By Ugoji Egbujo

Bail is now free. Isn’t it? One thing the APC does fairly well is appropriating moral high grounds. Intolerable hypocrisy happens in politics. Delusion is worse but excusable. A troublemaker can insist on being renamed ‘Papa peace’. We have humored many of them. The society is better if morons marched around with the self esteem of geniuses.

Buhari-AraseEvery politician thinks himself smarter than the ordinary woman. But deception is unpardonably fraudulent, so campaign promises must be vows. Only fraudsters seek benefits on false or impossible promises. But if hypocrisy is not pretense but merely failure to match sensible words with tangible action, then it could represent ambition. And that is why the APC isn’t a ‘419’party and is perhaps better than the PDP. There is an amorphous, incoherent desire to be different.

That in a sense is infinitely better than honest shiftlessness. The sort of unpretentious resignation that the PDP came to be. And left the society mired in hopelessness. So Buhari can continue talking about change. Even if he has come with nothing besides personal integrity. Even if there are no tangible plans of making the APC what they claim it is. If the recourse isn’t to blatant tokenism, he may yet succeed in retarding societal decadence. May time not correct my optimism.

Sadly though, I don’t know of any government agency or institution that takes the President seriously. None has pushed the idea of change beyond mantra. Talk is cheap. But it is better than the dumb indolence of the past. I know of a few agencies that have made some noises and punched the air in contrived triumph. Their Change is heard, not seen. There should be a new order, it’s Buhari’s regime! But everywhere you go, it has been ‘business as usual’. The change that has come must be in hiding, somewhere. But it is not anywhere near the police formations.

During the Christmas season, I plied Port Harcourt -Owerri road twice. That road was a dramatization of the comedy that policing has become. Acute predatoriness combining well with opportunistic joviality. The sort of capriciousness ‘Area boys’ live on. At a certain section of that road the police constituted themselves into an infernal nuisance. The sort of nuisance that resides on the stretch between Badagry and Seme border in Lagos courtesy of the Customs. Police checkpoints littered the road like polythene bags on Amukoko streets before Fashola tarred them.

With less than 50 metres between some check points, the police were conspicuously oblivious of absurdity. Such a determined effort at defying reasonableness, at resisting change, in the open. In being utterly ridiculous , they were daringly defiant. That is what familiarity perhaps breeds. The police are our friend. The Customs’ siege at Seme is inconsistent with commonsense but they can blame it on smugglers. What was the police doing between Elele and Owerri? There is something about the police that makes a mockery of this Change president. Like a pastor whose choristers can’t help but gulp lungfuls of ganja in between songs on the altar.

Some other services have conducted some wishy-washy audits. Some Change induced formalisms. But they could pass for accountability , some kind of responsiveness, or an awareness of the times. They could be hollow and shallow but they are symbolic. We now know that our Air force that only recently existed only on the ground was crippled by theft and greed. Government officials and civil servants played manifestly despicable roles before and during the transition. Since we deny it is not systemic rot, we must sacrifice “ a few bad eggs”. In many departments some scapegoating has happened. The former head of the EFCC is wanted by the senate. Another probe is underway at the EFCC and ICPC. Many were forced away from the customs service. The military is still probing and cleansing itself. But strangely in the police, nothing has happened. The police have carried on without pretense, without bother.

The police should champion change. But theirs has been inexplicable obduracy? Their seeming imperviousness to change is in a sense gross insubordination. This change president evokes nothing in them. Others mouth change but not the police. Others hide to take bribes but the police won’t. Police officers who desecrated norms of civility in their desperation to serve politicians, got promoted.

Infamy and rascality were valorized, no reset has been attempted. The syndrome of professional pauperization of the police entailed more than their conversion to porters and pimps. And shoe-shiners. Servility meant their senior officers took up roles as political thugs and displayed uncommon brazenness. If Change cannot confront these, then what is change really about? Those who committed disreputable acts of gross misconduct got away unscathed. A redeployment to a training school is considered a punishment?

