A former spokesperson to late Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, Dr. Festus Adedayo has recounted how he was harrassed by officers of the Nigeria Police Force 17 years ago.
Adedayo, in an article on Saturday titled ‘#ENDSARS, police impunity and Nero’s guitar’, stated that the experince he had that day continues to ring a bell on his head everyday.
Narrating what transpired that day, he wrote, “As I made to angrily start the car, he howled, “Move an inch from there! If I no waste you now and dem bury you today, call me a bastard!”
“I froze. His voice clattered like pebbles jangled over one another. That word singed my flesh like a hot whiplash. He had his gun cocked on the instant, the right hand finger caressing the holster and the left playing menacingly on the gun’s midriff. His eyes dilated like a piece of red-hot coal. It was as if I had received a jab from a cruel nurse’s syringe. Or a hot punch to my chin that left me momentarily immobilized.
Slowly, I hopped out of the car, my mien sober in salutary surrender.
“Officer, I am sorry,” I muttered in a very gruff but effeminate voice; and as if to underscore the huge shape of my contrite spirit, I repeated it again: “Officer, I am really very sorry.”
The Mobile Police officer had stopped me on the Lagos/Ibadan expressway. I was returning from a lecture at the International Institute of International Affairs (IIIA) in Lagos, and en-route Ibadan. Inside the vehicle which I drove were two top editors of a Nigerian national newspaper, my friends, with whom I had gone to attend the lecture. We had been stopped by the police who demanded our “particulars.” With glee, I volunteered all he requested for, until he demanded for an MCR. Diffident and with a self-effacing righteousness, as if I were a scientist who had just discovered the vaccine to COVID-19, I made him understand that only a few days earlier, the Inspector General of Police had announced that possession or not of an MCR should not be part of the bother of police on stop and search duty.
“Apparently grated by my diffidence, the policeman ignored me, shuttling arrogantly off to attend to another “customer,” armed with my vehicle particulars. Cross at his impudence, I had angrily beckoned on my colleagues, who, exasperated, had come out of the car as the exchange between the policeman and I seemed to be reaching its crescendo. “Hop in the car and let us leave this man!” I bellowed, as if I held the lever. And that thundering threat of wasting my flesh was the riposte, a threat which immediately reset my brain to its default.
“My contrition got me a lecture on the psychology of the Nigerian policeman from the Mobile Policeman. “Come rain, come shine, I dey here. Small boys like you just dey drive cars up and down. You think me sef no like better thing? If I waste you, I will run away…” he tutored.”
The former Editor maintained that “while police brutality on Nigerians isn’t a new phenomenon, it has festered embarrassingly. Right since its establishment in 1820 by the colonial government, the concept of a conquering police which came to subjugate the colonies, has fitted the Nigeria police perfectly. For Nigeria, policing began as a 30-member consultr guard in the Lagos Colony in 1861.”
He added, “This was why I was aghast at President Muhammadu Buhari’s reaction when, smoked out of his well-known lethargy by public angst at the animalism of the SARS and its aftermath of a volcanic eruption of anger of Nigerians towards the rank brutality of the police, in a Tweet, he merely off-handedly shoed responsibility of arresting the chaos to the IGP. Buhari had said: “The IG already has my firm instructions to conclusively address the concerns of Nigerians regarding these excesses, and ensure erring personnel are brought to justice. I appeal for patience and calm, even as Nigerians freely exercise their right to peacefully make their views known.”
When that Tweet came out, what came to my mind was that Emperor Nero image of Buhari which Nigerians got from a viral picture of him sitting in the Villa, with his babariga hanged by the wall, a toothpick hanging out from his teeth, cross-legged and dead to all worries of the world
“No, Mr. President, Mohammed Adamu cannot arrest the police rot because he is the Chief Maggot feeding fat on the decadence. It is your turf as President and Commander in Chief! It is this brand of escapism that Buhari is known by. The way it is panning out, the police may just be the route from where the much-talked about, anticipated explosion of the people’s anger at the rot in Nigeria may come from. Buhari should not play Nero. Nero, the decadent and unpopular Nero, you will recall, was not only playing music, literally fiddling with his guitar while that great fire ravaged the capital of his empire during the summer of 64 CE. In the words of Suetonius, his biographer, Nero “practiced every sort of obscenity,” which he said ranged from incest, cruelty to animals and homicide. He was reputed to have also outsourced Roman problems. Nigeria is burning over SARS’ and police brutality generally and the least President Buhari should do is to be seen trying to detect the roots of this inhumanity of the Nigeria police to Nigerian youths.”