Penultimate week, I posited that as a newly deployed police officer in Lagos, you have to be strategic. I failed, however, to give you an all-important tip: the constitutional basis of your operation.
First, there is a part of the Nigerian constitution that is relatively unknown to everyone but officials of the Nigerian Police Force like you: the section that officially grants you right to appropriate the role of every other professional around the country. And typical of the ever dutiful Police, your colleagues have done pretty well in performing this important ‘oversight’ function, to the utter annoyance of everyone but the Police authority anyway.
Unperturbed by criticisms from right left and centre, and in what has become a rare show of patriotism, Nigerian Police officers like you have dutifully continued to act as a thousand professionals rolled into one––roadside lawyers, doctors, engineers, vulcanisers, FRSC, NSCDC, NAVY, LASTMA, vigilante and the local ‘Wole-wole’ (environmental sanitation workers).
Commendable, also, is the fact that they act as emergency dentists for recalcitrant commercial bus drivers and Agbero boys and on occasions when the argument swings toward ‘20 fibre’, they forcefully help facilitate the removal of a tooth or more.
Again, flowing from this ‘all-round professional’ role is the constitutional right granted the Police officer to question motorists, Okada riders, roadside nuisance, ambitious pickpockets and whatnots.
Interestingly, a beautiful clause in that section of the constitution (unknown to everyone but the Police) also states clearly that no question will be considered ‘too stupid’ once it is coming from you Police officers; and perhaps, there might be another sub-clause that expressly states that the more stupid the question appears, the more effective the officer is on his duty post.
Invariably, as a Police officer, you have been granted the default permission to approach anybody on Lagos roads––perhaps, with the exception of soldiers and, maybe, the AK-47-wielding herder––and ask questions, however mundane.
Now, note that questioning motorists, especially in Lagos, is an art that must be nurtured to record outstanding success. The Lagosian by default is a brilliant scam artist; hence, you’d need to be a super-smart alec to outplay him during questioning. Strategy.
So if you are on duty and, say, you stop his vehicle on Allen Avenue, you may begin by asking him about his place of birth, the amount he bought his car and, later, his mother’s uncle’s mother’s maiden name. Then, you may proceed to the little details of his car’s expiry date, his favourite side-chick in his office, the expiry date of his sunglasses, and the description of his last supper. Remember, no question is too stupid for a Police officer to ask, so says the (Police version of the) Nigerian constitution.
(Tip: Questioning car users about their last supper requires tact, especially if you are not on the Island where people eat nice-sounding stuff like sharwarma and gizzard. If your duty post is, say, Ajegunle or Igbo-elerin, there is tendency that the motorist would have had Amala or Eba the previous night. Please stay away from those category of people because they might be carriers of communicable diseases: the one who ate Amala is exposed to a rare, untreatable variant of ‘Malaria’ and the other who took Eba is susceptible to ‘Bacteria’.)
In the first part of this letter, I talked about strategy. This, here, is what I mean by strategy.
First, do not be deceived by that worn out cliché that the ultimate aim of the average Police officer is to become a commissioner, an AIG, or even, IG. No. Nothing helps secure the future like being posted to the house of a politician or a business mogul in Lagos––whether as ADC or, even, ‘bag carry-er’. The smartest way of securing one’s future is to strategise and position yourself around them as aides, trust me. Interestingly, many high ranked officer you so much envy are equally eyeing a similar position in the house of the politician, whether as ADC or ‘shoe-shiner’ or, even, (bag) ‘carryer-in-chief’. Of course because Lagos has them in their hundreds, it’s quite easy to secure such juicy position here. Do strategise and be fixed somewhere so that you, too, can fix your future, man.
Again, except you want the authority to declare losses at the end of the (Police) financial year and raise serious issues about the going concern of this enterprise, do not take every word printed on stickers in a Lagos Police station literally. In fact, to put it bluntly, every word printed on stickers here communicates its opposite meaning.
To be sure, one easy way of being booted out of a juicy position in the office, a lucrative road-block on Lagos street, or a money-spinning politician’s house is to assume every word on stickers mean what they dubiously convey in the mind of the Police. Strategy.
As a guide, and because the human mind is deceptive like that, you may need to consciously memorise these words or, better still, compose a song or two with the lines so you wouldn’t be misled by the text.
Of the lines printed on those popular stickers, there is the cheeky “Bail is free”, the annoying “Say no to bribe”, and then the hilarious “Police is your friend”. You’d do well for yourself and your unborn children’s children by smuggling the one all-important missing word––‘NOT’–– appropriately into those lines. But, of course, not openly but in your heart of hearts.