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Here comes the Police State!

By Josef Omorotionmwan
WE have maintained, perhaps with monotonous regularity, that in time of increased problems, it is simply natural for people to look in every direction for possible solutions. Yes, of a truth, there is hardly anyone who would not be perturbed by the very sad events of the bomb blasts that greeted our celebrations of the 50th anniversary of our nation’s independence in Abuja on October 1, 2010.

Worse still, this was quickly followed by serial blasts in Jos last Christmas eve and at an Army Barrack in Abuja on New Year’s eve. And, of course, we need not mention the Niger Delta region, which has since become home for such bomb blasts.

Even where every Nigerian was virtually going to surrender to the criminal elements, the Federal Government should not be seen joining the queue of this total surrender. It must, therefore, portray some ‘boldface’ to show that something must be done. After all, in any battle where the troop commander begins to run, chances are that his followers might simply throw their weapons to the enemy.

That explains why at an emergency National Security Council meeting in Abuja on January 3, 2011, the government resolved to appoint a Special Adviser on anti-terrorism who would be charged with the responsibility for intelligence gathering and processing, aimed at containing the nefarious activities of the criminal elements. The idea of appointing a Security Adviser has been long over due.

At the same Council meeting, it was proposed that a closed circuit television (CCTV) system be set up in public places in our cities and towns.

We see this as an open invitation to a Police state and a return to the era of the Gestapo. Put differently, if the proposal sails through, Nigerians, particularly opposition politicians, should know that wherever they are and whatever they are doing, Aso Rock is watching!

This is the subject of today’s write-up. The new proposal is repugnant at two levels: functionality and the vexing issue of the invasion of our privacy.

Unarguably, criminality in Nigeria has reached a crescendo, so much that the authorities have now been pushed to the ridiculous extent where we are being asked to surrender our much-cherished right to privacy, via this preposterous attempt to beam the television lenses on us wherever we are. All that the Nigerian has today is the right to his privacy and once that is gone, certainly, all else is gone. No one should be carried away by the surface attractiveness of yet another ill-conceived policy.

Certainly, if the proposed equipment were aimed at a population that has been defined as totally criminal, such as the prisoners, we would raise no objection whatsoever. But where such scientific devices are aimed at the entire population of good and bad citizens alike, we soon get to the area where questions bordering on the invasion of privacy become relevant.

Essentially, privacy consists of the constitutional right of the individual to be left alone. As for those already carrying criminal labels, they have lost their right to be left alone because of their refusal to leave other law-abiding members of society alone.

We often blame our leaders who visit the advanced societies, so-called, who see improvements taking place there but only return to the dark ages without introducing such innovations back home. They may have now woken up from their slumber and they are introducing the CCTV to us! There is still a missing link, though.

They may have forgotten that in such other places, they have steady electricity supply while here, it is the exact opposite. No one has told us yet that the so-called CCTV can function effectively on water, which is even in short supply in many parts of our land. In all honesty, we see in the CCTV, an attempt to install some scientific equipment that will not last beyond the very day of commissioning. It is just another drain pipe!

In one of her award-winning songs, Tina Turner left us with a poser, which has not been settled to finality till this day: Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?  Of what use is the CCTV against criminals who do not operate in hiding, anyway? Have we not seen instances where criminals closed the busiest highways while robbing banks in broad daylight, sometimes for upwards of two hours?

When a contingent of bank robbers arrive anywhere with their machine guns, gunboats and bazookas and empty the bank after shooting virtually all night, what can the CCTV achieve?  What of kidnappers who carry out their nefarious activities in busy churches without wearing any camouflage? Or, maybe the CCTV could have detained the planters of the Abuja, Jos and the Yenagoa bombs! Wishful thinking, isn’t it?

Who needs a device that is susceptible to human abuse? Have we forgotten that in the study of bio-ethics, it is the scrutiny of humans by humans that causes embarrassment? Is it not the mere knowledge that one is being remote-controlled or watched by fellow humans that may make the person being watched not to be himself and therefore not to behave to type? We certainly do not need all these aggravations!

Just in case we are still at the level where “money is not our problem but how to spend it”, let us quickly discard the idea of the CCTV and instead, we should invest such surpluses on properly equipping our law enforcement agents because the complaint has not stopped being that the criminals possess superior weapons than those trying to catch them.


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