Metropole Magazine

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15 Apr Written by  Japheth Omojuwa

Our Police, Our Mirror

“Last week for here, we kill one man we arrange am as armed robber,” said the police corporal. This shocked the lady who had just been stopped by the traffic policeman but it would not shock many in a country where lawlessness has become the norm. Life has lost its value so much in Nigeria that with every new day citizens discover that they either protect themselves or die for nothing.

The saddest part may not be their death—it may be the fact that their death would most likely be denied. They would be lost in the numbers that never add up: “45 die in new terrorist attack”; while another report of the same event goes “20 die as gun men attack village”; and yet another one could go “60 confirmed dead as terrorists lay siege on village.” The moral of the story: nobody cares about the real human lives lost; we just care enough to say they are dead anyway.

As seemingly normal as this sounds, it is a poignant metaphor for how useless life is in Nigeria. How many times have we reeled out the names of the dead as a mark of respect to their memory? Is that to say our citizens are nameless? In the establishment’s desire to make each disaster look less bloody than it really is, we abuse the memory of the very people we should honour. In our many years of denying the truth and reality, should we not by now have come to terms with the fact that no matter how much you try to deny the truth of your reality, the truth stares at you day and night?

Nigeria cannot continue to pretend about a sickness everyone knows it suffers from. One is looking forward to the day we at least respect those who die because the state could not protect them. How much would one give to see the days our president will read to the country the names of citizens lost to one disaster or the other? Or have some of their names mentioned in his speeches as a sign of respect to their memories.

That is probably too much to ask. How can a country that does not serve the living respect the dead? It is impossible to respect the memory of a dead person you never saw worthy while s/he was alive. You would think by 2013 something would have happened over the years to make Nigerians serve themselves better but things probably got worse. Where we made progress in the past, we have since got back to base. We are like the pig that finds comfort only in its dirt. It is as though we are destined to be like this. The saddest part is not that these things happen; the saddest part is that we have come to accept them as normal.

But we digress.

“I go kill you then go record am as accidental discharge,” said the corporal. As the policemen went on with their tales, the lady who was put through this ordeal could do nothing but hope to come out of it alive. According to her, she felt safer because this encounter was during the day. “To serve and protect with integrity,” reads one of the many slogans that have guided our policemen over the years. Majority of them do serve but they serve only their pockets while the word “integrity” should not come close to describing anything the Nigerian police is about. Talk of a perfect oxymoron.

Why are the police being used as the canvas for which the reality of the Nigerian society is painted? The answer is simple enough: the police are a reflection of the society. All things being equal, you cannot have a good police force in a badly-governed country and you cannot have a bad one in a well-governed one. The police are the best mirror of the society. Essentially, for every finger one points at the police, four fingers automatically get pointed at the society itself. We will be deluded to expect good men and women to form the bulk of a police force drawn out of a society where good men and women are just as scarce as integrity.