WAI again?

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari seems poised to awaken the ghost of the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) outfit which heralded his days in the saddle as a military Head of State over 32 years ago. The move has been received with disbelief and shock. Not being part of his campaign manifesto, Buhari’s recourse to rescucitating the moribund WAI is perceived by many critics as a gambit to save his waning popularity. The move is especially baffling against the backdrop of the insistence by the government that its operations are being hampered by the shortfall in oil earnings. What is more, the outfit, under military rule, had only succeeded only in dehumanising the civil populace.

To be sure, there are sufficient examples in the polity to suggest that indiscipline still rules in the country’s socio-political and economic space, like in the civil service where sloth and malingering hold sway. But this may not even be the most pressing problem given the salary arrears owed workers, for instance. Thirty two years ago when WAI featured prominently in the agenda of an ostensibly redemptive military intervention headed by Buhari, the effort failed due to the lack of supportive structures. Not a few individuals spoke at the time in favour of tackling indiscipline at the roots. Without an efficient sanitary infrastructure like public toilets for instance, how could anybody be sanctioned for breaking the rule of public sanitation? And has the situation improved now to warrant WAI’s resuscitation? The move may just end up increasing the hit list of offences, even criminalising otherwise tepid infractions or misdemeanours without giving the citizenry ample room for contrition, conversion and compliance.

It has been said that the latest move would create employment opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths in the country. We commend the government’s     resolve to create jobs. However, the already bloated civil service will haemorrhage further with the proposed massive employment via the WAI brigade. It will therefore be counterproductive. What the government should do is to create the right atmosphere for the private sector to thrive and create jobs.

Moreover, the indiscipline that hinders the country’s growth and development has not gone beyond what the National Orientation Agency (NOA) can handle, and setting up an entirely new structure comprising an army of youths to combat it is clearly an overkill. In any case, the country is already saturated with uniformed agencies and departments performing similar functions, and the Federal Government has not explained where it will source the funds to run the new outfit.

Besides, the suggestion that the WAI brigade will be deployed in intelligence gathering, a thoroughly professional aspect of the security brief, may hint at certain furtive but sinister motives. Beyond compliance, what intelligence gathering would the WAI brigade embark upon without adequate training? What then is the job of the Department of State Services (DSS)? Or is Nigeria now a police state where all kinds of repressive state apparatuses must be continually unleashed on the awfully governed and long-suffering populace? What ‘local intelligence’ would the WAI brigade gather that is not already being gathered by the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)? It would seem that there is more to the rescucitation of WAI than meets the eye.

We believe that many of the acts of indiscipline that the government harps so much on are no more than structural defaults in which the establishment itself is implicated, having failed to provide either adequate facilities or the appropriate orientation. If the return of the WAI brigade is just to continue from where its forebears left it about 32 years ago and boost the waning mystique of a desultory social crusader, then its resuscitation is definitely misbegotten. The way to start a disciplined lifestyle for the citizens is to provide facilities for them and watch their response.

If the people are treated with civility, they will act accordingly. On the other hand, if they are treated like animals, they will respond as such, revelling in social disorder and mayhem. What specific acts of social indiscipline have been articulated and what research went into rescucitating WAI brigade, to bring about the desired changes in the society? In the order of prominence, we think the Federal Government’s priority should be to get the real sector of the economy back on track.

It is a lot of hard work to mount surveillance to monitor compliance alone in Nigeria let alone apprehend those who break the rules, and nothing gives more room for impunity than a society’s inability to enforce its rules. Nigeria already has institutions to tackle all forms of indiscipline. Therefore, rather than unleash the WAI brigade on a democratic society, government should focus on reviving the economy and tackling indiscipline through the extant institutions.