THE POLICE I WANT

THE POLICE I WANT

I find it a bit ironic that on the day I noticed the #ThePoliceIWant hashtag on twitter was the day I got my first experience with the police we have in this country.

That morning, I’d been on twitter and came upon the hashtag. It was trending with lots of Nigerians tweeting characteristics they’d appreciate in the Nigerian Police Force. I retweeted most of them. The tweets were sense-making and spoke to an exasperation, a frustration, a pain felt by Nigerians over how rotten and cankerworm-eaten the law enforcement system is in this country.

Later that day, I was on my way home from work. I’m a career editor employed by an advertizing firm, and this means I’m almost always going about with the weighty load of my backpack on my back, inside which is my laptop. The laptop is my everything. My family often teases me that the day the laptop is stolen is the day I’ll commit suicide; they have no idea how close they are to the truth.

Anyway, I was on a bike, on my way back home when just before making a turn, the okada man said to me, “Police dey front o. They dey do stop-and-search.”

I shrugged. I didn’t think much of his words. So what if they were doing stop-and-search? My mind was wrapped up with thoughts of dinner, a bath and sleep. Besides, my phone battery was very dead. Good luck trying to get into it to see where the bodies are buried.

We were driving past where I could see a cluster of men who seemed busy by the side of the road, when one of them noticed my bike approaching and waved the okada man to a stop. The okada man pulled over and the man approached.

“Good afternoon,” he said to me when he got to us.

“Good evening,” I replied. It was after all 5pm. Simple greeting, he couldn’t even get right.

“I’m the police and we are doing stop-and-search,” he said. As he spoke, he gestured for me to get down from the bike.

I did, with my face set with a heavy frown. This man from the police was in plain clothes, no uniform, nothing. I was just supposed to take his word for it. I was tired and in no mood for trouble, so I responded as calmly as I could, “Okay, what has that got to do with me?”

“Can I see your ID card?”

I produced my ID card, both work and National ID, and handed them over to him. He squinted at the work ID, stumbling over the words as he tried to pronounce the name of my employer.

“What’s in your bag?” As he asked this, another man, who was in plain clothes too, had approached, his eyes on my backpack.

“It’s just my laptop and some work documents,” I said.

“Can we see the laptop?” the second man asked.

“Why?” I was starting to get agitated.

“We have been hearing many reports of yahoo boys operating around here.”

“I live just nearby with my family,” I protested, pointing in the direction of my estate. “Why not follow me to my house and find out if I’m a yahoo boy or not.”

The two men snickered, and the second one reached for my bag.

“Excuse me, but this is wrong,” I said, moving the bag out of his reach.

“Let’s just see your laptop,” the man said, an ugly look coming into his eyes. “If you don’t have anything to be afraid of, then we won’t have a problem.”

Technically, I didn’t have anything to be afraid of. My gay porn stash was the only incriminating thing in the laptop and was tucked away under layers of folders it would take someone more tech-savvy than these ignoramuses to find. I merely resented the idea of these men violating my privacy so brashly, bullying their way to it simply because they are the police. It wasn’t even as if they were uniformed. That was the second reason for my apprehension. For all I knew, they were criminals masquerading as policemen. But then, I saw two uniformed policemen among the cluster of men a few yards away from us, also rifling through some other young men’s bags, and I relented.

I pulled my laptop from my bag and handed it over to the second man, all the while protesting the violation.

They were talking back at me as the second man booted the laptop. I was lecturing them on how wrong they were, talking about a violation of human rights and bringing up the issue of the Police IG expressly banning this kind of behaviour from them. Initially, they responded to my lecture with dismissive amusement, until my voice started getting louder and I touched on the part about the IG ban, and then the one who stopped me turned to me with a belligerent expression and snarled, “Why are you talking too much sef? Abi will you like us to take this to the station?”

I looked at him with all the disdain I could put into one look. This is why Nigerians have no respect for the police. They are not only thugs, they are also ignorant bullies, preferring to use bluster to try to intimidate civilians into behaving, instead of sound knowledge. Because the truth is: they know nothing!

