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When is the policeman your friend?

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Nigeria Police

A few weeks ago the Police Command in Ogun State supplied a surprising answer to this poser during a time of unrest in some communities in Ota, the state’s industrial powerhouse.

The people of Onibuku, Baba Ode and NAHCO sent an SOS via SMS to the Commissioner of Police Ahmed Iliyasu, asking him to dispatch his men to restore order.

Within minutes the Police chief called back, desiring to know the precise nature of the security breach and the exact location of the troubled areas.

He was briefed and informed that members of the Omo Onile in the area were disturbing the peace of the community through preventing landowners from developing their property. They were said to be seizing the tools of the workmen after beating and maiming them.

This resulted in stampede, leading to residents shutting down business activities and withdrawing their wards from school.

A resident reminded the Police boss that there was a law passed by the state government that criminalizes the forcible entry of property by Omo onile.

The law also forbids them from unleashing bodily harm, with a breach attracting severe penalties including death.

The briefing ended with the CP Iliyasu promising that he would act to prevent a breakdown of law and order. He added: “I don’t want any hoodlum to disturb the peace we have secured in Ogun through hard work .’’

In less than an hour after the conversation that night, residents of Onibuku, Baba Ode and NAHCO were surprised to see fully armed Policemen in patrol vehicle combing the community for arrest of suspects.

The presence of these law agents continued for days to hold the troublemakers in check. The hope of the people is that there would be lasting peace in the area.

The residents also want the Ogun government to set up a task force to enforce its law on land grabbers.

The point is that a friend in need is a friend indeed. The prompt response of CP Iliyasu to the cry of those citizens in Ota would make the people believe in the slogan, Police is your friend. They reached out to him in their distress and he didn’t fail them.

First, he believed he owed the country he swore to serve sacrificially a duty by rising to the occasion to defend the people in that country no matter the location or the hour of the day.

This explains why although it was in the night the Police boss operating from the headquarters in Abeokuta the Ogun capital called out his men in Ota to move to those communities without delay.

Secondly, Iliyasu’s action has bombed out the distressing view that the citizens must bribe the Policeman before his duty. Of course there are several bad eggs in the Force who have given wings to the perception of the Police as a corrupt and severely compromised and irredeemably rotten organization.

Those who hold this view have what they would call bitter experience at the hands of some members of the Force. They have nightmares that refuse their grip on them.

Thirdly, Iliyasu has proved that all you need to change society or an organization is a good and selfless leader. This is not to contemn ex-US President Barack Obama’s position that Africa needs strong institutions rather than strong men or strong rulers.

What I mean by a good leader being a change agent is that we need a leader we can trust to drive our dream or vision for what we desire for our security, wellbeing and progress.

But if you have a leader you rush to for help and he doesn’t acknowledge your text message or return missed calls or tells you to wait for succor the next day, then you must question your trust in such a state and its institutions or organs of administration.

There is breach of contract here. You submit your allegiance and tax and love to the state under a pact that the state would in turn protect and care for you and your family and property.

Then the enemy shows up in the form of criminals or communal crisis to swallow you and alas the state organs in charge of these duties to the people are nowhere to be found.

If our Police and all other state actors would play their constitutional roles then they must bear this in mind: they are a creation of the people and they owe us a debt of selfless service all year round as long as they are in state employ. They are our servants, not our lords and masters, even if they bear lethal arms. Such weapons are to protect us, not to persecute us.

Again there must be a deal here. The society needs to invest massively in an organ of state in whose hands you are placing your life and property. If you want the best from him you must give him your best. On this score, we have failed the Police!

The disturbing questions: are the Police failing us because we appear to be failing them? Are we receiving failure in return for the failure we gave them? Some cynics would dismiss my stand altogether to claim that the state has failed us all. This should be an engaging discussion for another day.

Still we must applaud those in our midst who, even as the odds we speak of in the society or in the state are raging to frustrate the delivery of patriotic service, are refusing to give up. They will do their work without being bribed. The land needs more of them to populate and drive our failing institutions.

.Ojewale is a writer and commentator on public issues in Ota, Ogun State


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Nigerian PoliceOgun State
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