Given that death is an eternal, final and a humbling tax, which we all pay as humans, the ethics of dying, death and living shows that the memory of the departed is fragile. The memory of the dead must be cuddled and nursed with human love, sensitivity and care. But the Nigerian security apparatus failed this basic ethical test with Mr. Olaitan Oyerinde’s memory. Even in death, this security apparatus of which the Nigerian police is its public face has shown a lack of moral capacity to help redress an evil and pay a honourable homage to the memory of a Nigerian who gave his youth to the service of his motherland.
Against this background and other important ones, to argue for or against central or state police is not only to put the cart before the horse, it is to fail to recognize that both the cart and the horse may actually be collapsing with respect to policing in Nigeria. And this is my argument for this claim.
Mr. Oyerinde was the personal secretary to Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, the governor of Edo state. Some evil hands forced out the last breadth out of this family man. Given the evil nature of his death, it was met with deep emotions laden with love and fond memories of his productive life when he was with us. Sadly, the Nigerian security apparatus thought otherwise. They beat a different path from the love and fondness Nigerian public has bestowed on the memory of Mr. Oyerinde. Therefore, when the Nigerian police and the State Security Service were called in to investigate his death, they gave two contradictory and potentially irreconcilable reports.
First, both police and State Security Service (SSS) paraded two different sets of suspects for the same death. Second, having paraded two different sets of suspects, it was not established in fact or logic that the two sets of suspects have any connection with one another. Third, while the police included Mr. David Ugolor, a member of the human right advocacy community as the lead suspect, the SSS paraded as suspects people who wore same clothes as suspects who were arrested months earlier for Boko Haram killings. Besides the fact that the two reports are contradictory, they show that the Nigerian security apparatus at both federal and state levels do not serve the law and Nigerians. They serve only persons and their political masters.
Thus, contrary to popular views including those of Mr. Oshiomhole, the Edo state governor who is justifiably bereaved and who is our chief mourner in the unfortunate death of Mr. Oyerinde the question is not who is right between the police and the SSS as he is disposed to claim. Rather the primary question is: in a season of debate about the need for state /central police and in view of the consistent gross contradictions among Nigeria’s security agencies, and their lack of commitment to law and to Nigerian tax payers, the question is: to what extent can we trust any of these security apparatus? And what ought to be the basis of our trust in any of the police – whether state or central? And with what do we fill that moral vacuum which the security apparatus both at central and state levels display in such an ugly manner?
Police in any decent country DO NOT serve political masters or persons as we have it in Nigeria. They serve the LAW, and the public, the taxpayers. Without orienting the police to serve the law, truth and the public rather than political masters, persons and political parties, the issue of whether we should have state and central police becomes secondary, though relevant.
Those who call for state police argue that it is consistent with federalism and it is justified because of the insecurity in the land. Those who defend central police argue that state police will be misused and that central police is one of the few national institutions remaining. The two sides fail woefully to address the fundamental flaw in the present police system because they miss the core of policing by displacing LAW and ETHICS in their arguments.
The Nigerian police and the general security apparatus in Nigeria do not serve the law; they serve political masters at national and state levels. Because the Nigerian security apparatus, as presently constituted, is heavily personalized and tied to the political fortunes of parties and persons in power, the two sides are ridiculously poor arguments because they are merely about persons and parties in power and not about law and the public, the taxpayers.
For example, a central police that cannot and does not investigate and prosecute the president’s men and women is flawed and morally bankrupt. This is the case with the present police in Nigeria. It is a mere official gang in national garb and colours, which is unfortunately paid for by public tax. Similarly, a state police that cannot and will not investigate and prosecute the governor’s men and women will be nothing but a cesspool of stench, which will be the personal militia of a sitting governor.
Both of these two forms of police – one that is actual and one that is potential – is a choice. All indications show these two offensive and putrid moral states of affairs with respect to how our political class and we Nigerians understand the police system.
A closer look shows that the so-called results of the “ thorough investigation” into the sad and painful death of a promising young family man – Mr. Oyerinde’s- point to this and they go heavily against the partisans of state and central police. If the death of a fellow human being as we have it in Mr. Oyerinde’s death can be this politicized in a country that has produced some of the finest minds in the world, then the current calls for state police and the current defence of central police becomes self serving for political pay masters on both sides of the coin.
This is because while it may be said that there is often rivalry globally among each country’s security agencies as they jostle for supremacy, such rivalry ought to be professional rather than being embedded in untruth and outright falsehood the way it is with our country’s security and law enforcement agencies. It happens this way in Nigeria because Nigeria police and other law enforcement agencies are made to serve political masters and the ruling political class rather than Law and the public.
Unknown to many of us, the unacceptable ugly record of Nigerian security apparatus in Boko Haram’s case and in the investigation of Mr. Oyerinde’s death in dishing out false and contradicting reports is a major threat to our security. They are sufficient to shame any call for state or central police without first making the security apparatus in our country, of which the police is its public and civil face, serve the Nation’s LAW FORMALLY AS LAW and the tax payers. This conversation, which ought to be about WHAT LAW and NOT ABOUT WHAT STATE, ZONE, and PERSONS OR POLITICAL PARTIES is PRIOR to anything, called central or state police. This is the only befitting service and honor to Nigerians and their memories –either living or those who have answered the eternal call. May the gentle soul of Mr. Oyerinde rest in profound peace regardless of the unethical antics of the Nigerian security apparatus.
Adeolu Ademoyo (firstname.lastname@example.org ) is of the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.