BURNING POT BY DR. PRINCE CHARLES DICKSON

 

The Nigerian Police and our many dots

pcdbooks@yahoo.com

 

One day a professor entered the classroom and asked his students to prepare for a surprise test.  They waited anxiously at their desks for the test to begin. The professor handed out the question paper with the text facing down as usual.  Once he handed them all out, he asked his students to turn the page and begin.  To everyone’s surprise, there were no questions, just a black dot in the center of the page.

 

The professor, seeing the expression on everyone’s face, told them the following, “I want you to write what you see there.”  The confused students got started on the inexplicable task.  At the end of the class, the professor took all the answer papers and started reading each one of them aloud in front of all the students.  All of them with no exceptions described the black dot, trying to explain its position in the middle of the sheet etc.

 

After all had been read, the classroom was silent.  The professor began to explain, “I am not going to grade you on this, I just wanted to give you something to think about.  No one wrote about the white part of the paper.  Everyone focused on the black dot and the same happens in our lives.  We have a white paper to observe and enjoy, but we always focus on the dark spots.  Our life is a gift given to us by God with love and care.  We always have reasons to celebrate, nature renewing itself every day, our friends around us, the job that provides our livelihood, the miracles we see every day.”

 

“However, we insist on focusing only on the dark spots, the health issues that bother us, the lack of money, the complicated relationship with a family member, the disappointment with a friend etc.  The dark spots are very small compared to everything we have in our lives, but they are the ones that pollute our minds.  Take your eyes away from the black spots in your life.  Enjoy each one of your blessings, each moment that life gives you. Be happy and live a positive life positively!”

 

Now, to my admonition, Nigeria, Nigerians, we are a special breed, a special people, and when we say special, it all depends on what you call special. I am almost sure that for some, what we may recall as ‘dots’ would be the now forgotten phrase by the former President, Mr. Buhari in referring to a section of the country.

 

For a nation that fought itself fiercely at the last General Polls looking for a Messiah as president, it remains to be seen whether there is a sense of urgency to do what is right, or change our old ways. We are just special, in all our ways and manner, this nation of great men and women simply has too many dots.

 

It is that dot that we forget often when we discuss Nigeria, a dot that despite all the #ENDSARS drama, the loss of lives, and property both for civilians and the police, we witness as was the case in Edo only last week, again, police brutality, this time, a viral video which shows a police car running over a handcuffed man.

 

In the almost 20 seconds clip, a handcuffed man is lying on a road while a police vehicle – a Sienna car – runs over him. People screamed for the officers to stop while the handcuffed man was powerless beneath the vehicle. Immediately the car ran over the man; the angry crowd surged towards it. The driver stopped, opened the car door and fled the scene.

 

The Force spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, described the incident as “unpoliced”, adding that he has contacted the commissioner of police in Edo State. “I don’t think a normal human being can do this. To crush a man with a car? This is unbelievable. We need to take urgent action on this. It is strange to me as a person,” he said in a Twitter post.

 

The police is an institution of dots... the dot on the white sheet is often too visible by their bad behaviour, have you seen what the police barracks look like across the nation?

 

Despite the poor and degrading nature of our prisons, most police barracks are not different from rehabilitation homes for juveniles. The police have been reduced to an agency of ridicule and hatred amongst the populace. The only robbers they shoot are ordinary citizens who refuse to give them the N20 toll. When they conclude an investigation successfully, it must have been that of a landlord and tenant or two- fighting at a bus stop.

 

Right from the days of Anini the great robber, the police rather than be the combatants of crime, has been partners in progress to armed robbers, robberies and all manners of social vices. It is that bad, if you have an encounter with robbers you are 70% likely to escape with your life intact and the same encounter with a policeman in possession of a pistol, you will have less than 30% chance of survival.

 

No equipment, poor funding, unavailability of logistics, the police resort to the very crimes they are supposed to protect us from. Divisional Police Offices are now banks; the Divisional Police Officers’ are branch managers waiting daily for ‘returns’ (bribe) from marketing executhiefs (Junior ranks).

 

The edifice called the police is a case of epilepsy, from the change of uniform, to increased recruitment of illiterates that can barely spell their names. The problem is not necessarily just that of the Nigerian police but that of a nation whose leaders have thrown their responsibilities to the gutters.

 

Talking about the police, it is interesting to look at the police from what it should be. Police are agents or agencies empowered to enforce the law and to affect public and social order through the legitimate use of force.

 

In our experience the police have contributed negatively to an increasingly disjointed social order in the nation. The Nigeria Police has failed the nation in its primary function of providing safety, ensuring public order, enforcing criminal law, traffic regulations, crowd control, criminal investigation etc.

 

In this manner, a mad man was assumed to be admiring the police parade at a nearby police post, the Divisional Police Officer walked to him and asked if he wanted to join the police and the mad man answered, ‘I dey mad'.

Like the teaching profession, these days’ people join the force as a last resort, so naturally they vent all the frustrations of life on the job. Bail is free on paper but in practice the price you pay all depends on the offense and the officer in charge.

 

I once narrated the tale of an officer who stopped the police commissioner in his state and asked for a bribe of N20 or else he was going to arrest him for driving at night alone when the roads were dangerous. How many times have we seen policemen disappear on occasion of an armed robbery, everyone wants to get to heaven, but none wants to die?

 

With our police everything is wrong, very few spaces are white, all black dots. There is a public apathy against the police so much that even if they wore white they would discrete the color.

 

Between an endless hope and a hopeless end, let us see hope in the horizon, though this is difficult to see. The situation is bad, let it not be said that we did not talk, write, and even beg the government to expand the white. And as I now say these days—May Nigeria win!