You were born patriotic. In fact, you always believed that things would eventually get better. You are an unrepentant believer of the age-long, deceptive rubric that ‘Nigeria go beta’. You could place your life on the line that things would never remain the way they are.
That was a very long time ago. Now it feels like it was in another lifetime when you passionately believed in the ‘Nigerian Dream’. until things began to fall apart. This is not Achebe’s novel. It is much more disconcerting than a book that told the white men that we had a culture even before their existence began. Truth be told, it is expressly the reckless falling apart of things. But come to think of it, in your meagre years of existence, was there ever a time when things were not falling apart?
On Monday, when, on my Facebook platform, I posted that “May god punish every Nigerian policeman“, some friends and even obscure acquaintances all screamed blue murder. Like they expected me to pray for the irresponsible members of the police force, when all they have offered me is frustration, and more frustration. Some even thought I was being overtly touchy, or just transferring my bitterness without enough justification to do so. Well, for all I care, it was my timeline and I still stand by that statement, until maybe when the Department of State Services (DSS) finally decide to pick me up (who doesn’t know that has been their job description lately?).
Some two weeks ago, I was lucky to have escaped being shot by the so-called ‘friend’ of the people. In a car with an elder brother, the only offence that precipitated our being violently harassed was that ours was the only car in sight around the Guinness area of Ikeja at around 5:00 am. The cardigan-sporting, lone policeman hurried out of hiding and jumped in front of the car, brandishing his gun, like we were some terrorists or something. I had never been that scared before in my entire life. You know the kind of fear that feels like bile in your throat. That day, I knew that, when you are at the mercy of a Nigerian policeman, and he starts cocking his gun and pointing it in your face, your whole life replays in front of you, in broken visuals, on a giant, virtual screen. With anger burning in his eyes– for no sensible reason other than, perhaps, our refusal to indulge him by offering bribe for no offence. Like a rabid-dog, after we refused to offer him ‘kola’, he began hitting the butt of his gun against the windshield, breaking the two side-mirrors and the front windscreen in the process. But for the timely intervention of a handful of Hausa men, I might have been two weeks dead.
In a similar progression of idiocy, last Sunday, on my way from the Atan area of Ogun state, around the Abule-Egba neighbourhood in Lagos, a team of policemen–numbering about seven– had put up a scarecrow road-block. I believe that in saner climes road blocks are for curbing the excesses of criminals, like armed robbers and other nefarious-minded citizens. In Nigeria, on the other hand, road blocks are terminals for numerous bottles of beer and bowls of pepper-soup for the insensate policemen. The bus driver had refused to tow the regular path of churning out bribes to anything in uniform amidst the rants of some passengers who are used to being oppressed. However, myself and some other reasonable passengers supported him not to. But then, you could see the impunity with which this irrational set of humans called policemen were hounding him for bribe. One of them, a wiry Edo man (I suspect so from his name) even said “If dem born your father well, make you no pay.” I looked him in the eye, heaved a sigh of frustration, and was convinced that this country is not a home for us.
These two instances are not my only encounters with the brood of vipers in black. I am now so used to police madness that a black uniform is synonymous to bribery and corrupt practices. My troubles with them started in my Senior Secondary School days when I was almost always picked up for going to the cyber cafe. I was always at Pinnacle Cafe at Ikotun to indulge in the satisfaction that Facebook offered, as I had just signed up to the Mark Zuckerberg-owned social media platform. You would have expected that a boy of 16 years would be left alone to his wit, but the average Nigerian policeman, whether you are 10 or 18 years of age, always wants bribe. It is in their nature to ogle you for a N100 or N200 naira note. A friend once said that “how to ask for bribe” is possibly one of the lessons taught at the Police orientation programme for new members. The skillful you are at it the more your chances of promotion.
It is obvious, beyond doubt, that many other Nigerians have various tales of woe to tell about their daily dealings with the police. It is surprising that the government has refused to, or is incapable of doing anything to stop the unwholesome, beastly escapades of policemen in the country.
In March, 2016, I had gone to Uyo in Akwa-Ibom state to visit a friend. On a radio program, I heard the presenters say that the commissioner of police for the state wanted evidences of the corrupt charges labeled against police men. He wanted people to put their lives on the line and go take pictures of policemen vehemently receiving bribes and intimidating people with guns. If you are wondering just what I am, then you would know that the commissioner himself is an unserious, unintelligent hypocrite. If he was so committed to the safety of the people, why not relieve himself of the vainglorious convoy of cars, dress as an indifferent citizen, board a public bus, and go survey some of the areas where the complaints stemmed from? Of course not. He must sit in his air-conditioned office and pretend like he himself did not forcefully request for bribe before providence, or rather, the Nigerian hopelessness, placed him in the lofty office.
Saying that the Nigerian police is a fortress of corruption is repeatedly stating the obvious. One thing is clear, the police force, in negligence of its original mission, is an anti-social institution. Instead of protecting the people, they have, as is the tradition in the country, negated everything they should stand for.
For me, one thing is sacrosanct, every Nigerian policeman is corrupt, with the exception of the few who plead for bribe with their “oga find us something nah”, rather than command you to part with your hard-earned cash, like it is one of your obligations as a citizen.
For now, we can only hope that the government looks seriously into the case of uniformed men intimidating citizens, requesting for bribes like you owe them, and consequently frustrating the lives of people whose only offence is that they are Nigerians. As it stands, hope is the only arm that we possess. But then, hope is never a virtue in a country as porous as Nigeria.
About the Author:
Adefolami Ademola is a teacher, poet, content creator and social commentator.
He writes biting satires, for which he hopes to get arrested and become popular.
He is currently a content writer at http://thenerveafrica.com/