#Midweek Discourse

Character essential for police service

Theo Adebowale

EndSARS protests have disrupted police services in many parts of Nigeria. Hoodlums that hijacked the protest burnt police stations after emptying the armoury. Over twenty policemen also lost their lives in the hands of blood sucking criminals. Today, not a few policemen and women would still be expected at their post in spite of appeals by the current and former Inspector General of Police. It is our position in this column that a community that endangers lives and services of its police undermines its own security. But as it turns out, the character of a man or woman could be for him a defense or a snare in the day of adversity. We have read about a police officer, a young northern moslem whose character was an asset to in Anambra, during the crisis. He was said to be a friendly member of his community contributing to sports development in his area.
During the crisis, he was in charge. Years ago, we heard of a police officer playing by the rule, bail for this Divisional Police Officer was free, to him justice must run its course. At retirement, he had nowhere to call his home. The community built a house for him and ensured there was reward for patriotic service. It was somewhere in Eastern Nigeria. But the problem here is that an average policeman, after the order of a soldier, sees the citizen as a bloody civilian. Because the civilian lacks military training, he deserves no respect. This idea has a colonial origin as the West African Constabulary force gave its men an orientation to protect the colonial officers at all cost even if it meant wasting a local populace that might want to revolt against misrule. To be fair to the police, those of them that are educated are reasonable and civil. The meeting point between the less educated and educated officers is the economic point. As life gets harsher and means have to be designed for extra income, the friendship of the Police is not readily available. And it is to the point of distrust.
The capacity of the social media in crime prevention and detection was demonstrated during the EndSARS protests when we were told that those who went to loot a warehouse were arrested. Their cell phones gave them out. But it remains a mystery that kidnappers, abductors, bank fraudsters employ the same devises and are not detected. So it sounds plausible that having negotiated and agreed on a ransom, kidnappers reneged claiming that the police wanted a higher sum. Such blackmail would not fly about officers and ranks that are known in their communities. But why must it be a likelihood among officers of the law?
The economy is in such a bad shape that if all hands had been on deck, it would not have gotten to that. If the police had foiled attempts to steal farm produce, and diligently prosecuted those that over ran farmlands, agricultural activities would have been more exciting and food not as expensive. More importantly, if every Nigerian had been more alive to his duty, we would have a better economy and a safer society.
Now that kidnappers are back on their duty post, what is the portion of Ondo State people? Amotekun, the security outfit of South West Nigeria is intended to work hand in gloves with the police, even its commander is guided by police escorts. In that case, it requires the life of the police to function. If in the pace of two weeks, herdsmen have taken hostage between Ogbese and Ifon of at least twenty persons, there is sufficient cause for concern. If the gadgets that detected warehouse looters in Lagos have not been of any use in Ondo State, then there is cause for alarm. Because Ondo State Governor is Chairman South West Governors, he is final authority on the security outfit. Sabotage of security spells doom for integrity and culture of the people, and also the Police Force. There is no reason the police would want to bother about its own credibility in this matter given its precedents. However, character comes to play where such a confusion ensues. If only every police personnel could just do what is expected of him at his desk, and no more, there would be tremendous improvement in security and police public relations. And the time is now.
There are complications no doubt. Generals, serving and retired, traditional rulers business men and moslem clerics have cattle ranches all over the South West. They have in Ondo State. Politicians with state power would have been approached and integraded into having their flocks and shepherds. They are a factor to consider if kidnapping by herdsmen must be effectively tackled. Their influence is sufficient to cover a multitude of crimes. But they must be forbidden from providing cover overtly or covertly for criminal elements. In this respect only two options are open to them. It is either they make a reasonable business contract with their partners to supply as needed. Attention the Federal Government is giving to rail transport will go a long way to facilitate such an agreement. The second option is for such livestock farmers to employ modern science and technology for cattle ranching. Each state in the South West must endeavour to pass into law such regulations that would compel the state and local councils to provide basic platform for practice of animal husbandry. It should also exclude the Federal Government from interfering with matters of land use which have been vested in the states. It would be unnecessary for government at the center to want to nationalize waterways and canals for the benefit of one trade group i.e herdsmen who have the privilege of a prominent member thrown into prominence through partisan politics.
This way the Nigerian state would be helping several individuals in public and private sectors, men and women of character who have been unfortunately held hostage by official circumstances. We can only imagine how excited Commissioners of Police, Assistant Inspector General of Police, Deputy Inspector of General and their principal, IGP himself feel each time they have good reports on their officers. These trickle in from time to time whereas the press is awash with incidents of crime, extortion, extrajudicial killings, and the sorts on a daily basis. As they EndSARS, it should be a priority to build a new outfit where character matters. The character of those in political leadership matters as much as those of personnel of government departments and agencies. In the United States of America 2020, issues of police brutality were aggravated by the character of the political leader that did not deem it necessary to issue a statement from when George Floyd could not breathe till the world had to announce to him that black lives matter. In a society where institutions are strong and prominent because erring leaders may be sanctioned or rewarded promptly according to his character, official businesses incur less deficit for leaders’ ineptitude. Not so in other climes where the character of individual personnel has a way of defining the personality of the organisation.
Community policing is the ultimate but a new orientation is sacrosanct to deliver it. The initiative must come from the police that law abiding citizens can trust it. It must also empathize with other Nigerians that we are in the economic gulag together and so we are no scapegoat for the deplorable situation. The place of community police is yearning for enlistment. This would provide immediate opportunities for those with police experience. As such, it would not be in their interest to constitute an obstruction to its eventual emergence. That the Federal Government solicits for assistance or extorts other tiers and agencies for resources to run it is a clear indication that it cannot pay the piper, so others would engage their own pipers. As we have been made to know that in federal and unitary states not only tiers of government have their police units but other institutions and organisations do, it is a question of time, this obstinacy would soon expire, and there would be community policing. But from now, let those who minister in the public and private establishments begin to pay attention to their character because it has so much impact on their output and the personality of their organizations.

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