Oyerinde: Between David and the Behemoths

There are certain Nigerian institutions, together with their agent provocateurs, who never get lost in an argument. When I say that they never lose an argument, I mean that even when it is sometimes certain that they have goofed, they would usually don the toga of infallibility to try to get away with a malfeasance.

One of them is the Nigerian police, together with its allies in the security services. You cannot blame them – to be able to function ‘effectively’ (that word is used in the Nigerian context), there is a strong need for them to be effectuate and in righteous standing on the side of either the law, of knowledge or of the exigencies of the moment. The police are very different from the doctors who can lose a patient, the teachers whose students fail, the auto-mechanic whose car can break down and from the builder whose house can collapse. Even if a policeman kills, he or she is not to blame – and with the assuredness that he can never be fallible, he shirks and shifts blame.

And so in this land of ours if the police breach your rights, the intervention of deities cannot save you. Woe betides you therefore if the police and the lawyers take you on – your own don finish. The police usually get the lawyers involved because lawyers are very smart chaps – they operate at the point of convergence of all knowledge and that perhaps is the reason they appear to be custodians of knowledge and can be connoisseurs of architecture; they are the best football coaches, erudite mathematicians, established farmers, and experts in auto mechanics. A lawyer friend of mine told me recently that they operate by the periphery of a case, nearly so the same way that a vulture would just stand there, waiting for a victim to die before it begins to feed on the carcass. He said that while the Nigerian police are in the fray for egocentric reasons, the lawyer is mostly in it because of his pocket.

And so we continue with the sad story of the assassination of Olaitan Oyerinde over a year ago. After that sad event, the police arrested Olaitan Oyerinde’s friend, brother and close confidante, the Rev. David Ugolor as the mastermind. They held him in-communicado as prime suspect. For over a month, he was confined and subjected to the crudest and allied forms of psychological torture. That the SSS produced their own version of the suspects and the repercussions therefore have been well documented.

In other parts of the world the police are very professional. Investigations are conducted by the book. And with respect to the matter at hand therefore, there can be no other example that supports this than the arrest of the Boston Marathon bomb suspect. When the suspect was arrested, the police forgot to read him his Miranda Rights – perhaps in the heat of the moment and we all saw how this nearly compromised the investigation into that attack. Now under our constitution, you cannot hold anyone the way the Police held David Ugolor, only perhaps where there are exceptions with matters of state security. But even the Rev. is not a state or security risk. He is just an activist championing the cause of the Nigerian – asking for the repeal of odious debts, advocating for transparency in the conduct of governance and urging governments to publish whatever they pay. Upon his release however, it was the Rev who instituted a case against the Nigerian police for a breach of his fundamental human rights. While the court have upheld that indeed his rights were breached and awarded him N5million in damages, the police appealed the decision, lost again and are now at the Supreme Court.

Most of us are happy that the case is there now at the Supreme Court. We are happy because in cases like this where there is no longer any appeal, God in his infinite mercy usually vindicates. As we say in popular parlance, in God’s case there’s no appeal. We are certain that a nation that cannot obey its own rules and regulations ordinarily exposes itself to anarchy.

But the police resort even to the Appeal and then the Supreme Court to help it make up its mind if indeed it acted foul of the law throws up certain ulcerous ironies. One of these ironies is that while the inspector general of police is canvassing for a raise of the monthly salaries of his officers and men from a paltry N28, 000.00 to at least N100, 000.00; while we were all full of sympathy for a police force that is ‘trained’ and accommodated in houses and barracks that were built in the 1900s, here we are with a police force expending mind-boggling sums in lawyer fees. It just does not make sense.

Yet most of us who are not too learned or too lettered hold in trust that universal principle of life which guides most learned men and women worldwide: that the persona may no longer be the same; the setting may change, but good ultimately triumphs over evil no matter the shenanigans employed to clog the wheels of justice.

Written by
MajiriOghene Bob Etemiku
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