6th October, 2010
One day in 1959, on the eve of Nigeriaâ€™s independence, I stood by the road at Eruwa inÂ todayâ€™s Oyo State wishing to board a vehicle to Igboora, a distance of about 21Â kilometers. The first vehicle that came and I waved down was a police van by which I wasÂ allowed to travel with the three policemen inside it. In the course of theirÂ conversation, what I picked and noted from one of them is this: â€œI like this police workÂ because a policeman can bloody-fool anybody.â€ It was spoken in the tone of PidginÂ English.
But why in the name of authority of the crown (that is, the Queen of England, the rulerÂ of Nigeria at that time) could a policeman bloody-fool anybody at will? That showed theÂ type of training given policemen by the colonial authority in Nigeria. They wereÂ principally trained to protect the white governors at the cenre and in the regions. TheÂ governors as well as the divisional and district officers called D.Oâ€™s were all Britons.Â They were also to protect the proxy of each of them at all levels of authority. TheÂ content of the protection was to bully an intruder or whoever wished to move too close toÂ the â€˜Oyinboâ€™. Theirs was to instil fear in everybody so that the â€˜Oyinboâ€™ might gainÂ absolute respect from the people.
The same training was given to the AKODA who was lower in rank to the policeman but wasÂ to protect either the D.O. or his proxy. AKODA was an acronym from the Yoruba expressionÂ of â€œA Ke Orderâ€, that is the officer who shouts â€œorder!â€ He could not speak English butÂ he was like a barking dog whose duty was to protect his oga in that way.Â When he shoutedÂ â€œOrder!â€ it could mean â€œstop talkingâ€ or â€œstop making noise,â€ especially when the courtÂ was in session. His â€œorder!â€ could mean â€œstop complainingâ€ or â€œstop there, do not moveÂ close to Oga.â€
The colonial policeman had Khaki shirt over short knickers with a beret cap on while hisÂ Akoda counterpart put on a jumper over short knickers but with a cylindrical cap with aÂ dangling tassel.
There is a reason why the two levels of security personnel painted above behaved the wayÂ they did. All the governors and D.Os sent in from England then were children of poorÂ parents usually from the provinces who enjoyed government scholarship. They were neverÂ Londoners who never left London like the old Lagosians who like â€œlizardsâ€ did cross theÂ lagoon. On appointment to come to Nigeria they were specially instructed to behave toÂ exalt the crown. They must not behave like the ordinary downtrodden persons they were atÂ home. In other words, they were acting for the queen of England and must act withÂ corresponding dignity. One should understand why they created such fear aroundÂ themselves. But harshness is a facesaving ploy to mask their weakness.
In reality, harsh training and harsh behaviour today still remain with our policemen.Â Because of the high-handedness with which they handle criminals, we hardly have criminalsÂ confessing their crimes, rather we have hardened criminals. But they succeed in makingÂ themselves enemies of the people!
Today, wherever there is post-war peace keeping in any part of the third world, theÂ Nigerian police are often drafted there and they usually perform well asÂ quasi-soldiers.To date, be it the Mopol or the regular police, they always behave even inÂ Lagos megapolis like the army of occupation, trampling on peopleâ€™s rights. The wayÂ policemen harass danfo drivers and bus conductors with their rifles in order to force N20Â from them is a show of barbaric shame. And despite the fact that all radio stations inÂ Lagos broadcast such jungle behaviours police authorities have always remained silent byÂ turning deaf ears to such disgraceful complaints.
May be if the former British colonial police had trained the Nigeria police on the typeÂ of policing skills the British police acquire, things could be different from what we seeÂ the Nigeria police perform today. These points to adequate and unrivalled crowd controlÂ devoid of any shooting incident on the mob as well as crime prevention, detection andÂ investigation â€“ all which come under internal security. It does not mean that the NigeriaÂ police lack those skills but that theirs could need to be upgraded and modernised.
If our policemen wish to track down and bring genuine criminals to justice they have theÂ capacity. One could bring to memory the Wahum robbery of the 80s where an armed robberyÂ gang killed some policemen. All the criminals were promptly picked up and made to face anÂ armed robbery tribunal which tried and sentenced the robbers. The were publicly executedÂ at the old bar beach. May be the millennial stronger fire power of armed robbers hasÂ killed that zeal in our policemen of today. However, increased but domineering negativeÂ societal influence is also standing â€“ by to inhibit their performance. The FrenchÂ expression â€œesprit deÂ corpsâ€ which has become a slogan in the police force combines withÂ other forces to affectÂ effective police performance. Esprit de corps simply meansÂ brotherhood.
Three kinds of esprit de corps or brotherhood exists in humanity generally. These areÂ positve, diabolitical and criminal brotherhood. Positive brotherhood among other thingsÂ holds a group or an organisation and a nation together in unity for development andÂ societal peace. Diabolical brotherhood could result from bitter opposition or rebellionÂ among a smaller group within an organisation while it also links members of occultÂ organistions. Criminal brotherhood exists among privileged persons siphoning state fundsÂ as well as among pure criminal gangs.
