Growing up (about 1932), we had a tall neighbor with a lean look. He could separate a fight with one silent look. Tough looking face! He was a policeman. Some around the village feared him. Kids automatically stopped crying when mothers threatened to invite Baba Police! The elders called him Mr Authority! All my “nonsense” stopped the day my mum said: “If you do nonsense, I’ll report you to the police station!” It took years for me to know the difference between police and the station, anyway.
But then, Sgt Authority’s image was enough to scare children from stealing crayfish or demanding eggs. Stubborn babies were weaned from breast easily with Baba Police’s name. That invocation maintained peace and (dis)order. Well, everything about Authority was either orderly or related. On his fruit-bearing mango tree was a notice: ”Do not touch, by Police order”! And if he disappeared for weeks, we heard he was “ordered” by his oga to report to a certain place on official duty.
That was then. Ever since Mr Authority died, in active service, the police seem to have lost order. And, well, authority. According to the Daily Sun of Feb 12, 2018, 150,000 policemen/women are on unauthorised duties across the nation. Out of about 300,000 policemen. But unauthorised? Chisos! Unauthorised? That’s my first confusion. Pardon my stupidity! What the hell does that mean, anyway? You see, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria grants me the right to my ignorance and stupidity. So, can IGP Idris and Mike Okiro, chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) explain, please?! Thank you!
Ok, the story sounded weird to my big ears and dull brain, jare! Okiro reportedly said the “unauthorised” policemen are “attached” to VIPs. Here’s my second confusion.
You see, I attended a night school and the class was always as dark as Fashola’s face. No light! We never saw our teacher; we only “saw” his mumblings. That tends to always affect my understanding. If I lie, may I jump from the river into a canoe!
But it appears I’m not the only one puzzled here. Okiro seems as “disorderly” in thought as Audu Ogbe with his rejected cow colony policy. The former IGP knows that his ‘goddam’ story doesn’t add up. Can a police personnel on unauthorised duty go free? By now, somebody would’ve been ordered before a panel, found guilty and summarily dismissed. At least, that’s what one mad man, a retired policeman, told me at the junction to my village stream.
The police, as a body, has a history of hierarchy and command. The junior personnel are always under the command and authority of the senior officers. Even those at “unauthorised” checkpoints reportedly make returns to an officer somewhere. So, Okiro should spare us that cock and bull!
On another scale, if indeed the police personnel are on “unauthorised duties”, how then did Okiro know that they are with the VIPs? If the police command can tell where the junior personnel are, then it’s no longer unauthorised. For if it were, they would’ve been ordered back to base! So, is Okiro just knowing that VIPs – politicians; musicians; actors/actresses; pastors; comedians; athletes; business tycoons; artistes; police officers and even drunkards with money use the police? I’m told, to such persons, the police clean shoes; hold bags to the markets; open car doors; dust seats; iron clothes, “service” maids and, well, cook for the dogs. Again, if you doubt, ask the mad man in my village. He would tell you that it’s “common knowledge”. He swore it’s always been like that even when Okiro was IGP. So the former IGP should stop making it sound like a sudden scourge. Me? I don’t believe the “mad man” o. Because if it was common knowledge, Okiro would’ve known, abi?
Anyway, the hardworking Okiro says the president has already ordered them to return order and authority to the police. The “unauthorised” policemen are to be withdrawn. The good news: PSC and NPF (do they still have Force?) have commenced implementation of PMB’s order. But the sad and confusing news: the exercise’s stalled due to lack of funds. “We could not sustain enforcement of the order on the withdrawal of policemen attached to unqualified persons in the country because of lack of funds”, Okiro claims.
How? Why? English, please?! Do you need money to withdraw policemen? Issue one signal and they’ll all return to base, jo. What do you need money for? To type a signal? Doesn’t make sense. Organise a parade. Do a role call. Punish absentees. Set up a commission. Court-martial the suspects. And thank me, later! There are police actions, mehn! Stop with these lame excuses. Hey! Somebody please confirm if Okiro’s been treated of malaria, recently. Well, ok, thank God; the police, sorry, doctor says he’ll be fine.
Okiro sounds more like a comedian than a police boss. But if he’s still unsure where all the 150,000 policemen are, he should contact Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. Assemblyman Usoro Akpanusoh swears all the law-breakers, sorry, makers have policemen planted in all their cars. To promote lawlessness – like covered number plates, etc. If each has ten cars, for instance, that means ten policemen in different cars. Plus the ones to open the gates; polish shoes, escort madams to banks and markets; make the girlfriends feel important; drive the kids to school, cover number plates; etc. Where the hell have the age-old order and authority gone to? There are certain basics expected of the police. For instance, for the children ‘A’ may represent “Apple”, according to the old western educational model. But for the police “A” is either for “Arrest” or “Assault”. It also used to represent “Authority” but not anymore. “B” may stand for “Ball”, for ordinary people but it stands for “Bail” in police diary. If for you “C” stands for “Cup”, the police would always know it as representing “Crime”! So, if there are such basics in police books, why can’t order and authority be reinvented?
Well, the police job is tough, we must admit. Some work so hard under the hot sun that even their teeth sweat. I pity them more when they try to smile despite the hardship, just because they want to beg for N20. But since hardship is everywhere now, I beat them to the game, sometimes, by asking for “something” just before they ask me. Then, when they mix excuses, lamentations and explanations, they sound more like Buhari trying to swim away from corruption!
Plagued by poor pay; illiteracy, inadequate training; low morale; corruption, etc, the Nigerian policeman at the checkpoint is at once desperate and crude because he wants to take something back to his boss. Not only because he is hungry. He’s been “authorised” by someone to go somewhere and return with “something”. So he’d use any tactics to extract “something” from the motorists. The other day, one stopped a lady in front of me, inspected her papers and found a catch. “Madam, it says here that you should be wearing glasses.” The woman answered “Well, I have contacts.” (She meant contact-lenses.) But the policeman exploded: “I don’t care who you know! Let’s go to the station!”
At the stations, if you fail to play ball, they can torture a bear to accept it’s suddenly become a rabbit. Recently, on a Saturday morning, one on a supposed “unauthorised” duty, stopped a young man who refused to part with something. The policeman was furious because oga, I learnt later, ordered him to make “heavy” returns that weekend. The young motorist tried to explain something but the adamant policeman threw him into a cell “until the DPO gets back.” By evening of same day, he returned to mock the young man: “You think you are stubborn? Stay there! If you are lucky, the DPO may be in a good mood, when he returns from his daughter’s wedding…” “Don’t count on it,” answered the fellow in the cell. “I’m the groom!” The “unauthorised duty”, which the DPO authorised had clearly backfired!