From where I was standing, I could see the screen of my laptop. The moment it booted open, I saw the man handling it click open My Documents. He flicked a glance over it and instantly zeroed in on the folder I’d labeled ‘LGBT’. Out of all the documents and files in there, that was the one he went for right away.

A criminal with a mission – except the mission wasn’t to track down yahoo boys. The Nigerian Police has discovered the mother lode of extortions – and that is with the LGBT community or anyone even remotely associated with it. And they are not letting go anytime soon. You hear of roadside arrests of male pedestrians simply because the guy walks like a girl, or searching phones to discover nude male pictures or gay porn and promptly arresting the owners. Grossly abusing the fundamental human rights of gay Nigerians under a distorted interpretation of the antigay law.

When I saw him click open the folder, I wasn’t at all bothered. The documents in there ranged from a PDF file of the full Nigerian Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Law, speeches made by President Obama, some LGBT literature downloaded from the internet to LGBT novels purchased from Amazon and a list of inspiring quotes I’ve collected during the course of my perusal online and from watching television. I watched him click open the document that was the final UN address President Obama made; he skimmed through it with disinterest, before minimizing it and clicking open the PDF file of the antigay law.

“Are you a lawyer?” he asked.

“No, but my mother is,” I said stoically. My mother is an entrepreneur, but who’s checking.

He nodded and clicked open a few more documents. Nothing screamed the words ‘I want you to suck my dick’ or ‘Please fuck my ass’ at him. Such disappointment he must’ve felt as he exited the folder.

Then he saw a document named ‘The Army’. It was actually a novel I was editing for a client intended for Farafina. The title however must have arrested his attention because he asked while pointing at it, “What’s this?”

Without missing a beat, I said, “It’s a brief I’m working on for my uncle. He’s in the army.”

The two of them turned to look at me.

“What did you say you do again?”

I told them.

“And your uncle…he’s in the army?”

“Yes.”

“Stationed where?”

“At Ojo Barracks.” I’d never been to Ojo Barracks. I had no idea what I was talking about, but again, who’s checking.

Quietly and without further ado, the man with my laptop shut it and handed it back to me.

Unable to resist, I said, “Have you finished? Is that all? Is there nothing in there that says I’m a yahoo guy?”

“Mai fren, just go!” he snapped sullenly.

They waved me away and turned to join the others. I watched them go, shaking my head with sadness for this country before returning to where my okada man was waiting.

What exactly are we getting right in this country? I ask sometimes. Government. Amenities. Human rights. Law enforcement. International relations. Economy. None of these are we getting right in Nigeria. We are a country where basically, every man is an island unto himself, because he cannot count on the system to be there for him. How does such a country work? Nigeria is a failed experiment and it’s a miracle that we’ve been able to last this long.

President Buhari says the change he promises us starts with you and I. Well, if you’re in the Police and you’re reading this, here’s the change I expect from you, the police I want:

He should know the law and uphold it rightfully. The Police I want should understand that they are supposed to be good guys, and not extortionists, bullies, opportunists seeking to ravage and exploit. The Police I want should represent the respect we have for our country instead of the scorn we harbour for it. The Police I want should see their job as a calling to serve and to protect, not abuse and intimidate.

I know Nigeria is famed for her resilience, but honestly, how much more can we last with the awareness that the enemy is as much the one we need protection from as the one tasked to protect us from them.

Written by Mandy

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36 Comments

  1. eli
    November 18, 06:18 Reply

    Mandy, am glad you were savvy enough to navigate this ordeal. frankly speaking, am tired of this place.

    • Mandy
      November 19, 03:23 Reply

      You and me both, Eli 🙁

  2. eli
    November 18, 06:21 Reply

    how we ended being the most religious yet corrupt and insensitive ppl is besides me. all these religion and education, and the soup just tastes worse. I don’t mean to sound defeated, but sometimes shit get too much.
    #hopelives

    • Pink Panther
      November 19, 02:59 Reply

      I’m with you there, eli. It can get so tiring living here.

