The Nigeria Police is always in the news. From the numerous illegal arrests by policemen to the ubiquitous check points mounted on our roads and other illegal activities by its officers and men, they are never far way from us.
But three incidents last week offer illustrations that could be used as a narrative on the usefulness or otherwise of our police. In addition, nearly all Nigerians must have had an unsavoury encounter with the police or know someone who had. Sometimes even their dressing could leave you confused whether they are genuine policemen or not with flip flops or bathroom slippers adorning their feet, or the t-shirts with inscriptions like ‘FSARS’ or without any marking with their guns held in a way that keeps you on edge until you disappear from their sight. Of course, I know there are good policemen still and I consider it a measure of good fortune to have met some of such across our country.
One thing, however, that emerged from last week’s incidents is that the present way our police is constituted cannot produce good fruits. It was gratifying to hear Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at a security summit organised by the National Assembly that Nigeria is ripe for state police. My initial reaction on hearing the reports of the speech was that I hoped our dear professor cleared this speech with his principal, as our president does not seem enamoured of such proposition. I know it was not possible for Osinbajo to have made such a declaration without President Muhammadu Buhari’s consent and so we can safely assume that is the thinking of our government presently. But this suggestion is fraught with many dangers the least being the fact that successive governments in our country have used the police for sinister motives, this government inclusive.
By the way, it was nice of the National Assembly to have organised a summit on security which even though the current government boasts of expertise and claims to be one of its cardinal programmes, it’s been dropping the ball sometimes in tackling the myriad of issues confronting us in the area of security. It was delightful to hear Osinbajo admitting what many Nigerians have known aeons ago, “We cannot realistically police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja,” he admitted. Nothing could be truer. We are shortchanged as long as instructions and directions on policing Kaura Namoda, Aguleri, Iwo and Vandekya come from Louis Edet House in Abuja. The result is what we are witnessing now; lethargy, incoherence and bias are some of the features of police operations across the land. The less said the better about the impartiality or otherwise of the Nigeria Police in the Benue crisis. We thought the inspector general was bad, it appears the new commissioner of police in the state is worse as their utterances and actions leave no one in doubt where their sympathy lies.
Nothing could be heart warming than Osinbajo declaring that the federal government had worked on some policy objectives some of which needed legislative approval and cooperation of the judiciary. We look forward to hearing more about such proposals in the days ahead, however, if the government is flying a kite one can tell them categorically that there is a consensus for state police. Hopefully this is not designed to elicit support or votes in next year’s general elections as the Buhari government had the past three years to put forward this idea.
The second one was a statement by an assistant inspector general of police, Rasheed Akintunde of Zone 5 when he said that only 20% of policemen in Nigeria are engaged in protecting lives and ensuring peace in the country while “the remaining 80% are just busy providing personal security to some ‘prominent people’ on guard duties.” We must thank Mr. Akintunde who spoke at Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital while on a tour as he confirmed that we are relying more on prayers for safety than the police. Does this not confirm what the inspector general’s nemesis, Senator Isah Hamma Misau has been saying? Apparently, Nigerians must have been petitioning God more for security than other countries in the world, as we don’t have enough policemen to secure the country.
The third was the show of shame involving Kassim Afegbua, former Head of State Ibrahim Babangida’s spokesperson, who was declared wanted by the police. It is only the cluelessness of Nigeria Police that could turn Afegbua into a free speech hero, as he is a politician and not an activist. The denouement of that sad story was the declaration by our police that they were satisfied with his answers to their enquiries after he appeared in their office. We cannot allow such attack on free speech to go unchallenged even though reason eventually prevailed.
It is regrettable that the police under Ibrahim Idris are full of plenty of energy but not a huge amount in the way of quality or incisiveness.
Last week, I wrote that it was the late Bisi Onabanjo former Ogun State governor, with the pen name Aiyekooto, who gave the sobriquet Maradona to Ibrahim Babangida. I was wrong. One of my former editors corrected me that it was Okey Ndibe, then with the African Guardian, and currently a professor in the United States that gave the sobriquet. I stand corrected.