Those who padded the budget, we are told, have been seriously dealt with. They have been redeployed! So the very embodiment of thuggery and everything uncouth can be assigned to groom young police minds. Change was supposed to re institute law , order and reason. But Change , it appears, is very comfortable with petty lawlessness.

When the police hierarchy makes a pronouncement bordering on discipline, no one listens. It belittles itself by doing nothing to enforce what it says . The distribution of police men and police activity are democratic goods. Fairness and justice ought to guide all such allocations. But the police will allocate 10 mobile policemen to one Alaba trader. And When robbers take on banks in Festac town the police there will go into hiding.

A convoy of policemen is now the paraphernalia of sudden wealth. The pocket of the moneyed man inflicts stupidity on the system. Some communities have no police presence, yet some politicians have 50 policemen permanently loitering around them wherever they go. Businessmen and politicians have left police stations bereft of crime response power. And when the moral embarrassment pricks the police hierarchy, they will announce “an immediate withdrawal of all police protection for private individuals and politicians”. Because change is rhetorical, only the public is fooled. The fee would go up, but money and power will keep the policemen they have taken. And the one who gave the order will slouch back into customary complacency. The public will be left to moan interminably about worsening insecurity.

Kidnappers take victims and hold them for months and Festac residents lament the failure of the DSS to intervene. The helplessness of the police is familiar. People are being beheaded in Rivers as if ISIS has moved its headquarters there. The police have been impotent in Rivers as they have been in Agatu, as they were in Ketu. Everywhere they meet a little violence they plead for the Army. When Olu Falae was kidnapped the Inspector General relocated to Akure. Against a few herdsmen who operated on foot, it was Ransom that came to the rescue of the elder statesman.

Are the police willing to fall into irremediable redundancy? Many of our police officers are patriotic and hardworking. So why is the system so rickety? When you think you have heard it all, you are confronted with allegations of school children detained in a police cell in Orile Lagos. Conscientious police officers bemoan the nonchalance of the president towards the police. Police officers who waited for the arrival of change to unleash their patriotism and zeal which corruption had stifled are despondent.

If Change didn’t have the impotence of a paper tiger, its first port of call would have been the dilapidated police barracks and pathetic police welfare and training. But because change is still a mere slogan, the squalid barracks continue to leak feces , breed toads and encourage shamelessness and corruption. Change stares confusedly at the police.

Change is aware that policemen who have been collecting bribes in broad day light since Lord Lugard do not get livable wages. Change lets them subsidize their income . Let’s them recoup operational expenses as they have been doing since the last century. Change knows what happens at check points but Change is too timid, or too considerate to frown at it. Has change cared to ensure that policemen do not fuel police cars from their private pockets? President Buhari must tackle the inevitability of corruption from its roots.

The police’s eternal embrace with “business as usual” is perhaps not so puzzling. The police stations should be centres of change. Not change spoken or written on walls , but that felt by criminals, detainees, victims and the general public. Buhari has come but police stations have remained what they have always been.

If the president feels a drastic touch is necessary then a radical, fiery junior officer could be made head of the police to test their degree of sclerosis. But ‘siddon look’ is not an option. For how long will the president’s casual lack of concern for the police go on? Change can’t be this carefree. The Inspector General is a fine gentleman. But the force needs a radical change agent. And he need not be an idealist or a purist. He needs to have sufficient activism in his heart. And regardless of how tainted his past, he must turn his back on corruption on assumption of office. But because practical righteousness alone will not suffice he must have a clear vision and feasible redemptive plan. The force is in dire need of a cultural revolution.

Only a committed radical holistic transformation, championed by the president, that prioritizes personnel welfare, recruitment, training , operational funding and ethical reorientation can salvage the police. Before then let the police summon the courage or effrontery to join in the chorus , pretending to change. For now, they are an embarrassment to the president.

 

 

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