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Your money or your life!

By Dele Sobowale

The Police we are to sympathise with take bribe to process report on accident victims, bribe before statements are written, bribe before investigation, terrorise us ..”.

The most difficult decision people sometimes have to make is not between “totally right” and “absolutely wrong.” However, the individual determines what is “right” or “wrong,” anybody who can be regarded as well-adjusted and who is not corrupted or under duress can generally decide to support the “right” and resist the “wrong.” The most difficult choices involve two “rights” or two “wrongs.”

The sender of this message has challenged me to defend my decision, and a choice my readers are asked to embrace as well. The writer, incidentally, serves as proxy for a lot of people who feel the same aversion to our police officers and who reject the call to come to their defence. I respect his view because it is based on some truths we all know and feelings many of us share. To be candid, no challenge has given me so many problems in formulating an answer which would be acceptable to a lot of people as this one in a long time.

I thought of the Biblical injunction, “Love them that persecute you”. But, that would mean loving the terrorists too. Clearly, that would lead to a dead-end. The truth is the police also sometimes terrorise people as I know from personal experience and they engage in all the things with which they are charged above – and much more. So, how does one defend such people?

Then, one day, something happened in Maiduguri; another Boko Haram attack on several people at beer parlours. From all the reports, in newspapers and on television, there was no mention of the attackers stopping and asking the people to stop drinking; neither did they request for the identity of their victims out whom 25 were killed. Some might even have been Muslims in search of their daily bread.

So, the multiple murders were premeditated and indiscriminate. Even, a non-drinker, who just happened to be passing through could have been a victim. Then, it became clear to me where the fine line between the “terrorism” of the police and the Boko Haram sect’s methods as well as goals lie. The title of this column also came at the same time.

One fact is indisputable in all these. Granted the police extort money; they collect bribes at check-points, whether legally or illegally mounted. Almost without exception, their goal is to separate their victims from as much of their money as possible. There has never been any reported case of the police officer still going ahead and shooting someone who has paid whatever was demanded.

The victims lived, perhaps, to be exploited another day. The Boko Harams, on the other hand, have no use for their victims’ money. They have no use for any earthly possession of the people they attack; they want their lives; in short, they want that divine gift, the only asset without which even all the money in the Central Bank of China (forget Nigeria; we are paupers compared to the Chinese) means nothing. It is a choice between a knock on the head and decapitation.

Even the police officer involved in ”accidental discharge” still offers a distinct advantage over the Boko Haram assassins. Unless he has lost his senses, and is, therefore, not responsible for his actions, he started with intention to extort and only when that intention is frustrated does he kill.

In sharp contrast, the terrorist (Boko Haram or not) steps out with the objective in mind of killing as many as possible. And, whereas, the police officer, even if not caught and punished, might never again commit murder, the terrorist if not eliminated will surely attempt another pogrom because my readings on the phenomenon called fanaticism has revealed that extremists, irrespective of whether they a religious or secular, take as their measure of “success” mounting dead body counts. They should on no account be confused with ordinary armed robbers or criminals, who only kill when necessary and as few as possible. Fanatical terrorists for their part want to annihilate everybody who does not belong to their movement; they sometimes even turn against themselves when disagreements arise about how to proceed in their match towards absolute power.

These are some of the considerations that went into my requesting other peoples’ support for the police. I hope you are convinced, whoever you are. But, rest assured, that I still wish you all the best. Between the extortionist police officers and Boko Haram, I prefer to land in the police trap. There, I have a chance because they probably will be satisfied with money. With Boko Haram, I have none, because they definitely will be satisfied only with my life. As the great Zik of Africa has said, “He who fights and runs away, lives to run another day.” Have a pleasant Sunday.


Of what is it to a man on the street if the Presidency, the Senate President, the Speaker or the Chairman of ruling party is zoned to his geo-political zone?…Let MERITOCRACY do the zoning. Dr E. J”

It seems as if you are derailing. When have you become an apostle of zoning as against the principle of meritocracy in governance?…”

Erudite people, who have a good control of grammar interest me; especially when they fail to understand the meaning of their own proposals. The first message presumes that because zoning all the offices to one place is irrelevant to him, it is also of no consequence to “a man on the street” -whoever that is. Apparently this writer does not read our papers. At any rate he presumes to speak for “the man on the street”, which is intellectual dishonesty. I am “a man on the street” and I always speak only for myself. Zoning is important because it is in the Nigerian constitution in many clauses too numerous to list. And, because the ruling party as well as other parties practice one variation of it or other. They rule us and we must ask them to be honest with the principles entrenched in our constitution as well as theirs. Is that too difficult?

Second, I don’t know which train the second sender is on. But, before getting on a train, one better be sure one is sober; the train might be on track but the passenger might be flat on his back. I am not an apostle of zoning. I am merely saying that having embraced it in our 1999 Constitution and the constitution of PDP, then it must be enforced. So, I don’t know if his train is on track or not. But, mine has never lost sight of its goal.

Finally, MERITOCRACY, which has become the mantra of the erudite people, is an illusion. First, what is merit? Not everybody agrees on the definition of the word. Second, no government on earth is based on meritocracy which is a management principle not a political arrangement. I challenge anyone to point to a government based on meritocracy. Just one will do. People can deceive themselves with grammar all they want, but the suggestion is of secondary practical value in political arrangements. Unless you can outline for us a system of government called MERITOCRACY, I will plead with you to go and bother someone else with it.



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