Police Is Nobody’s Brother

Ndi uwe ojii abughi nwanne mmadu! Yes, that is a common Igbo saying. Police is nobody’s friend. In Igboland people have always been suspicious of the police. ndi uwe ojii, the black uniform people. The uniform has varied from black on black to light blue on black but the people wearing the uniforms are the same.

The Endsars protest is not a surprise. Indeed it is surprising that it has taken so long for it to happen. The youth have always been the victims of police action including brutality, intimidation and oppression. On the other hand the youth have been guilty of lending themselves to a lot of manipulation including being used by politicians to manipulate elections including rigging, ballot box hijack, thuggery, and illegal thumb printing of ballot papers and a lot of other social malpractices. But now it is the youth that are more active in the social media and can communicate among themselves easily and that is what has enabled them to quickly organise themselves into what we have just witnessed. It seems that they are just realising how much power they have.

You can hardly find anybody who has not had a run in with the police. I have on several occasions. My first nasty experience was when they came to my house to arrest me on spurious allegations of being a fraudster by a Traditional Ruler. The idea was to lock me up to ‘teach me a lesson’. But because I went to their office with a well respected citizen they allowed him to take me on bail. I am still, thirty years later, out on bail.

On another occasion my wife and I were going home for Christmas holidays as many Igbos do when just past Shagamu we were stopped at a checkpoint. The policeman who checked my car papers came to my side of the car and said, ‘Oga, the colour stated in this paper as the colour of your car is different from what I see. It is a serious matter and you will have to pay ten thousand naira before I let you go.’ I told him bluntly that I would not pay ten thousand naira. He beckoned his superior officer who confirmed that if I didn’t want to pay I should accompany them to see the DPO. They wanted to enter my car but it was full. So they asked us to follow them in their pick-up. So we followed them against my wife’s objections for over twenty kilometers. At their office we met a well dressed ASP who seemed satisfied with life. He was just about to go to Lagos to have his shining Peugeot car serviced, a car financed by the police. He looked at my car papers and turned to berate his two subordinates for dragging two elderly citizens that long distance for such a minor thing that they should have told me to correct as soon as I got back to Lagos. He offered us colanuts, apologised to us and bade us safe journey and a merry Christmas. The sheepish officers who had brought us there followed us all the way back to the expressway until we turned right and continued on our long journey.

On most occasions police turn themselves into beggars. There was one occasion when a beefy looking policeman stopped my car near Ekwulobia. He said to the driver, ‘Oya, give it to me. If you don’t want to put it in my hand drop it on the road. I will pick it up. Oya, quick.’ Then he appeared to notice me sitting in the rear and said, ‘Oga, ah no know say you dey there, good morning.’ Then unabashed he turned back to the driver and continued cajoling him to give him money. On other occasions when I am in my home town I drive myself and I derive some amusement listening to them at their ubiquitous chech points saying, ‘Oga, we be your boys. Give us something for pure water.’ Or ‘we, ya boys dey stand for sun since morning. Anything for us?’ I normally regard these as mere banter and show them my nearly bald head and ask them to give daddy some money. But very often you hear of policemen shooting bus drivers or okada motorcyclists for refusing to give them one hundred naira.

I have personally not had a run in with members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. But I have heard a lot about their brutality, about how dreaded they are. Some years back the newspapers carried a story about twenty bodies seen floating on the Ezu River. Till today nobody has explained that sad story of twenty young and obviously Igbo youth sent to early deaths by the unknown. The suspicion is that one of government’s security agents was responsible. Of late, after the Endsars demonstrations, stories have been surfacing as to how many young Igbos have ended up in the same Ezu River courtesy of SARS. We may never know the truth and the Ezu River cannot talk to reveal how many Igbo youth ended up in its watery grave. And since human life is very cheap in these parts nobody will employ divers to find out what the River is hiding.

Personally I am happy our youth are now awake. Perhaps they will provide an answer to the many problems dogging this contraption of a country. We are running a dictatorship and calling it a democracy. I am sure that even the British who cooked up this union never envisaged what we are seeing today. They say Endsars has been disbanded. But I fear nothing has changed. Whatever group they say has replaced SARS cannot be different. Give a group of Nigerians uniforms and some authority and they will shoot their mothers and fathers. Long live the youth for waking up at last.

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