It is often said that the Nigerian police is your friend. I don’t know how many Nigerians believe in that saying but many would rather have nothing to do with any policeman in Nigeria. I came from a family of policemen. My father was a policeman. My uncle was also a policeman. Two of my cousins are policemen currently. In fact, one of these cousins married a police lady. That one is paternal cousin and we often relate well although he gets cautious sometimes with me as a journalist. The other cousin is maternal and more read.
He has all manner of university degrees including being a lawyer. We clearly avoid each other and since he was transferred to Lagos from Abuja, he had not been attending the family or village meeting. He would rather communicate on social media with you rather than see you or speak one on one. From the time I became a journalist and he a policeman, we clearly avoided each other. Back in the village, he felt more comfortable visiting our house when I was not there.
Is there something wrong with a journalist being related to a policeman?
And as if that was not bad enough, when I ventured into the marital institution, I realized that the uncle of my ex-husband was an area commander and when he learnt I am a journalist, he treated me with caution even as he followed my career progress.
The last time I saw him before he died, he was a deputy commissioner of police and where we met in the village and stayed in the same house for one week, he remained very cautious with me. I clearly remembered one thing he told me and he spoke very carefully” don’t go looking for trouble but when trouble finds you, let me know’.
But he soon realized I wasn’t troublesome because I never approached him over any issue and when he spoke on phone the last time, he said he was travelling out of the country. He didn’t say he was sick and so he died in the United States where he went for treatment.
Perhaps because of my father, I had sympathy for the travails of the Nigerian policeman: his poor salary, his lack of equipments to work with and other things required to work effectively.
My father was lucky to be among those who got a bungalow in the quarters then. So, if he had challenges as a policeman, I never knew but if you ask me, I would say he was a good policeman.
But the society is changing and things are changing. I cannot say who is who now. Just last Thursday as I was going to work, after meandering through the rough traffic on Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and eventually got to Customs near Mile Two, there was a blockage on the way. A tokunbo vehicle that came out of the Customs yard had broken down on the way. When we looked, we realized that the road was free ahead. We heaved a sigh of relief when we saw a gun-wielding man in camouflage uniform running to the vehicle that blocked the road. He was also holding a club in his hand and we hoped he wasn’t going to hit them with the club. We expected him to help clear the road but on getting there, he had some transactions with the owner of the vehicle but didn’t clear the way. Eventually, a motorist before me who had a clearer view of what was going on got down from his car to join in pushing the car that blocked the road.
My driver found a leeway by the side and made to pass through it but the man in camouflage jumped in front of the vehicle barking a stop order. He queried my driver for not waiting for the man before him to move first and used the club in his hand to hit my car violently thereby denting it. As if that was not enough, he rushed at the driver and used the same club on his face by his left eye. We were four in the vehicle. Three of us are journalists. Two of my colleagues were also in the car and we were shocked. I asked him what offence we committed and he said we tried to overtake instead of waiting for the man in front who was helping to push the car that broke down to move first. I asked if it was an offence to overtake when there was space to do that but he walked away. How much did he collect from the vehicle driver that broke down for him to have exhibited such rascalism? Was he posted to that place to make money, to clear traffic or attack innocent road users?
When I later discussed the matter with my colleagues in the office, they blamed me for not getting his name and determining whether his camouflage was NPF, Nigerian Army or Nigerian Air Force since there is a common camouflage for the security forces.
But I know the face of my oppressor and would recognize him even in the dark. I will not forget his face because of the dent on my car. Is it strange not that when you are not being harassed by the Area Boys who rob at Mile Two traffic, you are being harassed by a gun-wielding, camouflage-wearing security official who abandoned his job to control traffic for other things.
The other day at the same Mile Two around 10.30pm, we were robbed by the area boys and to imagine that there were soldiers all over the place when the robbery happened baffled me. When I asked two of them how they could be there and we were robbed, they adjusted their guns and asked which direction the robbers went. Almost on daily basis, my colleagues are subjected to all manner of things in that axis where tankers and containers have held sway.
I have encountered some friendly policemen and even DPOs at Kirikiri and Festac have been most helpful to the point of coming out to the road to help clear the vehicles. But what do you say about the security official that attacked us.
Tell me dear reader, is this man my friend or my oppressor?