A lot of folks will be surprised by my commendation of President Muhammadu Buhari over his recent appointment of Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa (Rtd.) as the new Chairman/CEO of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). Yes, I have a problem with President Buhari’s unbridled nepotism.
As sure as the sun rises from the East and sets in the West, when he makes a pick for any vacant position you are certain the pick will be a Northerner and a Moslem. He doesn’t pretend about his hatred for other tribes, especially the Igbo whom he loves to see cry.
If you listened to his 2015 inaugural speech when he said he ‘is for everyone and for no one’, you will leave with the impression that he will bring unity back to our faltering union. You will think he would run an all-inclusive government that will accommodate all shades of our diversity.
All those were hollow promises. Instead he took many giant steps in the wrong direction showing whom he really is.
He became a sore and angry winner desperate to revenge on the very people he just beat up. Nigeria needs unity, and one way of expressing that unity is to build strength in our diversity. I will continue to call our Mr. President on his divisive rule because without unity this country will continue to be in a mess and can’t move forward. However, on the appointment of Marwa as the nation’s new anti-drug czar, I agree with President Buhari.
He made a wise decision which couldn’t come at a better opportune time than now when the country is enmeshed in all manner of crisis, including illicit drug epidemic.
To say that 15 million Nigerians are hooked on illicit drugs is to underestimate the problem. We have a drug problem larger in magnitude than the statistics being bandied. In addition to tarnishing Nigeria’s image as a nation, illicit drug trafficking also has negative impact on its security, economy and well-being. Marwa has the background and the right kind of experience to enable him to be an outstanding anti-drug czar.
He will not disappoint. In my capacity as the National President of the Network of NGOs on Drug Demand Reduction Programmes in Nigeria (NNDDR) I pledge the unflinching support of all the NGOs specializing in drug demand reduction.
As the new NDLEA chief, Marwa will face monumental challenges with a nation hooked on drugs.
Once Nigeria was a drug transit nation, but now become a consumer nation with its attendant threats to human and national security. He will be faced with a highly demoralized workforce needing training, retraining and motivation. He will meet a workforce demoralized by issues of stagnation in rank, postings and unpaid emolument.
He will be faced with a disconnect between the agency and a less enthusiastic civil society. NGOs in the past were partners in progress with the agency and helped in many ways to bring the drug issues to the spotlight. Most of them are now disillusioned due to poor engagements by previous NDLEA Chairmen. Ahmadu Giade’s poor leadership style destroyed NGOs’ rapport with the agency.
The ball is now in Marwa’s court to reinvigorate the NDLEA initiative. Marwa will also face complex of challenges in terms of staffing.
The number of officers policing drugs are significantly low compared to the size of the problem. Officers are still faced with accommodation problems and lack of operational vehicles.
Many fine officers had been killed in active duty because the agency lacked adequate man power, operational vehicles, protective equipment, serviceable rifles, communication gadgets and proper training.
Families of staffers who died in active duty are still being owed death benefits several years after the loss of their breadwinners.
Marwa will be faced with such issues as poor budgetary allocation and dwindling foreign aid. He will be disappointed by the paucity of funds available to execute the works that must be done. Unlike when he was a military officer, he will be faced with bureaucracy and the unfortunate politics of the drug war.
Several of our politicians are drug lords. Once, the agency made futile attempts to extradite a sitting senator but failed. There are also the rising cases of security threats which has made policing our borders difficult. The insurgents controlling squats of lands in the North-East are running drug trade in the region hence the prevalence of all kinds of psychotropic drugs in the North-East. Insurgency, banditry, cultism, terrorism and violence cannot be divorced from the rising drug trade and drug use across the country. The insurgents and militias are not just hooked on mind controlling drugs, they are trading and profiteering on it. If the Marwa I encountered while he was the Military Administrator of Lagos State is the same creative mind, then he will most certainly rise up to the occasion by finding creative means of dealing with the challenges. As Military Administrator he was involved in finding solution to Nigeria’s drug problems. I believe as the new NDLEA chief he will once again lead on the issue. The drug war need a face and a firm voice. Marwa must not be faceless and voiceless like his immediate two past predecessors. I recall with nostalgia how as the Military Administrator of Lagos he did all he could to encourage our NGO, the Partnership for a Drug Free Nigeria.
There was nothing that we asked for that he didn’t give including personally attending some of our events. So far, our best anti-drug czars are those who have worn the uniform at some point. So, this gives Marwa a better appreciation of the military culture as an aspect of drug law enforcement.
It also shows he will understand the importance of discipline within the officers of the agency. When a disciplined officer like Marwa leads an agency like the NDLEA, he will inspire discipline, hope and confidence in the officers. Marwa has a sterling reputation as an officer and a gentleman, and is highly regarded by his contemporaries.
You can tell a lot about a man and a leader by how he treats his people and by what those who worked with him have to say about him. I know quite a number of people who worked with him as the Military Administrator of Lagos States and they are all enthusiastic and excited by his recent appointment. They are enthusiastic because they know what his leadership of NDLEA will bring to the country.
At the peak of the June 12 crisis and agitation for democracy in Nigeria, Marwa as the administrator of Lagos State displayed himself as one of our best minds in the use of civil affairs and psychological operations to counter and diffuse tensions.
He has come a long way from his birth in 1953 in Kaduna to his attending the Nigerian Military School, Zaria and later Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna.
He is a graduate of Pittsburgh University from where he obtained a Master’s Degree in International Relation and Public Administration. As a military officer he held many leadership positions including serving as a Defence Attaché and Military Administrator for Borno and Lagos states.
The Buba Marwa I know is a great man who leads effectively and a humble man who inspires hope and confidence. He is the right person to head NDLEA at this time. I have no doubt in my mind that he will make an outstanding anti-drug czar.