The near-complete breakdown of law and order across Nigerian that followed the #EndSARS protests have left the rank and file of the Police Force melancholic. The peaceful protest organized by young Nigerians was against the brutality of SARS, the murderous unit that has since been scrapped. But the consequences of the hijack of that protest have hit the entire police force particularly hard.
From Anambra to Edo; from Lagos to Ondo, policemen and women became easy targets of the maddening crowds that sprouted effortlessly across Nigeria. The crowds hunted down police officers at home and in offices. Some, they clubbed to death; in at least one instance a Divisional Police Officer was beheaded; in one state, two officers were beaten to stupor and later burnt alive. In Lagos State, at least 25 police facilities were attacked. The gory tales are almost endless!
The whole world has seen from viral videos how policemen had to jump out of their vehicles and ran for their lives as hoodlums chased them; some were seen pulling their uniforms to avoid being detected by the murderous crowds chasing them.
The events of last week have left these men and women forlorn, dejected and perhaps in self-pity. In a popular expression in Nigeria, these officers and men feel that they have been “used dumped” by the very system that that enlisted them, and whom they served.
Now, the chicken have come to roost. Those who are employed to protect others now feel that the system failed to protect them when they needed protection. That’s what Nigerians refer to being used and dumped.
This in part explains the current lethargy visibly evident among the rank and file of the police. It explains also the fact that the looting and destruction spree went on for so long, as the those who are expected to enforce law and order first had to ensure their own safety.
On Saturday, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu ordered the police reclaim the “public space’ and restore normalcy across the country. That in itself was a clear admission that the public space had been taken away from the police. Before then the IGP had ordered for the deployment of the Mobile Anti-riot units across the country. Even with that, the presence of this unit which in the past was the epitome of police strength, is yet to be felt across the country.
Disappointed at the turn of events, the police officers are asking themselves what is at stake for them. They feel that neither the public nor the government or state values their lives, which is why they took to their heels when the hoodlums came after them. That explains therefore why the streets were deserted giving the looters space to plunder without restraint.
The policemen now see themselves as the vilified. This is more painful to t hem as they see a perverted value system that seems to glorify criminals. Nigerians have also played into the hands of these criminals who in the last week carted away weapons belonging to the police including AK-47 raffles.
Nigerians have now to join forces again with the same police to rebuild their society from the ashes of the ill wind that blew across the nation. It will take both physical and psychological rebuilding. Everybody is talking about the emergence of a new Nigeria. The truth though is that everybody, the police and the people, have to change for that New Nigeria to emerge.