As a teacher in Lagos during the civil war in Nigeria, I also trained as a specialÂ constable doing police duty one evening a week either for desk work or night patrol. IÂ was on duty at a station in Mushin one evening when about four or five members of theÂ public wishing to have their members in police cell released met and addressed me with anÂ occult password in Yoruba: â€œAwo tabi ogberi?â€ meaning â€œAre you an adept (member) orÂ novice?â€ I simply laughed and told them that their question was not for me. Later theyÂ met a senior police officer and had their request granted immediately.
Many prominent Nigerians have been brutally murdered for whatever reasons known by theirÂ assailants and there has not been police success at bringing the culprits to justice! TheÂ relations and friends of the victims with members of the public have cried and lamentedÂ in vain for justice to be done but nobody heeds their cry! It may not always be rightÂ however to blame the police alone for such security lapse in our society. They are only aÂ small pocket of people operating under high ranking citizens in authority. Definitely theÂ hands of the police could be â€œtiedâ€.
We are in a society where people fear to voice out or tell the truth to save their lives.Â It has been stated that a people deserve the government they have. If a regime comes intoÂ power tomorrow and descides to sack the entire police force because of backlog ofÂ uninvestigated murders it cannot sack Nigerians from Nigeria. Cultism is not a religionÂ but it is practiced in unison by people from all walks of life, be they from theÂ religions, the low and the high echelon of society. Emphatically, the professionals,Â politicians, the military, police, Christians, Moslems, Animists, etc. are Nigerians inÂ all cadres of life among whom negative esprit de corps or diabolical brotherhoodÂ subsists. Nobody sings his membership of any cult group. Many Nigerians use occultÂ membership to rise and to stay in authority. Yet nobody tells anybody the truth asÂ friends keep friends in the dark in that regard. Power also often times equates cultismÂ in our society.
It is in Nigeria that we had a supreme court judgement that cannot be cited as precedent!Â The hands of the judge â€œare tiedâ€. Similarly, military Decree 4 of 1984 criminalised theÂ journalism of writing the truth but which the government considered embarrassing. TwoÂ journalists, Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thompson of The Guardian newspapers were jailedÂ because they wrote the truth which were considered embarrassing to the Buhari/IdiagbonÂ military dictatorship. These two examples were unbridled misuse of power.
Let us consider the following issue whether or not it forms part of the Nigerian problem.Â In 1962, I read the following statement advertised in newspapers almost weekly forÂ several months: â€œWhere blacks hate whites today, blacks will kill blacks there tomorrow.â€
The caption for the piece was MRA. What I knew MRA to mean was â€œMoral Re-Armament.â€ ThereÂ was no explanation or any follow-up statement. The motive was never known. As a studentÂ at Wesley College, Ibadan at that time, I was puzzled. But, is that statement not now aÂ prophecy fulfilled in our Nigeria of today?
One of our problems in Nigeria is that as our former British overlords and the entireÂ west are scientific; we are either spiritual or spiritist. To be spiritual is to directlyÂ pray to God for whatever need and to be spiritist is either to use any nature material orÂ sacrifice to appease god or through occult practices.
By the last alternatives, spirits of the air, most of whom are demonic, are set at work.Â The scientific method could be tortuous but verifiable while the spiritist way is quickerÂ but with dire consequences. In fact, the compulsory wages of demonic forces is humanÂ suffering in diverse forms, even human misbehaviour.
In the cistern of options presented via this article there is no Nigerian that is notÂ influenced by some if not all the tabled options – who he is in the society and hisÂ religion notwithstanding. What one lives with daily becomes nature for him in the end.
The police are not the villain of our problematic society. Policemen could be ubiquitousÂ as their assignments make them but they are in contact with fellow Nigerians of allÂ shades of opinion and cadres of life. The police cannot change the society in our ownÂ case. But if our society changes, the police will change. We cannot wisely compare ourÂ police with those of other nations in the west or in the third world because everyÂ society has its own peculiarities.
Of the myriads of steps capable of changing the Nigerian society only seven can terselyÂ be mentioned for consideration. Indoctrination in the name of specifically designedÂ education is the first step needed to be taken. Moral and civic education must be taughtÂ in schools. Home training and culture should also be inculcated in our youths.Â Laisseze-faire and loose human rights that turn the west against nature cannot sanitiseÂ any society, not even ours.
The principles of being oneâ€™s brotherâ€™s keeper as well as that of live and let live mustÂ be engendered by the people. Discipline and doing the right things only must be part ofÂ our nature. The dignity of labour must be enthroned and imbibed. If Nigerians live by theÂ tenets of their religions, there will be paradise on earth.
Lastly, only those who love the society should go into politics while political officeÂ must be less attractive. That means there is need to reverse the 1999 unjustifiable wageÂ boom for which our politicians have been killing themselves to earn. Sacrifice is aÂ necessary tonic for public life.
â€¢Olubayo Lawore writes from Ketu, Lagos.Tel: 08057501806