Who is ready, to tell the truth about the state of our nation and the security of lives and property of our nationals? And who are those that have lied to us over the years that things are getting better as we speed towards anarchy, a situation rapidly evolving in most parts of our Nation?
One particular morning last week, my phone rang at 5 a.m. It was the voice of a very nervous gentleman who informed me that the police forced their way in a no-knock, no warrant, slam-slam process into his father’s bedroom, found him sleeping naked in the heat at about 4 am, carried him away into their van without saying a word, or allowing him to dress up. The wife who was awakened by the commotion rushed into the van with a cloth wrapper to cover her husband’s nakedness. The man so rudely and humiliatingly abducted is the 99-year-old Iyase (the Prime Minister) of my town, Akwukwu Igbo in Delta State. The Iyase who is partially blind sat bewildered in the van as it drove off making two more stops where the violent human grab of the sleeping was again and again executed on two other unsuspecting men in their early 80s. The trio who was now in the company of some rough-neck police as captives began the relatively long drive to Asaba in all of 25 minutes.
Having listened to this tale in great shock and growing trepidation about the welfare of the men from my town, I asked Odiaka, the narrator and son of the Iyase to find out the police unit that carried out the operation and possibly the station where they were taken to. I put a call to the Divisional Police Officer in my town to inquire what was going on. To my surprise, he appeared ignorant of this operation. In a few hours, Odiaka got back to me with details of the location of the police station where the men were being held. Additionally, he informed me that this particular police unit had received and acted upon a petition from the Obi of Akwukwu-Igbo stating that a cultist group headed by the Iyase was planning to dethrone him as the Obi and had also threatened to burn down his Palace. After some phone calls, and against the advice of my lawyer, I decided to visit the police station to see the Iyase and hear from him and also to find out how his health was holding up considering his age.
At the police station, I learnt that the son had provided a T-Shirt, a cap, and slippers for his father. The other two seniors, Uncle Nick, a retired ASP who is the Secretory of Ogbe-Onihe Quarters of my town, and Chief Ochili-Ozua also from Ogbe-Onihe had been better clothed than the Iyase when they were whisked away from their sleep. Uncle Nick was in his pajamas, with the chief in a T-shirt and a boxer but no footwear. I suggested that I need to take them out for breakfast and to have them medically checked out, but the Iyase would not have any of those. He insisted that he be taken back to his bed where he was so forcibly removed. I chatted with them for a while more before seeking audience with the O.C. Police unaware that I was tearing up.
The O.C. was so shocked to see the Desert Warrior he had known cry openly, but at this stage I was no longer in control of my emotions. I explained to him, in a face-saving manner, that the last time I cried like this was in the Sahara Desert during my second solo expedition some decades ago. At that point and place in time, my car was stuck in an inconspicuous sand dune. My initial attempts to extricate the car were unsuccessful. Being hundreds of kilometres from any help I thought I was going to stay there and die. So, I cried for a while. Strangely though, that cry must have calmed my tensed and panic-stricken nerves for I then methodically proceeded to dig out the tires, ensuring there were no sand wedges on either side of the tires to enable me to rock the car back and forth to gain traction.
Telling this story excited the O.C. of the police station and it changed my mood a bit, but all I wanted from the police was to let these men go. I had always sought to make friends with the police because of the immense responsibility they carry in maintaining Law and Order in a lawless nation. I had in some ways abhorred the system that has reduced them to Highway beggars in tattered uniforms. The conditions under which the police operate reminded me of an article I wrote many years ago and published in my recent book ‘How Little We Are’ under the title, Policing (or Lack of) and Nigeria.
How far down can we go before something is done to check the level of policing in our country Nigeria? If they are not sufficiently trained and equipped to carry out their functions, how then do we expect them to solve complicated cases? Who is the policeman that will go undercover today to solve a case? How many cases of corruption have the police, EFCC or ICPC successfully unearthed, investigated, and prosecuted? How many people have our courts and judges put away for corruption? We live as if individually we rewrite our own laws as we journey through life. We still see laws as those produced by the colonial masters to punish us. Hence, we must beg and bribe our way through the police and the law courts when we cannot bully our way through.
Nigeria is a country with laws, some well written. We also have the ability to make good and well-researched laws. A good number of our laws came from the military who structured them in such manners to ensure their indefinite participation in the affairs of the nation. Principally, all laws were made to protect the citizenry, big or small, young or old, poor or rich. If that is the case, one may ask; why are we perceived as one of the most lawless nations of the world and fantastically corrupt?
I have travelled and lived in most parts of Nigeria, and I have observed that those that make the laws, those that wrote the constitution and made the decrees, and those whose duty it is to enforce the laws are the same people that mostly and wantonly flout the laws. The consequences of this include the fact that Nigerians respect the lawmakers but not the laws; they fear the law enforcement agencies but pay very little regard to the laws they are trying to enforce. In the main, and as a consequence of our cultures, Nigerians are easy to govern. Regrettably, though, we have become lawless because of the impunity of the lawbreakers in high places. If we were really law-abiding, and the enforcers could do their jobs with integrity and fairness, while the leaders embark on a modicum of good governance, there would be very little talk about restructuring, sovereign national conference, or state policing. Let it be known that the killers in our judicial processes are nepotism, sectional bias, cronyism, and lies.
The 99-year-old Iyase of Akwukwu-Igbo Kingdom, Chief Emmanuel Sonwnu who was badly humiliated by the police returned home the same day with me in a type of reception that is usually accorded to war heroes of the past when returning home after victorious battles. The Iyase was full of dance and the man whom I expected would go in to hug his bed in a tired sleep danced, beaming with smiles, and hugging those who came to welcome him. It was quite a joyous crowd which even built up some more as the news of his arrival spread to all parts of the town.
As I made to depart, I inquired from my friend, the reason for his joyful dance. He told me something that will remain with me for the rest of my life, some words of wisdom which reminded me of the writings of Buddha who once said that; “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one that gets burned”.