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Opinions of Monday, 22 March 2021

Columnist: www.thisdaylive.com

Insecurity: State police to the rescue?

We remember Alexander Pope (1688-1744). He remains the most quoted English poet after William Shakespeare. He also cannot be easily ignored when it comes to evaluating systems.

Based on his assessment of governmental systems, if he were asked to assess the Police System in Nigeria, he would easily have come up with something along this line: “for forms of policing in Nigeria, let fools contest; that which is most favourable is best”.

This is something to keep in mind when considering the raging debate about the desirability or otherwise of the State Police for Nigeria. Over time, the police have become a glorified messenger that must obey the master’s voice while doing his bidding.

Your acceptability or otherwise of the State Police will depend on how favourably disposed of it is to you at any particular time. A few instances will suffice here: When we were growing up in the late 1960s, it would have been a Herculean task convincing this writer that the Native Authority Police (NAP), was not the best thing to ever happen to humanity in any part of the world.

We were growing up in an Action Group (AG), a family where our late uncle, Justin Erimwinoghae Igbinedion was the chairman of the defunct Akugbe District Council. My uncle was one of the arrowheads charged with the responsibility for bringing the AG into Benin East Division in which the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), was already fully entrenched.

All one saw at work then was the use of brute force for the acquisition of power. The NAP was the principal instrument here. Election into the council consisted of the following shenanigans: Asovberimwin of Ike village was the principal able-bodied man (A.B.M.). A day before the date scheduled for the collection of nomination forms, Asovberimwin presented himself to a local dispensary where they arranged to bandage one of his hands above his shoulder with a lot of iodine poured on the bandaged hand. Asorverimwin proceeded to the NAP at Abudu to complain that the NCNC aspirants for the election beat him up and mistook him for dead.

The NAP rounded up all those NCNC aspirant and charged them to court immediately and they were also quickly remanded in Agbor Prison. They were released only after the election. That’s how the AG had all its candidates “returned unopposed”.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Only a thin line separates the old brutality from the present system of 24 over 24 or 18 over 18, particularly when after the election, we can still arbitrarily pick and choose who to invite to the inauguration table and who to leave out! We are certainly not out of the woods yet!

In Rivers State, things have changed. Governor Nyesom Wike could be heard arguing in favour of the State Police. True?

Wike is aware that if the All Progressives Congress (APC), had got its act together during the party’s primaries for the last general elections, the story would have probably been different in Rivers state today. The same police that Wike used to run a parallel government in the state would have been used to over-run him in that state.

The strongest argument against the State Police is that the state governor will influence them. Of course, that is stating the obvious. Is the federal government not influencing the Nigeria Police today? Since when did he who pays the piper stop dictating the tune?

In some national elections, we have seen some pictures of policemen on election duties, hanging their guns and helping actively to thumb-print ballot papers. In some cases, policemen have been seen administering the vote-buying system, which they were sent to prevent! What greater influence is anyone talking about?

Elsewhere, police are known to be established at the local government, county, state and federal levels, with each knowing its limits and where to stop.

But in Nigeria, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter; and this can hardly be avoided. All we can do is to look for how to work around it.

What has brought us this far in this argument is our search for ways and means of curing the insecurity question around the country today. There is no doubt that in this connection, the State Police will be more effective than the foreign army of occupation that we now have in the name of the Nigeria Police. More so, the Nigeria Police can exist side by side with the state police.

On balance, when insecurity is gone; and when crime and criminality are drastically reduced, all else is tolerable.

If we work with this mind frame, we can let the governors enjoy the little influence they may have over the State Police in much the same way as they do in other spheres in the state – the government ministries, departments, and agencies, school system, the media, the revenue collectors, etc., being number one citizen is not a term in the abstraction, it is real! After all, to the victor belongs the spoils of office.

Let there be state police and let the state police be!

Omorotionmwan wrote from Benin-City.

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