Opinion: When the Police is not your friend

by Chika Isika

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Think about Nigeria and what comes to mind? What do we stand for? What are we known for? Same with our police, what do they symbolize? We can’t even tell what their uniform is anymore. Some wear blue and black, some are dressed in all black.

Three deafening bangs, three shots in quick succession and main gate is officially in panic mood. Everyone is doing his best Usain Bolt-Mo Farah impersonation, the ‘Mo Bolt’, a sprint marathon. The only uniformed cop (feels wrong calling Nigerian Policemen cops) joins in the great race of UNIBEN. To be fair I can understand why he would run, he has probably never fired his service side arm, and so running away is the best way to avoid that awkward moment when you try to form Van Damme and your weapon misfires. In one swift motion, monsieur olopa pulls off his greyish-black shirt, revealing a colourful Hawaii themed shirt, well, they really came ‘prepared’. It was barely half past seven in the evening when this happened.

The next morning, Festus, Emma and Austin are at main gate, wearing casual shorts, faded ‘house tees’ and rubber flip-flops. After serious deliberation, they decided to get four 120g Indomie sachets and one egg with the N230 they had.

Wi o wi o wi ooo…

Sirens ring in the air as the men of the Nigerian Police Force storm main gate Nollywood style. Before the guys could say ‘Ahmed Musa’ they were rounded up and thrown into a van. There, they realise they are actually very well dressed. Boys on just boxers are among the arrested, bra-less girls in their PJs with nipples erect from the adrenaline rush, people going about their morning shopping trying to get something for breakfast before they rush into school for 8am class make up the bulk of the rounded suspects. One lunatic makes the cut and is only released after he ‘poo-poos’ on himself in the van. They are all taken to the police station for ‘interrogation’- the charge; loitering with intent and suspicious behaviour. At the station, the usual threats and intimidation takes place. After the dancing and beating around the bush, the real reason for the arrest was revealed. The Sergeant, the cliché 6 feet tall, pot-bellied ugly son-of-a-gun who would have been called Uglinus if he were Greek or Ug Lee if he was Chinese, eventually walks out of his office into the open counter space. Acting totally unaware of the events of the morning, as if the ‘raid’ wasn’t his idea, he asks, “what are these ones doing here?” One of the stooges replies and after a short dialogue, he magnanimously decides to pardon and release ‘the suspects’. The catch, they would have to pay bail, consider it a thanks offering for his ‘kindness’, or better still, ‘fuel money’ for his officers’ stress. The bail is set according to how ‘Ajebo’ you look. If you can’t make bail in 24hours, the charge would be trumped up to suspected cultist, and then nabbed kidnapper. If you are in a public tertiary institution, or have one as your Alma mater, you most likely would have heard a similar story, or have been unfortunate enough to be caught the morning or evening after a shooting.

This is the real problem, the shooting and most likely murder of last night created a business opportunity for our ‘dear friends in black’, you know, the police being your friend and all. Instead of making an attempt to investigate what happened and try to bring the perpetrators to justice, they decide to arrest as many people as possible, and extort bail from as many of them as they can.

A microcosm is described as a miniature of a larger society, a community, place, or situation regarded as encapsulating in miniature the characteristic features of something much larger. With the backdrop of this definition, look closely at our dear country, and its internal ‘keepers of peace’ and you can draw parallels a mile long. What’s wrong with Nigeria that is not wrong with the police? Is it an alarming lack of an identity? Is it wide spread corruption from top to bottom? Is it illiteracy and ignorance? Or a pathetic attempt at reform by those in authority…the list goes on and on.

When you think of South Africa, you immediately associate the World Cup legacy, and of course their apartheid struggle, the worldwide appeal of the late Madiba, before your mind would wander into other subjects like the high crime rate and rising poverty level in the country. Think about Kenya, and if you’ve never been there you would likely imagine a land of wildlife parks and big game expeditions. I remember watching a documentary on Nairobi as a child and wondering why they were no elephants walking on the city streets, concrete cities, in my mind, Kenya had to be one big park, where lions and giraffes run around. Think about Nigeria and what comes to mind? What do we stand for? What are we known for? Same with our police, what do they symbolize? We can’t even tell what their uniform is anymore. Some wear blue and black, some are dressed in all black. When you see an approaching police van do you feel safer? What do you associate the police with? Gross incompetence, irresponsibility and complete disregard for their duties?  Well, you are not alone.

These guys have been known to shoot people over unpaid N40 bribes, only God knows how many innocent people have being knowingly paraded as hardened criminals in this country. Feuding housewives can pay a token to the police and use them to harass and threaten each other.

I remember once the struggle I had trying to contain my laughter when an obviously illiterate policeman asked for ‘my particulars’ in the days when they were a nuisance on the highway. He was just looking for the police insignia and the coat of arms or flag. I could have handed him a piece of paper with Terry G’s lyrics with a police insignia on top and he won’t be able to tell the difference. Well, some of them really care about their jobs and find the corruption and decay abhorrent, but like the larger society, these people are few, but increasing in number.

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This article was published with permission from Omojuwa.com

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

 

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