Audit (2): Can We Defend The Defence Commissioner?

By: Ochi Maduabuchi Nnamdi

When a politician takes up a post, he is entrusted with a responsibility. This responsibility is one they chose to pick up and with the support of the people he is empowered to fulfill the items he has laid out in his manifesto.

In this audit, we will be examining the Great Independence Hall’s Defence Commissioner, Komolafe Olaoluwa, also known as Laolu. Article VI, Section VIII of the constitution of the Great Independence Hall clearly outlines the functions of the Defence Commissioner:

(a) Shall oversee the general security of lives & properties in the hall.

(b) Shall direct the affairs of Hall Marshals

(c) Shall be responsible for mobilising Independites for approved activities requiring their participation.

The constitution, however, didn’t go much further than this. The manner through which these responsibilities were to be fulfilled was left to the discretion of the Defence Commissioner himself. And Laolu seems to understand this fact.

The first point of his manifesto is indeed the recruitment of hall marshals, and in it, he remarks, “This recruitment although a reoccurring exercise is very important…” In the manifesto he showcased an expert understanding of what it means to be both a student and a hall marshal, noting that hall marshals in their final year would not be as available as those who are not and he made it a point to recruit marshals who are not in their final year.

This first point goes hand-in-hand with the second item on his manifesto, “Inauguration of hall marshals in conjunction with the UI Security Outfit and the hall management”. He hoped to have the hall marshals be “…recognisable to the UI Security outfit and the Hall Management” and to have the new marshals be oriented on the best security practices.

And he delivered on these promises. In the last semester, he successfully conducted the inauguration of new marshals, an event covered by Indy Press, with the Hall Warden and representatives from the UI Security outfit both present at the meeting, with the UI Security successfully giving an orientation to the new marshals and a reorientation to the old members.

The next few points of the manifesto, though, have left much to be desired by way of follow-through.

The third point was collaboration with Man o’ War in the maintenance of law and order during events like Freshers Week and Hall Week. It is a great idea. Considering the fact that the number of marshals in the hall would always be limited, cooperation with Man o’ War would allow the marshals to boost their numbers without actually enlisting more people. This higher number of people that can be made use of in the defence of the hall is highly beneficial. But the participation of Man o’ War has not been greatly felt, in nightly patrols or events taking place in the hall.

The fourth point was ensuring that there was a hall marshal on every floor. Some of the goals of this point were to ensure easy access to the marshals and increase hall marshal visibility. But if easy access and visibility were the goal then perhaps letting people know where the hall marshal’s room on the floor was would aid them greatly.

But nothing has been done towards that end, and it remains uncertain the level to which this particular idea was implemented.

His fifth and sixth points can easily be summed up as sensitisation. The fifth point was sensitisation of hall members on how to be security conscious while the sixth point was sensitisation on the consequences of bullying. However, in keeping with the culture of scant communication that pervades the hall, this has been done poorly.

The methods through which the fifth was to be achieved was by making use of three methods, constant announcements on the hall’s PA system, regular broadcasts on the virtual and occasional personal interactions with the members of the hall. Even if the PA system was employed successfully in achieving this plan, the poor audio quality of the system would have prevented any information from reaching the expected audience. The broadcast messages, in the Freshers group at least, are non-existent and the physical meetings are yet to be seen.

The same goes for the sixth point, which was supposed to be achieved by less frequent uses of the PA system and the virtual broadcasts in the various classes of the hall’s online community. But the same points still apply. The methods chosen to achieve the set goals are ineffective (for the PA system) and not felt.

We will admit that the PA is no fault of Laolu. We cannot blame him for the fact that when people speak through it their voices end up muddled and unclear. But there are other ways of achieving this goal. The carry-on speaker that is usually utilised when certain major events occur could have still been used if only occasionally for the performance of sensitisation. And there’s no excuse for not making use of the virtual platforms. The manifesto stated that he would work in conjunction with the PRO but it doesn’t seem like efforts have been made to do it.

The seventh item, before the second section, talked about collaboration with the Defence Commissioners of other halls. Not much is known about whether or not it has been done. Collaboration between the different Defence Ministers would enable them to take a look at the common defence issues that plagued each hall and come up with solutions that best tackle these issues. They could share ideas for even problems that are specific to certain halls. The common saying, two heads are better than one, applies especially so in this case.

The benefits are quite clear, but the efforts are not. Perhaps meetings have already been called, where issues might have already been discussed, but no news of it has emerged. The idea has been laid aside and little done in the way of its implementation.

And of course the sad state of the gym and its unfortunate inclusion in his manifesto. Looking at the second part of his manifesto, in which Laolu identifies his plans to bring out the full potential of the gym of the Great Independence Hall.

It included points like ensuring a seamless and transparent registration process, accurate record keeping of a list of registered members, and management of access to the gym’s facilities. Great ideas indeed, but unfortunately, there would be no room for implementation. The issue arises because the points in the manifesto presuppose something. It assumes that the gym would be in a usable state and that the main issue was bureaucratic, with the ideas of registration and record keeping.

But with the gym being closed since the beginning of the session, there has been no space for the implementation of these ideas. It was a classic tale of the idea being killed in its cradle before it could even have an opportunity to take off. An unfortunate outcome.

Let’s evaluate. Laolu seems to have had great ideas in his manifesto. Sensitisation on proper defence strategies for the hall members, sensitisation against bullying and high-handedness, working with Man o’ War, and meeting with other Defence Commissioners; all these are great ideas, yet Laolu seems to have only done the bare minimum.

Perhaps on the points of collaboration, we could give him some space, after all, there will always be two parties in any collaboration, and if one party disagrees, nothing can be said or done one’s hand would be tied. But there is no excuse for the lack of sensitisation, especially so in this digital age, where a message can easily be typed and forwarded to many if one says that physical means can’t be used due to lack of funds.

It seems like the administration of Laolu has been one of great ideas and beautiful manifestos. And even as some may argue that these things would come into existence in the near future, the question of whether their purpose, given the limited time left, would have been truly served. However, it might also be that the relative safety of the general school environment has made some of these activities seem less urgent or less needful.

The importance of the office of Defence Commissioner cannot be understated and activities of sensitisation and collaboration maintain their significance.

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