  3. eli
    November 18, 06:29 Reply

    folks, learn to protect your sensitive information. simple free WINRAR app can lock and hide files and folders securely.

    • Mandy
      November 19, 03:25 Reply

      Oh but I’m learning now never to even hand over my phone in the first place. A law has been passed by the IG of police and I’m sticking to that law, even if they won’t.

  4. Iliana
    November 18, 06:33 Reply

    What’s happening to 1213 series and others, this blog is getting really boring. U need to post something nice@pink panther

    • Edo
      November 18, 09:37 Reply

      I completely agree with you. I hope there’s no disagreement somewhere. DM has been absent also. PP what’s going on? This is getting boring.

    • Delle
      November 18, 09:51 Reply

      Like my darling, Chimamanda Adichie, says, “If you want to read a story, write it yourself.”

      ?

    • Mandy
      November 19, 03:27 Reply

      You say ‘post something’ nice as if something nice is just sitting around waiting to be posted. Do you even know how the blog works? Oga, if you don’t have anything constructive to say, you don’t speak at all.

    • Chandler B.
      November 19, 18:22 Reply

      Don’t you have Cartoon Network or data to stream a YouTube video or something? This isn’t Entertainment Weekly.

  5. KingBey
    November 18, 06:40 Reply

    Army…..the antidote to police stupidity. Lol

  6. sucrescalada
    November 18, 07:10 Reply

    Oh well .. Lets just say av been stopped about a dozen times… And no i refused to hand over my phone in all occasions… Lets get this thing straight… This police men will intimidate you when dey fill Ur scared of them.. For a police man to go through your phone or laptop he needs a signed warrant from a judge!

    • Mandy
      November 19, 03:28 Reply

      Now THIS is the attitude I’m learning to emulate.

  7. SillyAnonymous
    November 18, 07:42 Reply

    Pinky, great choice of photo to go with the header! Just great!

  8. y
    November 18, 08:25 Reply

    Fantastic article and very timely. And yes that header image is great for all kinds of reasons.

  9. peaches
    November 18, 08:39 Reply

    I have always said it tat these police people are looking for trouble.

  10. Delle
    November 18, 09:49 Reply

    Finally! Mandy’s first entry?.

    About this time last year, the police harassed me on account of my physical disposition. Went through my phone in search of something incriminating owing to their disjointed belief that people like me are homosexuals. Of course, I gave it to them in the way I know best. Making sure to curse the very day they were recruited into the Force(and all these I said to their faces).
    The rest is history.

    These hungry men and women in faded black uniforms ALWAYS get it wrong! Always. I mean, what’s the agenda? You hope to catch yahoo boys by virtually harassing and humiliating all citizens, good and bad inclusive? Is that your own method of combating crime? When your counterparts abroad make use of the latest technological facilities to track down criminals? The Nigerian Police is a brittle joke.

    During my internship, there’s this route I take when going home. Now along the road, we have about 4 check points (four o!) . This isn’t even the annoying part. What irks is that these policewomen, embarrassments to womanhood, have clusters of agberos around them. These urchins are given the power to collect money from bus drivers and keke riders every fucking time! You can’t question them. You can’t even refuse not when they have the blessings of the police.

    This thing called Nigerian Police needs to be scrapped off. We don’t need them anymore!

    • Mandy
      November 19, 03:30 Reply

      I always wonder how rough femme guys must have it with these police. Really sad. That the people who should uphold the law are busy misinterpreting it to serve their selfish gains.

  11. Mitch
    November 18, 11:09 Reply

    These dogs again? Their madness knows no bounds.

