Policemen so cherish their status as keepers of the peace and protectors of the public that they have occasionally been known to beat to death those citizens or groups who question that status. – David Mamet, Pulitzer prize winner, playwright, author, screenwriter, and film director.
Perhaps one of the most famous quotes ever attributed to societal ills is the one above. One could argue that policemen are just about the same in the world. They love the uniform, the power that comes with it and the unquestionable, god-like but temporal power that comes with the job. Call it perks or whatever, it is almost the same for every policeman/woman in the world. Power, they say, corrupt and this is no different.
In the spate of extrajudicial killings in Nigeria of late, surprisingly, not by the much-feared soldiers but policemen, including the rogue-like F-SARS, one would think the upper echelons of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) would, at least, issue stern warnings to the men-in-black who revel at imitating hunting seasons of the United States.
Like Deers and wild Turkeys, Nigerians are being plucked off the streets, highways and even in their homes. Bulk of their offenses have come from either looking too fresh, using expensive gadgets or mobile devices, having foreign contacts on their phones and the latest addition – speaking Queen’s English with police officers.
Abayomi Shogunle, an Assistant Commissioner of Police has made it known that ‘speaking Queen’s English to police officers could get you into trouble’. What this means is that you have to be, at the very best, toutish, lose your civility, let courtesy out of the window and possibly, home training just so you could come down to the level of Sergeant James Brown, who is angry at the world and the system for being a police officer with a wife who nags for not helping much with finances considering his horrible take home. You have to be calm while at it but must shelve aside your education lest Sergeant James feels threatened and considers you a threat for living a better than himself. You could get lucky and get arrested or become unfortunate and get killed with the counted bullets in his rusty AK-47 that is carefully taped.
As a child, I was taught that a faulty, glitchy system requires an urgent fix, either by total overhaul or by partial replacement. In the corporate world, an unprofessional exhibition requires training and retraining until the individual understands what is expected of him/her. Why is it any different with the Nigerian Police?
Why can’t the upper echelons in the Force subject police officers to rotational meetings with psychologists and further train them on how best to address people on highways just because the latter are well to do?
Why should I be scared of speaking the English language with a police officer just because he is frustrated for being in the sun all day or because he asked about my mobile device – one I saved months for? Should Abayomi Shogunle’s ‘warning’ be considered as foreshadowing to Nigerians who don’t understand any other language apart from the English language, or worse, people like me who can’t speak the pidgin English properly? Should I fear for my life at this point that an ACP has ‘charged’ policemen to deal with individuals who speak Queen’s English? Why should the Force be a haven for ‘losers’ who barely rounded off their secondary school education and have vowed to deal with educated lots just because they never got the chance to go to school and be better persons?
It is an open secret that over half of the makeup of the police force are barely educated. If we are to console them and not rile them up or rub our education in their faces, then we must forgo the very education that ‘shacks’ us every time we come across these ‘angry birds’. Arming uneducated people with weapons to look after the educated, the well versed and enlightened folks come off as poetic.
We are fast recording more civilian deaths at the hands of policemen by ‘men of the underworld’ and those who matter prefer to reach out to France to ‘mourn’ with them while the Nigerian cyberspace is filled with news of police brutality and animality on a daily.
We have been warned, however. The best way to stay alive is forget you ever went to school when you see a policeman. If possible, get a pidgin handbook, get a tutor and learn as fast as possible. Seargent Michael Jackson might be angrier than Seargent James Brown and might not spare you and your Queen’s English.
-Internet Sergio Ramos