A forced visit to Kumapayi’s barber’s shop

once had an encounter with a cantankerous Federal Road Safety Corps member some years back. He was of the rank and file. The guy who drove my car didn’t use the seat-belt, a punishable traffic offence. I sat beside the driver.

I can’t remember any time, I failed to use the seat-belt either when driving or being driven. I also call people’s attention to it whenever they didn’t use their seat-belts.

But on this particular day, I think it was an inadvertent error on the part of the guy who drove me and I didn’t pay attention to this until the man flagged us down and asked us to pull over and told us our offence.

Ignorance is not an excuse in law and intention is not an alibi once there is an infraction. The corps observed that there was ‘PUNCH STAFF’ sticker on the windscreen of the car and this aroused needless discomfort and anger in him.

He demanded if I actually owned the car and if I worked as a journalist with The Punch newspaper. My answers to these questions were in the affirmative. From his mien, I could sense danger beyond seat-belt issue.

My appeasement neither interested him nor doused his bellicosity. Interestingly, he kept calling me oga even when he gave me subtle insults. He emphasised that he had no issues with me but rather with the offender.

He did not tell us what the punishment would be and had seized the driver’s driving licence. He avoided eye contact for over 30 minutes he delayed us. His boss, who had been observing us from a distance, beckoned him.

But by the time, I joined them, he moved closer to his boss to finish his narration and he suddenly yelled: “na dem now!” I demanded to know what he meant by the crude statement, which suggested that perhaps, I did something wrong before the seat-belt issue.

But his response was annoying and nauseating. He yelled again: “oga, I no talk to you o. Na my oga I dey talk to. I thought I should ignore him. But his boss appealed to me to calm down.

He told me that his annoyance was that The Punch, my employer then, had published the photograph of road safety corps who sat atop a moving trailer while in uniform on the Lagos- Ibadan Expressway. Unfortunately for him, from the photograph, he was identified, fished out and punished.

Since then, this crappy fellow had vowed to deal with any Punch member of staff that violated traffic offence not because it was his duty to do so but because he was determined to release his pent-up emotion and take his own pound of flesh.

The matter was resolved and we left. Apart from that ill-tempered fellow, my experience with officers and men of the FRSC has always been wonderful. Either in their office or on the road, they are always courteous and rarely leave modesty behind in their dealings. But just like there are bad eggs in every organisation, I know the FRSC cannot be an exception.

However, the sentiment has always been that the black sheep of the corps are likely to be among the rank and file. But Andrew Ikumapayi, the suspended sector commander of the FRSC in Rivers State, has proven that insignia does not necessarily make an officer responsible or otherwise. On Monday, Kumapayi inspected his officers with particular attention to hairstyles and nails of female officers.

Those whose hairstyles did not conform with the corps’ code had their long and fanciful hairstyles cut with a pair of scissors at the parade ground by the officer-turned barber.

The photos of the haircut, which went viral on the Internet put Kumapayi at the receiving end of a barrage of criticisms with many describing his controversial disciplinary action as denigrating and dehumanising.

However, what is incontrovertible is that the women erred and should bear the brunt of breaching the FRSC’s code, which forbids them from wearing long hair and fixing long nails while in uniform.

They can’t be in uniform as if they are doing high street fashion ready to sashay on the runway. That is strictly for models. A Kenyan policewoman was dismissed about two years ago for being too hot in her butt-hugging skirt uniform while at work. She was curvy and hot. Her endowment at the back was tempting, irresistible and killing men.

Worse still, she controlled traffic. Motorists could not take their eyes off her God-given attraction even when such was distracting them while driving thereby causing unnecessary traffic. Men even deliberately committed traffic offences whenever she was on the road so that she could arrest them.

The intention of such men was to have a closer look at her butt and perhaps appreciate her stunning beauty. She was fired for her butt-hugging skirt, which accentuated her natural endowment but did not conform with the Kenyan Police dress code.

Expectedly, her sacking attracted hue and cry from her admirers. Such issues will always attract attention, sentiments and emotions particularly if a woman is involved.

This is what Kumapayi did not factor in before forcing the women into his barber’s shop. Perhaps, his action would not have generated so much a noise if he had asked a female officer to cut the hair of the errant women or invite a barber to do so.

The codes or laws guiding any organisation are what they are and not what they ought to be. What Kumapayi did was bad. Perhaps, it was an instance of exuberant behaviour meant to correct errant officers but has now backfired.

The suspended officer may also be a living emblem of how male bosses of military and paramilitary organisations treat the females under them. What some of the females see in the closets of their male bosses, their mouths cannot tell.

They endure and suffer in silence. Some of them are subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses. Some readily make themselves available as sex toys of their bosses as survival strategy so that they can wield influence, power and get promotions. If two consenting adults agree to amorous relationship, so be it.

Some of the females even become hostile to their bosses’ female visitors just because they see such visitors as threats to their relationship with their bosses. A female crime reporter once told me about how some policewomen in the office of a top policeman often treated her with contempt because of her perceived closeness to their boss.

She also told me about how two policewomen ran to an NGO to save them from the claws of their boss who was bent on transferring them to the far north after expressing their intention to quit the office romance, which they consented to and had enjoyed over the years.

The policewomen, according to her, also confessed that some women were even deliberately recruited to satisfy some randy bosses who also guarantee their entrance into the police college even if they don’t have all the necessary requirements.

It is not about police colleges alone, such is being replicated in military and paramilitary organisations. The system also permits the discrimination against women.

If not, by now we should have seen women good enough to head these organisations. After all, the judiciary has broken that jinx with the emergence of Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar as the Chief Justice of Nigeria before she retired in 2014.

We can easily count the number of policewomen that had risen to become commissioners of police and headed state commands. Their chances of becoming the Inspector General of Police are slim and that is if the chances are even there in the first place. Same can be said about other military and paramilitary organisations. Whereas, the females undergo the same training as their male counterparts.

Interestingly, Michigan State Police in the United States have realised the need to give all police in the state equal opportunities irrespective of their sex.The first step was to eliminate the rank “policewoman.” All the police are now referred to as “troopers.”

The term policewoman is now an antiquated title. And Public Act 12 is the law used to remove the terminology. So, all police are treated equally in training and on the job just as they have the same societal roles.

The sponsor of the bill, which brought about change in name, update in grade and duties for the troopers, Senator Tonya Schiutmaker, said the Michigan State Police asked for the change. They asked for it and got it. This happened just last year. We can also start somewhere.

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