All lovers of football should be horrified that the game we love so much could lead to the death of a fan. More harrowing is when such death occurs after the game and not even at a stadium. That was the lot of citizen Kolade Johnson, whose life was cut short by policemen charged to protect him.
Okay, not exactly policemen but a policeman; an inspector. Police authority had identified Ogunyemi Olalekan as the trigger-happy policeman who killed Johnson and subsequently dismissed him from the offence and handed him over to the SCID for prosecution. Rallies have ben scheduled and University of Benin alumni have already protested in Benin City over his death, but we cannot afford to keep quiet yet. Too often we are confronted with ineptitude on many fronts so much that we then begin to synthesize and accommodate it as a way of life.
This newspaper wrote a fine obituary, fine in the quintessential journalism sense, but sad for humanity particularly in the sense that he escaped the xenophobia in South Africa only to die in Lagos. This piece still carries the headline “killers”, because Nigeria police actually killed Johnson and that’s why the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution must step in and prosecute Ogunyemi Olalekan and the police for Johnson’s death. We need to hold the police responsible especially for the force continuing miseducation of its rank and file as seen in their conduct and condescending attitude towards citizens. While this case is going on normally so far, we must keep an eagle eye on the police, as we know too well how such cases go. Lest we forget, whatever happened to the policeman who clubbed Ogar Jombo, a civil defence officer, to death in Abuja last month? We don’t have his name yet.
Part of the miseducation is reflected in the words of Bala Elkannah, a deputy superintendent of police and Lagos State police command spokesperson, who said that tattoos and dreadlocks are alien to our culture. Sometimes you wonder the kind of education our uniformed folks received or maybe they probably suspend their reasoning upon joining the police. My mother, who is in early 70s, has tattoos on her arm and I had to call her specifically for this piece even when she has told me the story of how she came about them many times. It was a way of beautifying women’s body in their generation, she said again and that it is called sopa in Yoruba language usually done at birth or when a woman is preparing for marriage. She acquired hers while getting ready to marry my father. Decorating palms, wrists and feet is also common among women in the northern part so what is not cultural about tattoo?
Growing up we also had folks with dreadlocks known as Dada in Yoruba who had no links with white garment churches or indigenous churches. In Yoruba mythology, sacrifices are actually offered before the hair is cut, as they are believed to be deities who must be appeased. So, where did Mr. Elkannah get the tripe he yarn about tattoos foreign to our culture? Besides, are our policemen now so jobless that they can only be chasing people with dreadlocks and tattoos?
This takes me to another subtext of this narrative, the establishment of a plethora of units and special outfits within the police that are seeing as lucrative or their operators are well taken care of. These include anti cultism units, SARS, FSARS, anti-kidnapping units and all the security outfits established by state governments and they all point to an obvious issue: the failure of our police to provide adequate security for us all. While we may not blame governors who as chief security officers of their states will do anything possible to secure their borders, what about the platforms which create heroes out of those policemen lucky enough to be posted there but leave their colleagues to bear the brunt of lack of adequate equipment? The units are usually well equipped with extra stipends pay to those fortunate to serve with them.
The less said about the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), the better, ditto for its federal counterpart called FSARS. We should not forget that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo last year directed a thorough reform of FSARS but so much for a presidential directive as it’s obvious nothing serious was done in restructuring the unit. Across the country, policemen perpetrate numerous atrocities, some we get to know, majority we will never know. A critical question for the police hierarchy is when last was a psychiatric evaluation carried out of the rank and file of our policemen in the country? That would determine how long before we start talking about another police murder.
My condolences to the Johnson family.