HUMAN life is precious. Human life is sacred. Every living thing wants to live. I recall the immortal, courageous and factual statement of Nikita Kruschev in 1960 when he said: “Every living thing wants to live”.
In 1958, the United States of America had been over-flying the Soviet Union using U-2 Flights to gather information. These missions were not detected by Russia.
However, on May 1, 1960, Francis Gary Powers departed a Military Airbase in Peshawar in Pakistan for a deeper intelligence mission into Russia. His U-2 Plane was brought down by an X-75 DVINA SA-2 guideline Surface-to-Air Missile in Ukraine. Francis Powers, however, parachuted. He had taken oath to use a poison-laid injection pin if he was brought down.
Unfortunately, he was brought down in Ukraine by a newly developed missile developed by Russia. He was captured alone and brought before Kruschev, the powerful leader of Soviet Union who jokingly asked him why he did not use the poison-laid injection pin. Before then, the US had denied that Francis Powers was flying over Russia on intelligence mission.
Kruschev stoutly demanded an apology from US for over-flying his country. The US denied and refused to apologise. The other countries in the West supported US and the cold war was melting into hot and hotter war. Britain which was one of the outspoken Western countries supported US against Russia. Krushev warned the Western world and in particular, he told Britain that “it was a small Island and that he would sink Britain, a small Island below the sea”. Somehow and unexpectedly after about two weeks, Krushev back-pedaled.
He changed his mind. He called Francis Powers and said to him: “My young man, I am a grand-father, I have children and grand-children. I understand why you did not use the poison-laden needle. It is because every living thing wants to live”. He spared the life of Francis Powers!!!
On August 19, 1960, Powers was convicted of espionage, “a grave crime covered by Article 2 of the Soviet Union’s Law On Criminal Responsibility for State Crimes”. His sentence consisted of 10 years confinement, three of which were to be in a prison, with the remainder in a Labour Camp. However, on February 10, 1962, Powers was exchanged, along with US student, Frederic Pryor, for Soviet KGB Colonel William Fisher. When I was a pupil in Emmanuel Primary School in the 1930s, our teachers taught us the importance of human life, including a song which goes as follows: Yi ese re si apa kan, ma se pa kokoro ni. Kokoro ti o ko naani ni, Olorun lo leda, meaning: “Don’t kill that insect which only God and no man can create”.
If we were forbidden from killing a mere insect then, how come then that wanton killing on the farm, in the streets, in the classrooms and in hotel rooms, at airports and loaded passenger trains has become the order of the day?
Most religions, if not all, also believe in the sanctity or sacredness of human life. For example, the Book of Exodus 20:13 says authoritatively that: “Thou shall not kill”. To emphasise this Biblical injunction, the Book of Matthew 5:21 says:”Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time. Thou shall not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment”; while the Book of Romans 13:9 says inter alia that: “…Thou shall not kill…Thou shall love thy neigbour as thyself”. To further demonstrate the importance attached to human life, the Book of Leviticus 24:21 says “… And he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death”. In the same vein, the Book of Deuteronomy 5:17 says most emphatically that: “Thou shall not kill”.
The history of man as far back as the Stone Age details the importance attached to human life and how man in the days of yore struggled to secure their lives and properties. They lived in caves and set-up the primitive security system using rocks, branches and whatever they could to defend their lives and properties.
They used arrows, spears and knives. In the following era known as Bronze Age, man used tools such as bonze, sword, dagger and knives to replace the stone weapons. In the Iron Age, man made significant changes and invented javelin, spear, swords and daggers. In the Industrial Age, man protected himself with more dangerous weapons such as security men armed with sophisticated weapons, electrical devices, cameras and communication gadgets. Indeed, the history of man has demonstrated beyond doubt that human beings have always exhibited the instinct to preserve their lives, homes, families and possessions.
When the Europeans carved out the country now known as Nigeria for the British, they found that Nigerians had their own system of preserving human life. In Yoruba land, the inhabitants of each town had their own “Law Enforcement Agents” popularly called Akodas in Yorubaland and Dongari among the Hausas.
As primitive as the Akodas and Dongari phenomenon might seem to have been, the fact remains that they were well respected as the agents of the king and indeed as security agents and law enforcement officers for the larger society and woe betide anybody who vacillated in responding timeously to the message and orders of the Oba. Cases of willful disobedience of the orders or summons of the Oba, let alone slapping, beating or manhandling of the Akodas, were very rare if not totally unheard of.
It was indeed a taboo as such willful intransigence would be tantamount to slapping the Oba himself! The penalty could indeed be very severe as the culprit might end up paying the supreme sacrifice. Such was the high esteem the “traditional police” were held then. It is for similar reason that in far-away England, even though death penalty has long been abolished in murder cases, yet any person found guilty of killing a police man would face death penalty.
Qualities inherent in the traditional security system: High discipline: Every Akoda or Dongari (nomenclature not really important) knew that he was the representative of the King in particular and the society in general. As such, he conducted himself as best as possible, always conscious of the fact that the societal norms must be respected, preserved and protected. Should he fail to discharge his responsibility as expected, the society will visit him with attendant sanctions.
Honesty & sincerity of purpose: Upon assumption of duty, a traditional Akoda would take an oath of allegiance to the King (the equivalent of the present-day government) in particular and the society at large. No wonder then those cases of bribery were unknown as such could constitute a desecration of tradition. The Akoda discharged his functions without fear or favour regardless of whose ox is gored. Put differently, he could be relied upon at any point in time.
Commitment: The traditional native Police was fully committed to his job. He did not engage in any other venture with commercial considerations and neither could he be accused of divided loyalty. His entire life revolved round his assignments.
Efficiency: Because of the above-mentioned attributes or features and many more, the African traditional police was efficient.
Since no one was prepared to be stigmatised in the society, there was cooperation among the people, deep respect for the tradition and customs of the given African society. It was because of the attributes of exemplary discpline, honesty, commitment and efficiency that the traditional Law Enforcement Officers (the Akodas and Dongaris) which I called the African native Police enjoyed the cooperation and respect of the people. The question readers may ask: Where are those loyal, disciplined and dependable Akodas and Dongari now?
ANSWER: Read next week edition.