Getting Chief Osaruyi Reuben Okundaye, ex-Commissioner of Police to talk with Effects was not easy. The octogenarian insists he doesn’t want to join his popular wife in public glare because he prefers that only his wife should be seen while he remains in the background. It took the intervention of his wife, Chief Nike Okundaye, founder, Nike Arts Gallery, to get him to grant the interview. “Daddy, The Sun newspapers wants you to talk about your wife as Sunday is International Women’s Day”. That was it the clincher!
Your wife’s gallery is well known and getting globally recognized, are you not intimidated at her progress sometimes?
Intimidated? God forbid. How can I be intimidated by my wife’s progress when we are all contributors. I don’t think that is a right statement. All I know, Nike is a very hardworking woman. A very loving wife and also, very humane. Her humility in life has propelled her to the point where she has reached today. She loves everybody. When it comes to loving people and accepting people, she does not draw boundaries whether you are a child, a young man or woman, old man or woman, she likes everybody and she also tries to provide solutions to peoples problems whenever they are brought to her attention. She’s always eager to assist. She hardly turns anybody down. She’s a woman I have seen when things get bad she doesn’t call it quit. In fact, failure at any point in time propels her to greater heights. She’s a woman who loves this country, who has devoted her time to helping the downtrodden, the rural women of this country. She gave voices to the oppressed women in this country. She hates women being abused by the menfolk. Her achievements are immeasurable and we thank God for that. As a husband, I try to give her the necessary support and encourage her to move ahead. I have always prayed that her star will continue to shine and that her achievements in this world will know no boundaries. That is the little I can say for now.
Today’s men, most of them are intimidated by their wife’s success, what do you have for such men?
Let me tell you, it is unfortunate, if any man feels intimidated or threatened by the progress of the woman. When I married my wife, I told her I will support her to the best of my ability and it always gives me joy when we see mark of improvement or achievement. Why should a man be intimidated or jealous because his wife is doing well in life? When your wife does well, she will also come to help the family. In fact, they say it takes two to tango. It also reduces your struggle as a man to be the main breadwinner of the family. Contribution from here and there helps to reduce the burden on the man. Even though in our own tradition, we say the woman should be relegated to the kitchen, I don’t believe in that. If you want to build a good society you have to encourage your wife to contribute to the society by bringing up a good family. So, I think men should try and look inward to help and assist their wife to a greater height. You should not feel threatened. And the women too should know, if your husband is helping you, give him due respect. Unfortunately, some women do it the other way round. But that should not be the case. You should always give due respect to your husband.
You have seen so much in life, what lesson has life taught you as a person?
Our life is dynamic, no life is static. I have seen quite a lot. I’m turning 85 old. I have seen the thick and thin in this country. We cannot compare our days to the present generation. In our days, there were no cars like we have today, in our days, we don’t have television, and we don’t even have electricity or vehicle as we have now. So, we cannot be living in the past. But you can also benefit from the past and take advice of our elders. That is what I can say.
You have western traits in you, at your age you still look well coordinated in your appearance. How do you do that?
I’m not oyinbo ooh; I’m a hard-core traditionalist. Traditionalist in the sense that I respect my culture. I don’t want to be referred to as oyinbo person. I reject that.
What I’m trying to say in essence is that you look good, good skin at your age, what is the secret of your good looks?
The secret to living well is not to do anything in excess. Know when to stop. A good artist leaves the stage when the ovation is highest. Sometimes, it amuses me in this country that a man will have a million naira, billion naira, 10 billion, 20 billion naira, what is he going to do with it? You will have one, two, three, four houses, a man will have 10 cars. How many cars can he ride at a time? It’s unnecessary. If you have all that money why can’t you use it to develop the society, provide for those who don’t have, train the children of those who don’t have instead of spending the money like a drunken soldier. I don’t believe in that. I believe in moderation. I believe in knowing when to stop. And that is what makes you live longer. If you own the whole world, are you going to carry them wherever you are going after death? You will die and they will bury you and you are not going to carry all your houses.
