(By Onyiorah Chiduluemije Paschal)
“And much as the veracity of all the media reports flying around in this regard is yet to be ascertained, it is outrageous that the precious lives of men of the Nigeria Police Force could be so cheaply taken in the twinkling of an eye on the grounds of alleged political ambition of the governor and attempts to scuttle it by a group of individuals perceive to be his new political detractors. This ugly development is not only preposterous but also deplorable.“
THERE is no doubt that the Nigeria Police Force has suffered a fate worse than death in the course of our tortuous journey of nation-building so far. Starting from the time after the attainment of our political independence till date, the police in Nigeria have almost always been at the receiving end of the antics of Nigerian politicians, whether in uniform or in mufti. For instance, in the First Republic, during the Awolowo-Akintola political struggle for supremacy in the Western Region that later snowballed into grave regional crisis, the Nigeria Police Force had received more than its fair share in bearing the brunt of that crisis. Consequently, not a handful of its officers deployed at the time to quell the raging crisis lost their precious lives for a cause they obviously knew nothing about.
Arguably, even those of them who narrowly escaped death by whiskers and with various degrees of injuries did not in any way receive compensation.
Understandably, however, though the Police were not alone in suffering this fate, yet the fact that they were attacked and killed while maintaining law and order at the behest of the then political leaders at the time and without necessarily receiving compensation afterwards, clearly shows the extent to which politicians could go in using men of the Nigeria Police to achieve their individual and group interest.
Similarly, apart from the pre-civil war exploitation of the Nigeria Police during which time they were used by the political leaders in military uniform for the ostensible purpose of bringing back the Biafra secessionist enclave into the Nigeria fold and which invariably occasioned unavoidable death of almost thousands of them, the series of events masterminded by civilian politicians in the wake of the post-civil war period of Second Republic politicking further made nonsense of the value rate and respect for the Nigeria Police. Of course, recalling the litany of grueling storms weathered by men of the Nigeria Police in the hands of both the civilian and military politicians during the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida who himself was by no means less manipulative of the Force, there can hardly be enough to say about General Sani Abacha’s side of the same story of manipulation of the Police. For example, one still recalls the extent to which the likes of Chief Arthur Eze, the celebrated moneybag and friend of the Presidency, enjoyed the use and protection of men of the Nigeria police while haughtily flaunting his seemingly unbridled desire to impose upon the people of Anambra the person of Mrs. Joy Emodi as the civilian governor of the state, via the feigned democratic ambience created at the time by his principal, General Abacha.
Granted that the foregoing transpired during the military rule which in itself is an aberration, one had expected that the return of democratic leadership in 1999 would have either brought to an end or greatly reduced to the minimum the manipulative tendencies of Nigerian politicians towards men of the Nigeria Police Force. Unfortunately, the singular incident of abduction of Governor Chris Nwabueze Ngige of Anambah State on July 10, 2003, by a former Assistant Inspector General of Police, now late, Mr. Raphael Ige, with full detachment of police and under the watchful eyes of President Olusegun Obasanjo-led Federal Government shows that the exploitation of men of the Nigeria Police by politicians in an apparently democratic setting is one that has exposed the helplessness and the plight of this set of regimented fellow compatriots, who rather than criticism deserve our sympathy at all times. To, therefore, blame the Nigeria Police or any of its men whenever politicians are locking horns with one another over their selfish interest that is often devoid of any connection with issues of welfare of the masses is, to say the least, the most uncharitable thing any keen observer of the politics of policing Nigeria would do.
Today, irrespective of the relatively giant strides recorded so far in our various attempts to widen the democratic space in virtually all ramifications, we are still confronted with this dangerous politics of policing Nigeria with its attendant consequences. Incidentally, the Ombatse group in Nasarawa State which was alleged to be responsible for the killing of scores of police and State Security Service officers is increasingly reported as being squarely enmeshed in the struggle for power with the Governor, Mr. Tanko Al-Makura, over the latter’s rumoured 2015 second term ambition and his alleged desire to dismantle all forms of quasi-political structure of the group, perceived or imagined, deemed to constitute possible threats or a cog in the wheel of the realisation of his ambition. And much as the veracity of all the media reports flying around in this regard is yet to be ascertained, it is outrageous that the precious lives of men of the Nigeria Police Force could be so cheaply taken in the twinkling of an eye on the grounds of alleged political ambition of the governor and attempts to scuttle it by a group of individuals perceive to be his new political detractors. This ugly development is not only preposterous but also deplorable.
At this juncture, the obvious need be stated that it is in no way less appalling that what we are beginning to see in Rivers State can hardly go for an entirely different scenario short of a replica of the political picture in Nasarawa State. In fact, be it Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi’s alleged disrespect to President Goodluck Jonathan or his speculated Vice-presidential ambition that brought about the raging crisis in Rivers State or, perhaps, Honourable Nyesom Wike’s speculated 2015 gubernatorial aspiration that is fueling it, one thing both sides will do well to eschew is this usually bad attitude of Nigerian politicians or their proclivities to blame the hapless men of the Nigeria Police for their political misfortune or any form of setback arising from their poor political calculation. In clear terms, Amaechi should strive to divest himself of negative tendencies towards resorting to calumnies or calls for the removal of the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, just because it pleases him to make this man a scapegoat in order to succeed in massaging his ego and thus bolster his seemingly eroding guts in the raging free-for-all in Rivers state.
But be that as it may, the point must be made that there is nothing wrong for politicians to lock horns with one another as it clearly makes the fascinating part of the real politicking. But there is obviously a limit beyond which the involvement of the Police would be a negation to the law and the reasonably accepted rules of engagement. Therefore, Nigerian politicians must learn to respect men of the Nigeria Police Force and desist from expecting them to almost always do their biddings before they can be fairly judged or praised as doing well.
• Paschal, a journalist, wrote from Abuja
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”