The trending video of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, “struggling” to read a prepared speech was both embarrassing and emotional. He repeatedly tried to pronounce “transmission,” and a couple of other words, but got stuck. He continued to struggle to articulate the words but the more he tried, the more he failed. It looked pitiable. An aide came to stand beside him, pronouncing the words for him one by one, with the IGP repeating after him like a baby in kindergarten.
What worsened the matter was that the IGP did not skip the problem area and move to another part of the speech, if the problem was from the speech, neither did he abandon the speech entirely and speak ex tempore, if the reading problem was from him. He continually tried to read but he was merely mumbling: “Transmission of the transmission. I mean effective transmission of apprehensive transmission. I mean apprehensive transmission. Sorry, sir. The transmission of….
Even though the police authorities and some others claimed that the video was doctored, nobody has shown the original “undoctored” speech to prove that assertion. The speech was made at a police event and the police would have recorded the event and should have immediately released the unedited video, if indeed the one in the media was doctored. In addition, if the video was doctored, nobody was able to explain why the IGP was continually apologising during that unfortunate speech-reading session; neither did anybody explain why an aide had to come to stand beside the IGP to make him repeat whatever the aide said. Was the aide also “doctored” into the video?
The IGP is not known to have a stuttering or stammering problem. He had been seen in public reading speeches and responding to questions. Even though he cannot be called an orator, he had not been seen in such a sorry situation. Some argued that it might not be the first time but it had been managed successfully and hidden from the public, with media men prevailed upon not to report or release any material that did not portray the IGP in good light.
There were other views on the reason for that embarrassing performance. Some claimed that the IGP did not rehearse his speech. But such a reason would not stand any serious test. A person who did not rehearse a speech may not read the speech seamlessly and persuasively. But the IGP’s case was that he got stuck and was mumbling like a child who could not pronounce strange words.
Another allegation was that the writer of the speech could have been at fault. But the Nigeria Police Force cannot use amateurs for speeches of its boss. Moreover, what the speech writer wrote could not be some mumbo-jumbo that contained “the transmission of the transition of the transmission transmission.” In addition, the speech writer could not have written the speech of the IGP in long hand for his handwriting to be blamed to be so illegible that the IGP could not decipher the words, which resulted in that incoherent rendition. Even if that were so, a smart person would have quickly jettisoned the speech and spoken off the cuff.
There were also allegations that the IGP could have been under the influence of some substance or under a spell of some sorts, which made it hard for him to pronounce the words and yet could not move on or abandon the speech. Even some prescribed drugs could make one talk incoherently. Those who argued thus pointed to the fact that because he stuck to the speech when the reading became embarrassing and continued to attempt to pronounce the words showed that he was not fully in possession of his faculties at that time.
Some also argued that he must have been struck by stage fright or glossophobia. But for an IGP that had spoken to dozens of groups for over three decades to be struck by any fear of speaking in public is far-fetched.
There was also the allegation that the IGP could be suffering from a medical condition like dyslexia. A video was also shown on the web where he was laying wreaths (probably during the Armed Forces Remembrance Day) with other service chiefs and ended up turning the wrong way. But dyslexia is not a condition that suddenly manifests in an adult that is over 50 years old. If he is dyslexic, it would have been with him for a long time. In Nigeria where people with disabilities face all kinds of discrimination, ridicule, and stigma, it would have been extremely difficult for him to have risen through the ranks to his present position, no matter the kind of godfathers he has. He would have been ridiculed out of the police force by a nation that does not understand dyslexia or have any patience for it.
The IGP was also accused of being a beneficiary of the quota system or affirmative action, and therefore unable to read. But the IGP has two degrees: a degree in agriculture from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and a law degree from the University of Maiduguri. In addition, he had attended many courses locally and internationally as a police officer, thereby improving himself over the years. If people who have secondary school certificates could read prepared speeches well, there is no reason why a man with two university degrees should be accused of not being able to read a written speech because of improper education.
There was also the allegation that the “African juju” was used on the IGP by those he had offended in the course of his work, or that the spirit of those who might have died unjustly in the hands of the police under him were angry with him. Juju or karma is not scientific, and therefore cannot be explained logically. There is no way to prove the veracity of such a claim or disprove it. But those who believe in it believe in its potency.
However, one thing is certain: something inexplicable happened to the IGP on Monday, May 14, 2018 when he was delivering his speech at the inauguration of the police technical intelligence unit in Kano. It was a force beyond his power. He could not control it; neither could he extricate himself from its influence.
In other climes where those in authority are responsible and accountable to the people and also have respect for the people, the IGP would have given an explanation of what happened to him. But we are in a country where anything goes. The President does not believe in talking to the people he governs or explaining things to them, neither does his lieutenants. Their attitude to scandals and crises is to keep quiet and allow issues to pass. They know that after some days, another thing will happen that will overshadow the one before it. The people will turn their attention to the current issue and forget about the past issue. That way, issues pile upon issues without any resolution.
In spite of such a wrong national mindset, many assume that one day, Nigeria will jump from being a third-world country to a first-world country. It is wishful thinking. Big bangs don’t transform countries from one level to another. The way countries treat supposedly small things determines how they will treat big things. Countries which don’t strive for excellence don’t move ahead. No country which does not pay attention to details rises to the top.