Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I was driving slowly in traffic, along the marina towards Victoria Island two days ago, when I saw a group of people scuffling by a car parked on the sand near the waters. There was a policeman in the midst of the group and he appeared really offended. This 'copper' had on a red(?) vest showing he was on traffic detail. Apparently, the motorist was the offending party and quick as lightning, the policeman moved behind him and slapped him. It was a thunderous slap. The motorist, a slim tall man in his thirties, clutched at his face for about 3 seconds and without warning, slapped the policeman too, a reply that matched the velocity and force of the first. I cheered from within my car at the retaliation and watched as the policeman lunged at the motorist and began to grapple with him.
I also saw the other people in the crowd jostling the policeman seeking the courage to rain a few punches and kicks on this "keeper of the laws". A police seargent (female) who had been walking through the traffic to the commotion and then witnessed the mood of the crowd quickly turned back and merged with the scenery. Then the traffic moved and I lost my ringside seat.

The Nigerian Police Farce (sic) is not one that commands respect and a chance to throw a free kick at those sworn "to serve and protect with integrity" is one that many would be glad of. Someday, we'll get proper policemen who have the trust of the people. The policeman in Nigeria today is not your friend.

A day later, at Maryland, Ikeja, I had an altercation with a soldier just by the military cantonment. Neither of us yielded right of way to the other so this private 'somebody' driving his boss's car began to make abusive gestures and I, yielding to my baser nature, did likewise. After a while, he sprang out of his car yelling but kept his distance. I told him in a few unsavoury sentences the exact manner I would like him to leave the road. As other soldiers approached, he gathered courage, and moved closer to me, yelling: "He abused soja!"

As the other soldiers came closer, shouting "Who?", "Who?", I contemplated matter of factly which one of them I'd have to drive over to get out of the situation. An army seargent came close to the car "what happened, Sir?". I'd been in enough uniformed situations to understand he had no interest in my answer. He wanted to 1) Listen to my confidence 2) Smell my "fear" 3) size me up. That was no problem for me. After a few sentences, he told me, "You're a gentleman, Sir. Next time this kind of thing happens, don't bother to reply, just go your way. You know soldiers hate to hear a person is a lawyer". I'd "dropped" my vocation in the midst of the confrontation with the first. This "lawyer thing" is convenient atimes. I don't think "playwright" would have made as much of an impact on the company I had at that particular point.

Traffic had built up by this time and a commercial bus was parked right behind the soldier's car. In the bus, some unfortunate civilian had said something derogatory about the army as he watched my entanglement. I watched as the soldiers peered into the bus, in search of weaker prey. They yelled questions into its darkened interior, compelled the driver to park his vehicle and dragged the offending party out. He had failed "the test" and he was in for it. Then they waved me on, "You go, Sir". As I drove away, I thought to myself, "there but for the grace of God, go I".

Only the strong survive.

8 comments:

olusola of london said...

Good one. I happened to be conversant with many aspects of the Nigerain supposedly 'rule of law', such as the 'holding charge' etc which you'll never be able to cite from any of the domestic nor 'international' statute books.

Well done, but pls next time, be careful.

In 1996 I was with lawyer Onigbanjo in an official yellow taxi when we were stopped by the police and asked 'where do dey come from?' Onigabnjo told them, "From the High Court, I am a lawyer" with a typical and musical but literate thick yoruba-english accent". This turned the policemen's 'brain' back-to-front and inside-out. Also, the lawyer was in his law garment and wearing a wig. We were both searched. De-Law was absolutely furious. A drunken red-eyed policeman requested i took my trainers off - i did but complained i found the whole thing embarassing. The policeman retorted, "i abuse you?".

I understand only 'graduates' are recruited into the security forces now.

Obiter: Congrats. Watch your back. You shall always prevail.

laspapi said...

These policemen have been known to look at fully-clothed lawyers and ask them what work they do. They have no idea.

They still discriminate against graduates except the fellows who studied after joining the services.

Thanks for the prayers. I'll be sleeping with an eye open.

lolita said...

its a shame the force is only known for its dark side and no good works. they'vent got any training and their whole package ( uniform and all) isnt worth your time. abeg i join others to say watch your back bigtime!

ifeanyi dibia said...

good writing laspapi, i laughed a lot at the 'lawyer thing instead of the playwright'. the whole story reminds me of Prison Chronicles and the ex-soldier inmate. we have fallen a long way.

laspapi said...

thanx for stopping by, lolita. I'll be careful.

Good to hear from you, ifeanyi.

BOA said...

A south african friend of mine once told me he heard that potential recruits into the Nigerian Police Force have to come along to interviews with their own uniforms :))

Wanted: Policemen
Apply within.
Candidates without their own uniforms will NOT be considered.

Of course that's not true... at least not yet :)))

Anonymous said...

all i can say is watch your back. someone like me wouldn't want anything to happen to you, and i hope you know that and believe me.

Tarzan

Mona said...

that's right!