Monday, March 20, 2023
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Shall we beg the police?

Lawal Ogienagbon

FOR the police, the #ENDSARS Protests were a rude reawakening. Never before had the police which style themselves as friends of the people witnessed such a challenge to their authority by some members of the society. The youths which championed the protests are a force to reckon with in any society. Whenever they rise up in arms against authority, the consequences can be dire. The people saw the raw power of youths on display during the protests.

Those, who had for long described the youths as good for nothing, ate their words as the protesters defied this profiling to push their case in a peaceful and orderly manner. They tidied up their control centres at the end of each day’s event,  fed the hungry, took care of the indisposed and raised money for the needy. All they wanted was a change of attitude from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) which they said was harassing them at will. The action was tagged: #ENDSARS,  but it was much more than that.

To show that they had nothing against the police, the protesters also demanded improved salary for the law enforcement agents. As Nigerians, we know how shabbily the police are treated. While the officers live large, the rank and file are left to fend for themselves despite the provisions in the police budget to take care of their needs. They only hear of these budgetary provisions for their uniforms, boots and other appurtenances, but do not get anything from the vote.

After the end of SARS,  a new police must emerge therefrom was the underlying message from the protesting youths. A police that will serve the people and not turn their guns on them. A police that will respect the rights of people and not embark on arbitrary arrest. The message was lost to those in power. They saw the #ENDSARS as a war against the police. Truly, the police are not pro-people. They always work against the people from whose taxes their needs are met.

If only the youths did not over play their hands, the protests might not have ended the way they did on October 20, paving the way for hoodlums to hijack the demonstration. What happened on that fateful night of 10/20 at the Lekki Toll Plaza changed the tone of the protests, but not the essence. The shootings at the plaza by soldiers sparked anger and condemnation. Anger by miscreants and condemnation from well-meaning people at home and abroad.

The miscreants resorted to looting, burning, raping, maiming and killing nationwide. These were the dark sides of the protests,  but they cannot in anyway taint the message the youths passed across through their battlecry: #ENDSARS. Policemen, their stations as well as other public and private properties were not spared in the horrendous looting and burning that happened in the last week of October. The police are still leaking their wounds from these incidents.  According to Inspector-General Mohammed Adamu, 22 policemen were killed and 205 police stations and formations destroyed.

The truth is the police and the society need each other. There cannot be the police without the society and vice versa. What happened is disheartening. Sadly, some people are rejoicing because they believe that the police got a dose of their own medicine. It will be myopic to think like that. No matter these people’s  hatred for the police, they should not forget that policemen and women are part of the larger society. They are some people’s fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts. In one word, they are flesh and blood like you and I. So, we should wish them what we wish ourselves.

That some policemen killed some people extra-judicially should not be an excuse for attacking policemen and destroying their stations. We should not practice the Mosaic law of an eye for an eye because as Ghandi pointed out that would leave everybody in the world blind. No doubt, there are bad eggs in the police, just like in every profession, but that is not enough to perceive every policeman as unworthy of his job. The point has been made with the #ENDSARS Protests.  It is time to put the incident behind us  and move forward.

To the police, what happened is still a bad dream. So, they are subtly protesting by not returning to their beats. The Police Service Commission (PSC) is siding with them. The PSC has said it could not direct them to return to work, like that, since they are human too. To do that will be inhuman really, but should that be at the expense of maintaining law and order in the society? No, it should not. No matter how bad the police may be, society still has to put up with them as they remain law enforcers.

When two people quarrel, the police are the arbiter. When there is a traffic offence, the police resolve the case. Anywhere we turn as a people, the police will always be there. We need them as much as they need us. Let them return to their jobs so that there can be sanity in and around us. My heart goes out to all the slain policemen and others who died in the #ENDSARS protests . May they find rest in the Lord’s bosom.

Culled from The Nation



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