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Aregbesola and the correctional centres

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.

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Coupled with the fact that it came at a time when the Federal Government was making an 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.

By exposing his weakness, Aregbeshola demonstrated leadership. trait that is in short supply in Nigeria.

Put in plain words, when a leader shows the followers his/her weakness(s), it presents him as someone that is genuine and approachable – human and humane.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Utomi, writes from Lagos jeromeutomi@yahoo.com

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