    I’m still waiting for another policeman to trap. The last one respected himself and walked away. The next, God help him ’cause I’m looking to make millions off of any fool who tampers with my rights

  12. Iliana
    November 18, 18:07 Reply

    I would @delle if I could but we all got our forte and writing isn’t mine so tnx, u could just be honest to urself and admit that I’m 101% right Sir

  13. Pjay
    November 19, 03:33 Reply

    Na wa o. All these happenings are just making someone to be afraid of walking on the streets. But wait sef, how do the police choose who they want to harass? Is it something about one’s appearance or dressing? And erm, all this police harassment stories I hear happen in the cities. I can’t imagine been treated like that by the police men in my small town. And it’s not because I know them or I’m an important citizen. When I read these stories, I’m usually dumbfounded and scared about what I’d do if such happens to me. Ehen, umu KD, there’s no love in this family. You guys are not kind to our writers. Elsewhere, when people read a friend’s writing, they praise the good to high heavens and gently point out the flaws. But here, one shameless Chizzie; self appointed, in house resident critic who cannot write a proper to lose his extra weight would maliciously talk about how jaded James’ journal is or how The rantings of a random gay man are just that. The empty rantings of Dennis Macauley. We are human. It gets to us eventually I believe. Could be why some of those guys have lost interest in writing for the blog. We cannot always sing kumbaya but we need to sing it as often as possible. There’s so much strength in unity. E joor, bikonu, Dan Allah.

  14. Iliana
    November 19, 07:35 Reply

    Hey don’t speak to me like that ok,and point of correction Mr I’m a Lady not an Oga @Mandy

    • Mandy
      November 19, 15:07 Reply

      Very well, lady. My point is, in your expectations of something nice, consider that there are circumstances at play in the operating of the blog. Such as how something nice is dependent on the submissions of KDians. You don’t just demand for something nice as though it’s waiting somewhere for the admin to post. Be considerate, not disparaging in your remarks. And maybe then, you won’t be talked to anyhow.

    • Mandy
      November 19, 15:09 Reply

      And oh you’re a lady. (Perhaps lesbian?) Maybe you could encourage your fellow females to send in more for us males to read. We don too entertain una 🙂

  15. Vhar.
    November 19, 08:54 Reply

    I want a lot of things from the Nigerian Police Force… But educated officers first. It’s really not too much to ask.

  16. Pankar
    November 19, 16:15 Reply

    The NPF might not be as sophisticated as we’d wish – that’s simply local content – but they understand the law more than you know it. But corruption makes them work with more aim to intimidate and extort more than to secure. And who do you intimidate? That citizen who is ignorant. I marvel at the ignorance of our expectedly ‘educated’ country people. Get your self a lawyer. Tinker with her. Read the ’99 constitution, police code of conduct, criminal code and you’d walk a little bit taller. Majorly, protect ur docs., stay away from crime- after all same sex is a ‘crime’ – yet, so to the best of their knowledge, they re doing their job.# Fight that draconic law# activists, everyone

    • Pink Panther
      November 19, 16:31 Reply

      After all, same sex is a crime?
      Are you sure you know that law very well?

  17. Iliana
    November 19, 19:16 Reply

    Wow @chandler B nice one. I won’t give you the reply u deserve so move along. ?

  18. Jake E
    November 19, 21:49 Reply

    I spoke to a British friend recently, about their ‘justice system’, from courts and judges to police and prisons.
    He is close to someone who was unlawfully jailed for a financial crime, and I got deep inside info about how that works in the UK.
    Long story short, forget their ‘respectable’ appearance…if you could be a fly on the wall, you’d be very shocked how inhumanely barbaric and primitive the underground ‘justice’ system in the UK.
    I know Nigerian police are animals, but the british colonialists handed us something that can not be redeemed. That is where our stupid police and judges come from.

  19. Pankar
    November 21, 09:47 Reply

    Isn’t same sex a crime in Nigeria? It is. Wrongfuly termed so, but it is. And you totally ignored ‘crime’ in parenthesis.

    Oh and underground corruption and bias is very much present in the UK police force and almost world over. It goes back to what bills we allow passed as laws or crime

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