By Charles Marindoti Oludare
The year was 1998, month was March, day was the 21st. My father was being inducted as a Fellow in the Association of General Practitioners in Owena Motels, Akure, Ondo State when my uncle was beaten mercilessly by the military goons at the Ondo State Government House gate (occupied by Col Moses Fasanya, the last Military Administrator of the state).
His crime was driving on the public road at the four-way junction in front of the government house (apparently with the governor’s gate to the left of us, he was supposed to take a right turn, make a u-turn at the road opposite the gate and make another right turn as opposed to just driving straight).
My nine year-old self and two-year old sister took a picture of the incident. The agony on both our faces especially on my two-year old sister’s face was an emotional expression beyond her age: the micro trauma that we both had, how we both cried while our uncle was being brutalised, not knowing whether it was even a crime to cry; if our uncle was going to be killed by these men; if we were going to be taken away.
No cell phone to call my father for help etc…. Luckily, my uncle was released after 30 minutes of torture with a few blisters, swollen face with handprints from their multiple slaps, a few bruised joints and a lot of bruised ego.
Fourteen years ago too, a good friend of mine was kidnapped (a chemical engineer)while working for his company somewhere in the Southsouth. This man was among the most quintessential, kind, respectful, benevolent, and resplendent personalities I ever met. His kindred called him ‘Asiwaju’ for his exemplary ways. The kidnappers requested a certain amount for ransom and after that was paid, they decided it was insufficient and requested for more.
While the family had been in contact with the members of the Nigerian Police all through this travail, the police decided to intervene at this juncture. They commissioned a plan to place a tracking device in the bag of money and asked the family to bring the bag to the station prior to its delivery. Upon receipt of the ransom, the bandits called back and accused the family of playing games by delivering less than the agreed ransom amount, much to the family’s surprise. The bandits hung up and my friend has not been found till this day.
APPARENTLY, THE POLICE STOLE OUT OF THE RANSOM MONEY. His wife was expecting their first child, a baby he will never see nor hold in his arm. A vibrant life lost, a grieving family lost in despair, a community lost in imagination of his last moment. Has he died? When? Where? How? We may never know. An ever-evading search for closure, leaving the deep wound bare.
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Now fast forward to 2022. A vibrant lawyer and her unborn child were killed by the bullets of a policeman who is probably trying to extort their purse as opposed to enforcing any law. The hopes and aspirations of two different generations have been quenched by the fingers of a felon officer.
The presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in a condolence message to the family of Omobolanle, shared the grief and frustrations of his compatriots over this senseless killing and reiterated his over two-decades long position about the need to reform the Nigerian security infrastructure.
One might ask; how would Tinubu or his idea have prevented this senseless killing? They will say was Omobolanle not killed in Tinubu’s Lagos? What has he done to end police brutality in Lagos or Nigeria? The reason they ask these questions is because they have failed to understand the basis of the problem.
We all saw the interaction between the current Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and a Chief Superintendent of Police in Magodo; where a rogue CSP was defiant of both the governor and the judgement of the court. If we live in a country where the chief security officer of a state cannot make a security officer in his state enforce the court’s injunction, should we be surprised to find that our polity is close to anarchy?
We have created overlords in Abuja; hence they feel no need to be accountable to anyone. Unknown soldiers, unknown policemen parade our streets without fetters, doing as they wish with no one to rein them in. Tinubu’s idea as a governor was not based on a grandiose desire to control the force, it is based on his belief in the fairness, conscience and the will of the average Lagosian to ensure the security and sanity of their own environment.
Tinubu trusts you to do the right thing, that is why he is advocating for state and local police. In the United States, they do not have a United States Police Force, they have multiple city-based police departments- LAPD, NYPD, DALLAS PD, CHICAGO PD, etc.
In the United Kingdom for instance, when the Manchester United player, Mason Greenwood, was arrested for alleged sexual assault, he was not arrested by the UK Police Force; he was arrested by the Greater Manchester Police. This is because every sane clime knows that security is local. The security demands in VGC, is different from the security demands in Ajegunle, both in Lagos. Hence, people living in those communities should be making decisions about how to best keep themselves safe.
Had the Nigerian state subscribed to Tinubu’s long-held ideas, this would have been long prevented, that police officer involved in Raheem’s gruesome murder would have been an employee of the Ajah Local Government or that of the Lagos State Government. Oversight functions on his activities would not be so cumbersome and there will be political repercussions for any state official that allows policing to turn to rogury. Should you get profiled or abused by the police, you know where to go to for redress, you know whom to hold accountable. You would not have to resort to toothless wailing and protests. When you protest an incident, you will get heard.
The 2020 ENDSARS protest came at least 20 years later than Tinubu’s idea that would have put reins on police brutality. SARS’ outfit in the Nigerian Police Force is just a severe symptom of a chronic disease, while a presidential order ending SARS might have transiently palliated the symptoms and placated the protesters. The disease under study which is police brutality, would have persisted and this severe symtom would have re-manifested itself in other forms. The alleged killer cop has not been said to have been a member of the dreaded SARS outfit, anyway.
Tinubu, having been a victim of authority brutality himself, was making plans to prevent such incidence from recurring. In the United States, the President is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; he secures the borders but he is prevented from deploying members of the US military on any state’s soil without the invitation of the state governor by the Posse Comitatus Act.
Only exceptions to this are in the case of an insurrection or a natural disaster.
The solution to police brutality lies in changing our Constitution and making the people become stakeholders in their own security. Tinubu wishes to give power to the people. Tinubu trusts the people.
The felon officer has since been arraigned in court, away from where the crime was committed and the pain visceral.
However, the state is not time bound on the prosecution of crime; there is no statute of limitation to murder. Nigerians should have hope in Asiwaju’s presidency, they should charge their legislators to support his idea on police reform, they should not cower to despair, they should know under the guidance of Asiwaju’s brainpower, they will be empowered to pursue the justice they deserve, the justice they demand, the justice left unserved. There will be no sacred cow, all cases will be unearthed by the people and WE THE PEOPLE will get our justice. ALUTA CONTINUA…..
* Oludare is a 34-year old Nigerian-born medical doctor and hip-hop artiste in the United States.