You are a former commissioner of police, could you tell us some of your experiences in service?
I have worked virtually in the whole country. I worked in Lagos, Osun, Ogun, Benue, and Plateau; at a point in time, I also was sent to Gambia to go and set up the Gambia Police in 1985 to 1990, I was in the Gambia representing this country. That is my part, I’m not the type who wants to be so proud of what I have achieved in life. My achievements should be seen in my wife and children because if you bring your children up well they are the ones who will give you good names in future. If you bring your wife up well and she achieves great heights, the achievements will also reflect in you.
What would you want to see change in the Nigeria Police Force?
Nigeria Police is trying but, remember one thing, Nigeria policemen are also Nigerians. What you see today in the Nigerian police is a reflection of the society. What you see in Nigeria Police today is a product of the society. In other words, if you say a policeman is bad, then the society is equally bad because you draw them from the society to be policemen so they cannot be something different. Our values, should change; we should stop being slaves to money, we should stop saying we want to own the whole world, everybody should know when to stop and when to say it is enough. If everybody does that, I think there will be harmony in this country. Let everybody have a little bit of everything. Not you alone you want to have 30 houses, for what? Why do you want that; if you have such money why don’t you use that to build schools, use it to build hospitals. You go and steal money; you buy cars, you own houses all over the world, is that how you should live your life? Try and make impact in the society. Build schools, build universities, build cottage hospitals, where people will work and earn a living.
As ex-police officer, what is your take on the proposed state policing?
There are pros and cons. We have seen quite a lot in this country. When we had this local government police, we know the havoc they caused in this country in the early sixties. We are all witnesses to that. That is why people who are against Amotekun think about it. But when you again think that the police is overstretched, then there will be need to have auxiliary police, what you might call a community police. If it is well-intentioned, not to be used as a political tool against political opponents. The issue of state police should be handled carefully. To be very honest with you, community police as it is known all over the world today, has been the most effective method of policing but are we really ripe enough to go into community policing without using it to terrorize our enemies or the community? That is the fear of so many. The best policing method is what is called community policing. That is, a policeman is drawn from his town and he’s policing his own society. He gets to know his society so well, he understands the people, and he gets to know even the names of everybody on his beat. He knows those who are criminals, he knows those who are not criminals than to go and bring a policeman from Sokoto to come and be policing the streets in Lagos or in Ibadan. He doesn’t understand the people. A policeman must understand the locality of the area he is policing. That is what makes a policeman’s work easy. You build confidence in the people, the people will relate with you because you belong to them. If there’s going to be crisis you are the first to know because you are in that very community. That is why it is always the best method of policing. I remember in those days, even in the UK, if I have to make references, when we were young as police officers, if you go to certain town everybody knows the name of the policeman. People now depend on him when there’s trouble; they build confidence in him because he is a member of the society. But the fear of the antagonist of local policing is what I have said earlier. We have tried it in the past and it failed woefully. In the 60s they were using local government policing to wreak havoc in this country. That is why some people are afraid.
Are we mature enough to handle community policing? This is the question we should ask those who are agitating for it. Are you not going to use these local police to be terrorizing your enemies in the society? Even these days, you will see policemen following people you might categorize as yahoo, yahoo boys, all those 419 boys, all these cultists because they have money. That is not supposed to be. That is why I told you that the police you find today are the products of the society. A policeman is supposed to patrol, to prevent crime in the streets, not to be escorting VIPs up and down. You see the wives of CEOs, MDs of companies, policemen are following them up and down to carry their handbags to go to market. Is that their duty? Even when regulations are given in Abuja that policemen should not be posted to individual houses, you find that they still do it. It is very sad. In fact, left to me, why should policeman follow ministers up and down, following congressmen up and down? If you are a politician and your people like you, why are you afraid of your security, why? If you are sure of yourself, if you know you are a good person, why should police be following you up and down? We have to change our value set, let everybody be his brother’s keeper in this country. You will see there will be more progress.