyone be led by you, among other findings stated that; when a leader shows the followers his/her weakness(s), it presents him as someone that is genuine and approachable – human and humane, And offers a leader valuable protection.

However, in a country like Nigeria where prisons (now correctional centers), are presently reputed for; congestion, ‘graced’ with dilapidated buildings and laced with overstretched facilities, one need not remind the Minister that declaration of  weakness before the people may not be a necessary remedy-but the need to awesomely develop a clear, detailed, purposeful goal rooted in reality.

To create a valuable source of insight for the Minister, If the aim of the new Act that transformed the Nigerian Prison Service to Nigeria Correctional Service, is to bear the expected result, the demand from Rauf and his team must include but not limited to; establishing  sustainable collaboration/partnership with the Justice Ministries at both state and Federal levels;  open admission  and adoption of  both structural and managerial changes; development of a strategic approach that imposes more leadership discipline than conventional, and creating governance framework that is less extractive but more innovative in operation; as well as switch over to a leadership style that is capable of making a successful decision built  on a higher quality of information.

It has also been argued elsewhere that an organization’s capacity to execute strategy depends on it’s hard’ infrastructure-its organizational structure and systems-and on its ‘soft’ infrastructure –its culture and norms. More than any other, culture determines whether an organization can cope with the crisis and discontinuities of growth.-

This shift in action is important as ‘we cannot solve our challenges with the same thinking we used when we created it’.

To explain these points beginning with the congestion challenge, available records show that about 65,000 inmates are currently locked up in different prisons in Nigeria. Out of the number, 72% are said to be awaiting trial while only 28% are convicted.

This has two different but similar implications to this narrative.

First, next to bringing to the fore the nation’s faulty criminal justice system, it calls for more synergy with, and finding a middle ground by with the Ministry of Justices at both Federal and State to access and introduce alternative to the custodian sentencing possible as it has manifested visible challenges such as an increase in cost, keeping the inmates as well as congestion which places pressure on the prisons’ facilities.

Clearly, the habit of resource-saving has served developed nations well in this respect. If you analyze the history of successful nations, you may easily get the impression that they were developed by ‘Prophets’. But the truth is that they only adhered to the basic principles underlying strategic choices.

Regardless of what others may say, non-custodian measures such as community services, industrial attachment/labour where the inmates can learn skills, earn a stipend while contributing to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the way to go. The Interior ministry can draw a similar lesson from most of the foreign construction companies currently operating in the country.

To, therefore, succeed in this new position, the minister must first recognize that the era when nations lock up their youths that will provide the future leaders has passed. And one that will be responsible  for the development and implementation of policies, programs and projects in their various ministries, departments, and agencies in line with the government priorities; and  also ensure that agencies under their ministries are effective, efficient and accountable in their responsibilities, there is for Rauf to widen his view, to take in more of the world around him, to see things for what they are and for how they may play out in the future, not for how you wish them to be.

The minister must learn not to be a prisoner of any theory, he must develop a practice of finding out who else had met with the problems we currently face, how they tackled it, and how successful they had been.

Finally, developing a strategic success for the Ministry cannot be reduced to a formula, or merely by reading books. But by developing habits of mind and moods of thinking that can be acquired through practice to help free the creative power and improve chances of coming with winning strategic concepts.

This is a primary responsibility before Rauf Aregbeshola and his men.

Jerome-Mario Utomi writes from Lagos and can be reached through: Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com

 

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