Opinion

SARS: Breaking ‘conduct’ in Nigeria

Ahoy! A government that has been in slumber while killer herdsmen massacred hundreds of farmers has just woken up, like Rip Van Winkle, with a self-righteous sense of outrage at homicides committed by policemen. SARS had murdered the sleep of Nigerians and Nigeria could sleep no more, so the government had to wake up.

Though no killer herdsman has so far been docked for the genocides, the re-awakened administration has disbanded the Special Anti-Robbery Squad for not allowing the government to keep resting in peace.

They woke up the government by their unwholesome appetite for extra-judicial killings, violations of human rights, and other ancillary issues of criminal conduct. The government’s decision to disband them is the right step, at the right time even if it is in the wrong direction, but a correct step all the same. The wrong direction because disbanding SARS without prosecuting them for their crimes is like giving a soccer defender a red card for fracturing the ankle of a goal-bound striker in the penalty box without awarding a penalty kick for the offence. Actually, SARS is part of a system so rotten that it can only be saved by a national day of prayers and purged by two-week fasting throughout the length and breadth of Africa.

Agreed, they are a few decent policemen, but they are as rare as a rainbow in the dry season. But that is neither fixed nor unfixed, the good news is that I have always suspected that President Muhammadu Buhari, like Papilo, will make us proud one day.

I guess this may be it. So let us be proud that we can at least tick off one item from our list of national hazards. With the disbanding of SARS, we can move around freely without being treated as armed robbers until proven otherwise. Whenever boredom forced me to watch Survivor Television Series, I would have a good laugh at those pretenders. What do those jesters know about survival? They figure, in their ignorance, that eating treated cockroaches and jumping from a great height to break the fall on a mattress is survival? Nonsense! Survival is living in Nigeria and navigating your way through the hazardous cobwebs of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Anti-Terrorism Squad, Anti-Cultism Squad, Boko Haram, killer herdsmen, militant groups, cult groups, police checkpoints, street gangs, pickpockets, kidnappers, in-laws, outlaws, family…the list goes on.

Here we do not act survival; we live survival. Disbanding the Special Anti-Robbery Squad should rein in the police. The way the police force was setting up special units, I was sure that sooner than later, it would set up an Anti- Hate Speech Squad and arm them with rifles and listening devices. What is more? Perhaps authorize them to stop cars and listen to phone conversations or break into sitting rooms and bedrooms and monitor couples’ discussions.

This, hopefully, is not happening anytime soon, so I can relax and keep writing my “hate speeches”. Yes, I confess that I write hate speeches because any writer who does not hate something cannot write anything of worth. I hate a lot of things but the top of the list are injustice, homicide, and mosquitoes. Another confession, the reason I have zero tolerance for SARS is that I hate mosquitoes – SARS used to remind me of mosquitoes.

Like mosquitoes, they perch and bite without warning and without a reason. They perch and bite anyone, anywhere and threaten to shoot if you complain. Like mosquitoes, they were at home in the slums and ghettoes, where legal “insecticides” could not be administered on them because of poverty. In Nigeria, justice is a little more expensive than gold dust. Like mosquitoes they were involved in the blood business – mosquitoes go after blood, but SARS went after blood money. The major difference between the two is that mosquitoes would sometimes warn you by humming close to your ears before they perch and bite. SARS never condescended so such nicety or virtue, they perch and bite first and talk about it later.

Such mosquito-like conduct left a lot to be desired. So, Buhari got it right with the disbandment. I had been concerned about proper conduct ever since a police constable taught me about it in a Calabar police station. My uncle was arrested in Calabar after his tenant lodged a report against him after a bitter quarrel. I heard about my uncle’s arrest and went to the police station to negotiate his release. I arrived on time to see a boisterous police constable at the counter throw the rule book at my uncle. He accused him of breaking a law that could lead to life imprisonment.

“Do you know the name of the law that you have broken?” the policeman huffed in indignation, shaking his fist in my aged uncle’s face. My uncle, not a highly educated man, just stared at him in shock and shook his head.

“The law you have broken is called ‘conduct.’ Why have you broken conduct in Calabar? Do you want to go to jail for life?” Well, it does appear that SARS broke “conduct” all over Nigeria and now they have to pay for it. But if SARS serially broke “conduct” that is because the entire police force is fond of breaking “conduct.” The problem is institutional – it starts from the head. But I understand the Federal Government’s point of view more than anybody else. I understand it from the viewpoint of (promise, you will not laugh) a lunatic. A young man had just become psychotic and was taken to a church for prayers in my community.

The church handcuffed him to stop him from causing damage. The lunatic laughed heartily and asked the pastor, “Do you know why I am laughing?” The pastor said he did not know. The lunatic shook his head, laughed again, and continued, “You people are very funny. Why did you tie my hands when the problem is in my head?” Sure, the problem may be in the head, but you cannot tie the head because the damage is done with hands. It is fair to tie the hands first and then see what to do about the head later.

Now that the Federal Government appears to have handcuffed the hands (SARS) with which the police did the most damage, it is time for them to work on the head and the entire body so that the police force will stop the rot and become our friend – in word and deeds.

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