#EndSARS and our endless hypocrisy ~ Dr Uche Diala
I have not said much about this matter for obvious reasons but I also have been cautious because I acknowledge the unacceptable level of crudeness and impunity that has been the stock in trade of some members of the outfit tagged SARS. On that score I sincerely identify and empathize with the many Nigerians who have been victims of the brutality of the Special Anti-robbery Squad aka SARS.
That said, I have closely watched the attitude of some of the organizers and participants in the ongoing #EndSARS protest and indeed the attitude of many Nigerians. I can’t help but notice our traditional hypocrisy. No disrespect intended.
We all have been witnesses to the action and conduct of our Police Force for decades. We have seen the way and manner they conduct their affairs from the police stations to the streets, during elections and even at every other event. Many of us have commented and complained about their unsavoury conduct but often times it seems we are just wasting our time lamenting, as from year to year, administration to administration, IGP to IGP, we seem to be going round in circles. Every new IGP comes and for instance withdraws policemen from the roads or orders the removal of road blocks from the highways or withdrawal of policemen attached to VIPs and the order is obeyed for a few days, if at all and then we revert to status quo and the cycle continues.
It is good we are protesting and it is equally good that the government has acceded to the demands of the protesters, even though I wonder why the protesters are still on the streets, if the protest was meant to end SARS. As a person I sincerely do not think that scrapping the outfit is in itself a solution and no one need misunderstand me. As the outfit has been scrapped, have the elements or members of the team who are policemen in the first instance been removed from the Police Force? They will remain the Force and continue their activities on a different platform(s).
Some might even find their way into the newly proposed Special Weapons & Tactics (SWAT) Squad because we know how these things including deployment and re-deployment work in the Force. Because what they do emanates from a mindset and malconfigured tradition that has taken root in the Police Force over the decades. Severally we have been regaled with stories and allegations of how the men on the streets or even at the police stations make ‘returns’ to the ‘Ogas at the top’ which could explain the resilience, boldness and brashness with which they collect ‘tolls’ on the streets without caring who could be watching.
This underscores the need for holistic Police reforms which the current administration has promised and embarked upon. The question remains if there is the commitment to see it a conclusive end because genuine and effective holistic reform of the Nigeria Police Force would require a complex, painful and invasive surgery which would entail touching the untouchables and heads rolling in high and low echelons of the Force. It goes beyond the Presidency or a mere proclamation from Aso Rock.
While the Administration might clearly have the political will and commitment to reform the force, it would require a broad, multi dimensional and multi sectoral approach – involving the Legislature, Judiciary, States, Local Governments, CSOs and the general public. Are we ready for that? It will go beyond hanging out in the streets in the name of protests which apparently has become hijacked by fifth columnists and opposition (some say disgruntled) politicians who clearly have a different agenda from the original intent of the organizers of the protests.
I must add that while we castigate and lampoon the Police, SARS etc and maybe rightly so, it is equally important not to ignore the positive role they have played in containing crime and criminality in our society – a society that has lost its values, ethics and orientation. There is no doubting the fact that many kidnappers, armed robbers, 419ers, ritualists, child traffickers, corrupt entities, drug barons and users etc have hidden under the protest to malign the Police and even the SARS for their own ulterior motives so they can have a field day in their chosen trade, crimes and criminalities.
A Society where the family which is the bedrock of society has abandoned its primary role and religious and educational Institutions which used to be the conscience and compass of society have equally become part of the problem, surely cannot expect a saintly, efficient, effective, decent and truly functional Police Force. Afterall the men and women that make up the Police Force and its offshoots – SARS, RRS, Anti-Cultism, Anti-Kidnapping etc squads are extracted from the same society. A society that allows only dregs (apologies to all the decent men and women of the Police Force) by accident or design to join the Police Force surely cannot expect any magic from them.
It is therefore important that we trade carefully as we support such movements because a well intended venture could easily be hijacked and spiral out of control and thus become counter productive to the detriment of us all and the nation. This should therefore not be seen by anybody as an anti-Buhari/government or pro-Buhari/government issue. It is our age long collective challenge which we must all address together devoid of any partisan, sectional or emotional gerrymandering.
As I close this, I want to reiterate a point I have always made. As we know, prevention is always better than cure, whether in healthcare or in security matters. Our society has greatly lost its values. An attenuated or totally absent National Orientation has left the citizens groping in the dark for direction, leaving them at the mercy of street lords, crime lords and even tribal and political war lords. This has complicated the work of government to the extent that if care is not taken, no amount of effort made by any government in Nigeria (present or future) will be effective in reforming the society, our Institutions and Agencies including the Police Force and other security agencies.
As we speak, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) which used to be a shining example has become a shadow of its original self while many Nigerians also have different tales of woes to tell about the relatively newer National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). Where do we begin from?
As we trail #hashtags and beat the drums, let us all realize that the rot is deeper than we think and that we are victims as well as villains and that the solution will go deeper than hashtags and sermonizing.
May God help us to recognize and do the needful before it becomes too late.