By Rasheed Ojikutu, wrote from University of Lagos.
I had volunteered to drop my daughter and her baby at home. The first misstep came when I missed the opportunity of joining the service lane around Maryland and therefore, had to travel along the Independence tunnel and consequently, do a U- turn under the bridge at Mende. It was indeed a “ Wrong Turn” courtesy of the spine chilling 2003 slasher film starring Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto, Kevin Zegers, and Lindy Booth. The film was written by Alan B. McElroy and directed by Rob Schmidt.
… Three policemen were laying ambush under the bridge for unsuspecting motorists and I was flagged down by one of them who though looks calm but potentially dangerous. He almost impolitely asked me to park without giving me adequate space to do so as he was too close to the bonnet of my car for any comfortable maneuver.
Despite the odds, I survived the driving test. “Can I see your driving license?” he demanded. I produced my drivers license which he scanned as if he was trying to match the content together as it is usually done for crossword puzzle. Looking straight into my face, he said “ can I see the other documents?” This was where the bubble bursts. I produced. The Vehicle license, the tinted glass permit and couldn’t find the Road Worthiness and the Insurance certificates. You could see the very sadistic mien which was accompanied by a mischievous smile. He invited me to see “ Oga”, who was wearing a light blue color as opposed to the darker uniform of the relatively junior officers. He must have been an Inspector.
The Inspector held my documents in the manner of a woman holding a mirror for a make up. Then he asked ” Where is your road worthiness and Insurance? In the similitude of a student facing drilling from a teacher, I tried to explain that the car has just gone through some bodywork and that it must have been taken away from its usual location by the mechanic. For want of something to say, I concluded by saying “ I have it sir. I can bring it to your office to confirm that I have it”. The laughter that followed was deafening. “ Segun” he beckoned on the gun throttling junior officer “ Come and hear your Yoruba Brother O”. It was as if, I have never heard such an indiscreet language in my almost seven decades of existence in this world and I expressed my displeasure at the choice of words by saying “Haba, Officer!, that is not good enough. What has my tribe or ethnic affiliation got to do with this? If you don’t respect anything sir, you are supposed to respect my age”.
This infuriated him the more. He looked at my drivers license again as if he was seeing it for the first time. “Which age? You are not even older than me,” he bellowed. “ By the way, do you know my age? Do you?” By which time, the other officer, the one carrying gun was looking at me scornfully. He was looking with such disdain that I knew any attempt to respond to the fire spitting and highly none- decorous language of the Inspector could spell doom. Segun, the third officer who incidentally shares a first name with the Inspector asked me to step aside. In his words “ Oga, e ni suru, okun kii ho ruruki a wa ruru “ he advised. The contradiction between the three men struck my mind. The leader of a team who does not possess any quality of leadership. A man who is more interested in his personal ego than the assignment given to him. The second officer, a Zombie who was more interested in “ espirit de corps” rather than the fact of the case. A man who lacks total appreciation of his assigned responsibilities and the third man Segun, who remained calm at the outright misjudgment and professional misconduct of his peers”. From his name, the Inspector is from Edo State.
I walked back to my car. By this time my wife and daughter descended from the car to talk to the trio of men in uniform, two of whom are mere filth to the image of the Nigerian Police.
This simply is the Nigerian Police on our road. Unfortunately, this set of officers stand on the window and therefore provide the spectacle and vision from which the police is seen. These are men who are simply unworthy of direct contact with the public. They are like rags on that window. With their ugly presence, nobody wants to see the diamond and the glittering objects within the household. I have in my life had contact with fine, decent and highly disciplined officers. Men who could stand their own in the gathering of decent and fine people in the world but this finesse is rubbished by the excesses of those on the road, most of whom are unfit for public services.
The vehicle documents were later released to my wife and daughter. As we move from the spot, I shook my head for this country. No wonder every Nigerian scamper for safety abroad running from a nation whose people are doomed to perpetual oppression from those hired to protect them. When next you pass through Maryland in Lagos, note that there is one Inspector of Police who would consider your tribe and ethnicity while checking your vehicle particularly.
I am very sure that I would not have gone through the harrowing experiences if I had played the ball instead of offering to produce the documents.