The wild wild West; that was how the South-West was described in those dark days of political acrimony between the Akintolas and Awolowos of the 1960s. The sordid occurrences of that sad era were a precursor of the abortion of the First Republic. Ever since, Nigeria has remained wild, if not wilder. Like a zoo with its gates unhinged. The result leaves nothing to the imagination.
The only difference is that in the Nigerian zoo, some beasts are more preferred to others. For instance, the notorious, bloodthirsty “kill and go” Fulani herdsmen always get away with it but their victims get knocked in for protesting against this affront. Of late, however, they have suddenly gone quiet, much to the relief of many Nigerians who can’t but wonder what hit the brigands since Sai Baba took ill (?) or went on extended vacation (though nobody knows whether he is truly on vacation or medical vacation). Nobody has been killed, not even in genocide-marked Southern Kaduna. Nigerians are happy with the unilateral ceasefire by the killer herdsmen from the North. Many wonder though whether Baba must remain abroad then if that would be panacea to the herdsmen menace. God forbid! Methinks the blood suckers have finally seen the light and become born again, not that Baba or anyone else has their backs covered.
The thought of jungle beastliness brings to the fore the recent raid of Federal Government Girls College, Calabar, Cross River State. by operatives of Nigeria’s secret police, Department of State Security (DSS). This dastardly act is just one of several dehumanising treatments visited on innocent Nigerians by security agencies.
The story has it that a ‘common’ teacher had the temerity to administer two strokes of cane on a relation of ‘a whole DSS officer.’ If the poor teacher had known that working in a security agency conferred a special status on the workforce and their relations, perhaps, he would have allowed the girl to continue in her pernicious, wild ways. But he ignorantly took the tiger by the tail and meted out punishment to her and was almost devoured. The DSS officer stormed the school commando-style with truck-loads of her colleagues and reportedly flogged the demons out of the teacher in the presence of the students, amid sporadica shooting in the air. When other teachers intervened, they received the same raw deal from the jackboots, who later shot their way through the gates and escaped.
It is most demeaning to beat up a teacher in the presence of students whose character and destiny he is moulding. But that meant nothing to the DSS operatives. They never even considered that the student was punished alongside nine others for compelling junior students to sweep their class while lectures were ongoing in the junior students’ class, against school rules.
The abhorrence for benign corporal punishment in schools is responsible for the rot in today’s youth. Overly libertine America is paying a heavy toll for this and now seeks to make amends, while here we are still copycatting a practice that has failed the world.
Our security personnel have been behaving as if the country belongs to them. They intimidate inferior ‘bloody civilians’ and hound them out of relevance. They are above the law or are the law itself. They drive with recklessness and run other road users off the road.
In Kaduna, last year, hundreds of protesting Shiites were mowed down just to pave way for one man, the Chief of Army Staff, to pass. In the East, hundreds of unarmed Biafra agitators are killed with impunity daily. Only recently, devil-may-care policemen, escorting money to a bank in Rivers State, dispatched an innocent painter to the great beyond. In Onitsha, soldiers beat a poor cripple to a pulp for daring to wear military camouflage. There are several other horrendous breaches of the people’s rights to dignity.
Quite annoying is the inclination of agencies’ ‘image makers’ to giving dumb excuses, erroneously believing that image making is about telling lies or half-truths. In some cases, they give the image-laundering job to distracting, fine ‘girls’ unaware that good reputation goes beyond fine face.
Anyway, kudos to the military for the way they handled the cripple’s assault in Onitsha but they must go beyond that. Embarrassed DSS authorities have also told Nigerians that they have detained five of their personnel involved in the shameful display in Calabar, and that investigation was ongoing. What investigation are they talking about? Didn’t the operatives invade the school, no matter their grouse? Reading between the lines, the DSS is fishing for excuses to kill the case or allow tempers to simmer down so the matter could die a natural death like several others before it.
Instead of talking about official directives, the military and DSS and other security agencies should begin to tame or weed out the mad dogs in their midst. A different spirit takes over many of the policemen, soldiers and para-military personnel once they are given guns and uniforms bought with taxpayers’ money. They become omnipotent and swagger around like a calamity waiting to happen. Of course, when it happens, most unfortunately, official conspiracy shields them from prosecution. In the bid to safeguard their image, security agencies have committed worse crimes by denying the dead and aggrieved justice. The unbecoming conduct of some of their personnel is destroying the image of hard working, patriotic Nigerians, staking their lives for the security of others and must not be condoned under any guise. Imagine dying in combat for an unappreciative nation because malfeasance of a few bad eggs has rubbished the agencies before the populace. Nigerians will begin to appreciate the sacrifices of these great Nigerians only when civility comes into play.
The pitiable welfare of the security personnel should be adequately addressed so that they do not unleash their frustrations on the people. This country has witnessed too many avoidable ‘accidental discharges’ where people were cut down in arguments over refusal to ‘settle’ with as little as N50.
A policewoman had once slapped me for my audacity to interfere in her ruffling the driver of a bus in which I was being transported over N50. I was stung by that humiliation but considering her hungry, worn face, I took it in my stride. Occasionally, I still run into her, looking more harried and famished in her weather-beaten, faded official gear. Of course, she does not recognise me anymore but she evokes pity. That’s why I believe Nigerians are victims of misdirected aggression, even though there are some natural thugs among the security apparatchik.