by Raji Aliu Akanni
Police is your friend. That was what we learnt. As a young school leaver, I had learnt a lot about the phenomena of rights and liberty. I can still remember vividly my social studies teacher, tall and huge, holding his chalk and scribbling on the blackboard. He thought me quite well and I enjoyed every bit of his classes, save for assignments.
Right from time, I have always been obedient, law abiding and I love to learn new things: driving, cycling, riding, cooking, the list goes on. Before attaining the official age of driving in the country, I already found myself in control of the wheels, almost got us into trouble every time I learnt with my big brothers. Now that I can control all sort of motor engines below trucks and tankers, I soon became an asset to the family, even though I learnt all of the skills under covers. I executed errands with the engines; they never hesitated to hand over the keys to me, whether on two wheels or four.
Living as a youngster in a remote town at the extreme of the pace setter state of the nation, where motorists hardly register their motor engines with the government, some with fake number plates and others without any, I took it as a norm and expected no police officer to disturb my peace while I enjoyed my ride on the smooth type of Nigerian roads with potholes at every distance.
As an asset to the family with my skills, my cousin as usual, summoned me to seek my service while busy attending to customers in his shop located in the heart of the town. He asked me to convey his visitor to her house as she paid him a visit from a distant part of the town. The slim and tall woman bearing a child behind her immediately knew me and was elated to see me. I greeted her traditionally and pretended with all gestures as though I knew her. She is an extended family member. The means of conveyance was my cousin’s just acquired secondhand but neat, red Boxer motorcycle form Bajaj Company. If not on special occasions as this, I wouldn’t have had a chance of riding the motorcycle. Needless to say, the motorcycle was unregistered and had no number plate, not even a fake one.
I started the engine and in no time we were on our smooth road. Discussions went on as we moved slowly along the road. Still not knowing how exactly she was related me, I contributed to the discussion to prevent her suspicion. Ordinarily I’m not a slow rider, the spirit of expertise descends on me when I’m behind the wheels and I try to show my dexterity in the art almost every time. The mother and child are definitely my restricting factors.
These men have learnt to position themselves in strategic places. I was struggling to negotiate the numerous potholes in this area, where almost all the asphalt has been washed away by erosion, not to disturb the peace of the mother and child. One of the men in black uniform emerged from behind, put off the ignition and got hold of the keys, definitely because the motorcycle had no number plate. I packed slowly by the side of the road sitting still on the bike, thinking of what to do and what to tell my cousin. Immediately, the police officer started shouting and dragging the motorcycle, summoning me to get off the motorcycle with all sort of aggressiveness. I took the courage to tell him that he should take it easy, after all he has the keys and I’m going nowhere. I wasn’t sure what it was, maybe my tone when I addressed him was harsh. He went weird, and shouted, “I will slap you on the face!”
A flash of all I had learnt of my right in social studies ran through my mind as the police officer was harassing me, seeing me as teenager, barely twenty years old. I mustered courage to tell him again, “Mr., if you try slapping me on the face, I would sue you to the court of law, because your uniform doesn’t give you any right whatsoever to slap me.” He stared at me for a while, got possession of the bike and off he went to the police station.
Unknowingly, my statement of suing the police officer was a bombshell. It almost exploded the only police station in the town as the case has been exaggerated and I became the talk of the station. I broke the news to my cousin and he went mad with me for allowing that to happen, because he knows it will cost him to bail his motorcycle.
Together we went to the police station. The presiding police officer at the point of encounter was the first person we met as we stepped into the police station. He quickly identified me and before my cousin could start begging him for mercy and the release of his motorcycle, he smiled at us and received us with a warm gesture. I knew those gestures were fake. He proceeded and wrapped his arms around my neck. I knew the police are our friends though, but not as friendly as I witnessed.
Soon as we moved into the reception of the station, two police officers were at the counter taking statements. My gaze fell on two other men behind the counter in singlets, anticipating what their fate has in stock for them. For the first time since the occurrence, my heart skipped a beat. I made hidden from their notice the fear in me, even though I knew I was in a mess already.
The officer handling me commanded me to follow him this time, as against the previous smile. I decided not to follow him into the long and dark passage behind the counter. Besides, no statements had been taken. I knew I couldn’t help myself at this point. A wink from my cousin signals that I obey him. I obeyed and he followed suit.
About two rooms along the passage, the officer knocked at the door, pushed the door open and immediately took his position and made an impressive salute to the Divisional Police Officer. “This is the boy sir,” he said in a deep Yoruba accent. My cousin was startled and couldn’t imagine I had caused such a big trouble. I tried to exercise some calmness to understand the atmosphere around me as that was the first time I would ever appear before a DPO. The DPO looked at me with a condescending eye and told me, you want to sue us all to the court of law? You are son to a Senior Advocate of Nigeria right? he asked with a laughter of jest. I realised he had been given wrong information and once again the courage with which I started, descended when I sought his permission to speak and he granted me the floor.
I never hesitated to paint the scenario exactly has it had happened without even telling a lie. The man fell into a dilemma and there was silence in the room. I exhausted my chance of speaking by saying: “sir, the uniform on your officer does not indicate he had said the truth.” The D.P.O stared at me for a moment and finally the judgment came in my favour when the Divisional Police Officer acknowledged that he would have replicated my words had he been in my shoes. He addressed me and gave me some fatherly advice. He ordered my cousin, who was still looking at me in dismay for the boldness I exhibited, to get the motorcycle registered and show him the documents with a week ultimatum. He further asked the officers to bail the bike free of charge.
At this point I felt fulfilled and I was at the verge of confirming my opening statement that the police is our friend when I discovered that the two tires had been deflated and the wires connected to the head lamp and ignition system of the motorcycle cut apart. This was the result of the free bail ordered by the head of the station. I tried to call the Divisional Police Officer regarding the incident, but my cousin stopped me and accepted to fix the damages. I insisted on making the officers pay for their action, but he stopped me every time.
Behold, the corrupt of the men in uniform are only taking advantage of our ignorance. It is up to the government to keep its populace educated and check the integrity of the recruits into the Nigeria Police Force from time to time.
Although bad heads dwell within them, the police are still our friends, I believe.
This entry was submitted as part of the Nigerian Voices competition organized by YNaija.com.
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