Jon Chikadibie Okafo
Two weeks ago, I travelled down to my home State of Anambra to pay my last respects to a dear aunt who passed away. The burial was in Amawbia, a prominent part of the State Capital Territory which is equally where Governor Peter Obi’s Governor’s Lodge is located. Apart from my understandably sombre mood brought about by that feeling that life is futile, I was confronted by a very wicked and irrational action of the Anambra State police command.
This essay therefore is intended to seek for reasons and answers to why the police authorities in Anambra State would deem it morally and ethically right to impose more hardship, sufferings, mental trauma and anguish on the already mesmerized teeth-gnashing people of Anambra State.
The Anambra Police headquarters cum the Commissioner of Police office is located along Zik Avenue, Amawbia and is about five minutes’ walk to the official residence of Governor Peter Obi. Both vehicular and human traffic were allowed passage along Zik Avenue until recently when the police command in their rather bizarre wisdom deemed it fit to restrict movements on this road by wickedly erecting concrete barriers to shut out traffic of all sorts.
As I write, the police headquarters in Amawbia has arrogated to itself the sole right to use a portion of a public road by diverting traffic through a very tortuous route. Mean looking and assault rifle wielding police officers now man this portion of the road to coerce compliance. Well, the police authorities could argue that their action was borne out of the need to “secure” their location against enemy action. This is laughable and an attempt to clearly portray the police as being scared and insensitive!
Are we now, the peace loving people of Anambra State being told in very explicit terms that the police whose duty it is to secure lives and property is now more interested in securing their offices at the detriment of the thousands of Ndi Anambra? For the avoidance of doubt, there is no imminent Boko Haram threat in the State Capital; the Anambra State police should please relocate to a more serene location instead of annexing our road.
One would have expected Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State to resist this wicked action of the police only that he too has successfully alienated us the more by closing a portion of the road leading to Nibo for his sole “Executive Security”. A once open road leading to Nibo/Governor’s Lodge has been closed to the people of Anambra State for the sole reason that the Governor drives into his Lodge built with our money using same road.
This brings us to the worldview and mind frame of those entrusted with the task of leading us in Nigeria. Our elected and selected leaders find it exceptionally amusing and exhilarating heaping more hardship and wickedness on us by first securing their luxurious lifestyle as against working for the common good. It is only in Nigeria nay Africa that those in positions of authority see themselves as being more important than the rest of the people they claim to represent.
The Anambra State police command has soundly demonstrated this callousness by employing hardship-inducing measures to secure their location rather than strive to effectively secure the rest of the State. The Commissioner of police by restricting movement on a public road is telling us that his security is more important than ours, the police in Anambra is telling us that their office in Amawbia should be secured at all costs irrespective of the sufferings, anguish, evil and harrowing experience of the people of the State.
Whatever may be the case, I make bold to submit that the action of the Anambra State police command clearly summarises the ineffectiveness and archaic policing approach of the Nigerian Police. Modern day policing is not about erecting thick concrete barriers on public roads and stationing hundreds of armed police officers on the road to ward off hapless citizens. Modern day policing involves amongst others, the use of accurate intelligence to checkmate the nefarious plots of criminals.
It beats my imagination why people in this part of the world choose to close their eyes to official recklessness and impunity; it breaks my heart to see the level of docility and ignorance ravaging the mind-frame of many Nigerians. It is our collective responsibility to elect a government to run the affairs of the State, it is equally our collective duty to be on guard always to prevent a situation whereby the Government starts working for itself rather than working for us.
The police which is an apparatus of government should focus more on transforming into a more civil and people-oriented outfit rather than speedily transforming into a monster whose primary function is to intimidate, harass, oppress, maul, exploit (financially and otherwise), kill those who they are meant to protect. Even though I commend the present Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar on his efforts to turn the police around for good, I sincerely think that more work needs to be done to save the situation.
A police office should be one where citizens of all social cadres should feel free to walk in and out without first being marooned by a feeling of dread; a typical police office in Nigeria however represents an ugly place filled with the stench of human misery, a place peopled by mostly uniformed men and women with little or no understanding of the core duties of a modern day police officer, a place littered with broken down and accident ravaged vehicles, a place where “bail is free” only in the imagination of citizens, etc.
Little wonder why we have a Nigerian Police that is notorious for robbing hapless citizens, shooting them when they refuse to part with bribe money and framing them up as armed robbers after killing them! I have always called for a more comprehensive reform of our police institution; there is a serious need for a review of the training manual and style adopted in recruiting people into the Nigeria Police. The IG must do whatever it takes to ensure that his department is no longer seen as a place where the dregs of the society are dumped.
Will the Inspector General of Police stop paying lip service to reforming the service by first of all giving it a human face? Will the IGP please direct the Anambra State police command stop making us feel as if we were under occupation by removing the barriers on Zik Avenue Amawbia? Whoever advised the police in Anambra should be filled with shame for making the police resort to 19th Century policing by commandeering a public road and forcing innocent citizens to suffer as a result.