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Celestina Kalu, the police brand ambassador!

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Sanwo-Olu honouring SP Celestina Kalu, DPO, Ogudu Police Station who exhibited exemplary conduct by coming to the rescue of a young man Friday Ojabor, who was a victim of armed robbery. Photo: TWITTER/JIDESANWOOLU

In a class of elite officers of the Nigeria Police Force, Superintendent of Police Celestina Kalu might not have been a known name. She is not one of the privileged lot conveyed by siren-blaring cars, neither might she be one of the top brass favoured by the system. However, for carrying out in an extra-ordinary manner what ordinarily should be a routine act of kindness to a fellow human being, Mrs Kalu, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Ogudu Police Station, Lagos, laundered the image of the Nigeria Police Force far more than a million media advertisements. She also taught a lesson in simple corporal work of mercy and the moral dimension of public service.

As the story went last week, Citizen Friday Ajabor was enjoying the late evening with his friend at a park in Ogudu, when some hoodlums appeared.  In the ensuing confrontation, Ajabor was shot in the bowel at close range by one of the hoodlums. When the Kalu-led police officers from the neighbouring Ogudu Police Station appeared, they met Ajabor in a pool of his blood. After getting first aid treatment in one hospital and rejected for lack of bed space in two other hospitals, Ajabor was later admitted in the Intensive Care Unit of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, where he underwent a series of surgery.

Mrs Kalu’s intervention—right from the point of initial contact, when Ajabor had painfully pleaded, “Mummy, don’t let me die,” up to the point of donating her blood and personally defraying the cost of the treatment—saved the life of Ajabor, who was still mourning the death of his parents.

Although this was a refreshing news about a police force notorious for wanton lawlessness and activities, it represents some of the occasional breathe of relief in the suffocating stranglehold the police had on the community. In a country where people are so overwhelmed by personal challenges and where basic necessities of life are a luxury, Kalu’s act of compassion is a scarce virtue. Little wonder the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, while honouring the Superintendent of Police, said he was “amazed by this rare act of kindness” for “going beyond the call of duty” in “saving a life.”

But need Nigerians be amazed by this act of kindness? Why should acts of compassion be seen as rare in this society? Has that always been the case?

These questions call to mind the need for inculcation of lofty values for responsible citizenship. The discerning public is aware of an emerging notorious cell-phone culture that promotes indifference to the plight of the ordinary person in crisis. Most people now quickly take only photographs of even fatalities instead of offering first-aid treatment. This is an obnoxious practice that negates our cultural value of being our brothers’ keepers.

While many have called for more education for the police rank and file, this newspaper believes that the foundation for a disciplined, viable and effective police system lies in the character formation of its rank and file. For duty’s sake, a police officer may be efficient in the discharge of routine duties, but for him or her to be an excellent officer and the people’s friend, he or she must cultivate good character. He or she must be a good person.

The emphasis on good person is very instructive, for the term ‘good’ is used properly in qualifying the character of the human person, namely his moral conduct and treatment of the other. A good police officer would act according to the dictates of his or her duty, and follow the instructions of his or her superiors and be technically efficient in the discharge of these duties. But a good person who is a police officer would, like SP Kalu, elevate the ethical demands of his or her duties by gracing it with fellow-feeling, respect for human dignity and kindness.

By her act of fellow-feeling and kindness, Kalu has conscientiously deflected the impression of the police force from being a life taker to being a life saver. She has impressed in the minds of the public that the police should not only be construed as a force notorious for extra-judicial killings and rights violation but also a public service institution that harbours a handful of beautiful souls. Thus, one lesson from the action of this police woman is that good character is key to good policing.

Like the many laudable interventions of good heads in the police force, Kalu’s singular action is a wake-up call for the police force to re-invent itself for excellent service. The starting point to get this done is by committed action to moral excellence. Nigerians are not only accustomed to the impunity and oddities of the ubiquitous police officer and the police stations, they are also aware of the corruption in high places where the dirty deals of police finance, recruitment, posting and promotion are hatched and sealed.

Thus, if the police is convinced about any reforms of its dysfunctional system, battered image and demoralised personnel, it must express genuine commitment to clearing the morass of corruption by re-orientating its officials towards moral excellence to recruiting persons of high level of excellence of character. The simple admonition from Kalu’s act of compassion is that one should not be afraid of doing good for that is the strength of character. It is character that makes one act rightly all the time without fear of the consequences.

There are many like Kalu in the Force. And the police authorities should institute a system that shows them up for recognition or even reward.

Furthermore, the authorities concerned should always see the police officer as a custodian of the law and defender of public morality, rather than as a tool for personal aggrandizement. If the police officer is viewed in this manner, he or she is less likely to be subjected to the distasteful and abysmally sub-human condition many face in their career today.


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