Growing up at Ibadan in the early 80’s, there was a particular jingle on one of the radio stations that stuck in my brain till today. The jingle in Yoruba says “ e toju dukia o, ka ma ba fa ara wa le ole lowo. Ti e ba fe sun lale, ki e pana ki e tilekun gboingboin. Ti onile o ba fura, ole ni o kolo” It went on to give many other precautionary measures. The jingle simply means “ take care of your property to avoid robbery”. Definitely, there must have been something that necessitated the composition of that beautiful jingle that was prominent as the national anthem at that point in time. The responsibility of policing was summarily laid at the doorstep of individuals.
I remember that as a secondary school student, I joined the community vigilante in some of their activities. Sadly, more than thirty years, we are still not far from where we were. It is most unfortunate that again in the history of our nation, we have to revert to landlords forming vigilante groups to protect themselves from activities of thieves.
From all indications, there has been a generational hatred between the people and the police. One of the first exposures we had in the University was that Police were our enemies and killers. It was not surprising anyway that there was no Nigerian student that would not know the song “ How many students police go kill o, we go kill them tired”.
No Aluta was complete without that song and many of us dared the brutality of the men in black. I remember the several encounters we had with Late Commissioner Ekama who was in Ogun State while I was the President of the Students’ Union Government. As bad as things were, arising from the effects of military era, there were still a couple of police men who were different. I am sure that the mantra “ Police is your friend” must have emanated as a result of observed negative perception of the people concerning the police.
There have been several reported cases of misdemeanor by the officers of the Nigerian Police and this in most cases leave many of us with an impression that the police is corrupt, inefficient and ineffective. There have been reforms upon reforms and it appears we are still far from it. However, it is pertinent to note that condemning the entire system because of a few children of perdition is tantamount to error of generalization. The truth is that out of every twelve, there will always be a Judas. The same way we cannot condemn all doctors because one killed a patient or condemn all lecturers because a lecturer slept with a student.
I am convinced to state emphatically that the developments arising from COVID-19 pandemic has positively impacted on the Nigeria Police. Just as the pandemic has reduced the gulf between the rich and the poor as all now brainstorm on safeguarding the community without discrimination, the pandemic has also helped the police to prove a point that they can live up to expectation. The swiftness with which they respond to distress calls arising from the activities of the hoodlums taking advantage of lockdown should be commended. If this tempo can be sustained after COVID-19, we would have greatly discouraged people from crime. For example, a family friend alerted that armed robbers were in his area and before long, a team of Police was there and this obstructed the activities of the intruders. That is the police of our dream! The control room was alive! No dropping of calls and no blame game!
Undoubtedly, there are several constraints to effective policing in Nigeria. One major constraint is our terrible road network. Before a police team gets to a target, the hoodlums in most cases would have disappeared thereby giving the hoodlums another day. Just as the main roads are bad, the inner roads are terrible! The roads control and limit your speed! Distances that ordinarily should not be more than three minutes eventually take fifteen minutes if not more.
This could be discouraging. There are no layouts, no regular numbering of houses, no mapping and the description would be turn right, later left, go down and come straight. Just as it is terrible for us locating the house of colleagues during the day much more is the pain for the Police in the night and we end up blaming the police for delay in coming. Our infrastructures are enemies of the efficiency of Nigeria Police.
In this period of lockdown, one would have expected that the IBEDC would, based on the exigencies at the moment and promise of the National Assembly improve electricity supply to consumers. The hoodlums are taking advantage of lack of electricity to perpetrate their evil. To worsen the case is the fact that arising from lack of electricity, most phones are switched off and thereby preventing effective networking during emergencies. Regular supply of electricity at a time as this should be of utmost priority.
The advent of COVID-19 also came with unprecedented level of dissemination of fake news and alarms. This will definitely hamper the activities of the Police. As much as possible, we should avoid alerting by proxy and if at all we are alerting by proxy, we should confirm and ascertain the veracity of the information. Let us avoid being purveyors of fake alarms! We must bear in mind that the hoodlums can also deliberately concoct false information as diversionary techniques.
As we go into another phase of lockdown, let us save the numbers of the police control rooms in our various areas and localities on our phones and guard them jealously the way we will guard the phone number of our loved ones. It is important to ensure that your phone’s battery while going to bed could last till the next morning and with minimum call credit. You may need it or need it to help someone!
It is my hope that after now, the swiftness of the Police will be sustained and the renewed harmony between the people and the Police will be improved upon to lay credence to the fact that Police is truly our friend.We must strengthen our vigilance and review our vigilante structures so as to be safe at all times.
Finally, the pandemic can temporarily stop us from congregating in our various places of worship but cannot stop us from calling upon our God on whom our protection is guaranteed. Do your part and I do my part.
Bealert! Police is your friend!
Nigeria will be great again!
Dr. Ogunjobi Kayode Michael writes from Abeokuta,Ogun State Capital