In these times when police and armed robbers show espirit de corps to one another, pick pockets and politicians extend the same courtesies to one another, and even lecturers and student cultists peacefully co-exist, just as traffic officers and danfo drivers are no longer at one another’s throats, and legal wives and side-chicks have since found an agreeable sharing formula, it is shocking that policemen and soldiers are still finding it difficult to share the same space.
But then, I’m almost too scared to write anything these days, especially, when mere usage of the word ‘revolution’ could earn you detention for 45 days without trial – in the first instance. And that is after a generous dose of brutalisation and tear-gassing.
My political science teachers at the University of Nigeria never taught me this brand of democracy. It was only Prof. S.A Ekwelie, who, in passing, mentioned a phenomenon, known as ‘guided democracy’, when
he was discussing Gen. Suharto’s Indonesia. But that was several decades ago.
Until recently too, I actually thought I knew most, if not all, the laws relevant to the practice of my journalism profession in Nigeria. But now, I’m no longer so sure, with so many bills clandestinely sneaked through the National Assembly on a regular basis, one does not know which ones have been assented to by the president, and which ones have not. Of course, there is no question of overriding the president on any bill that he did not want to sign into law. This power has since been abdicated by the lawmakers, many of whom have become unofficial solicitors and advocates of the Presidency on the floor of the National Assembly. These days, we see lawmakers, who, ordinarily, should be irked by the president’s degrading disregard of bills they spent months [sometimes, years] to beat together, suddenly in the vanguard of those defending the president’s refusal to sign. Curious.
It is possible that anything, and everything, can get you on the wrong side of the law these days. That is why I’m being very careful. It was my MD at The Sun, who once shared the joke of how a semi-illiterate bus driver ran into trouble with some policemen at a checkpoint. Hoping to evade the usual ‘settlement’, the driver suddenly remembered that the military personnel usually say ‘espirit de corps’ at checkpoints, and were automatically waved on. So, he decided to impersonate a security operative. But, due to his limited education, he told the officers; ‘spirit dey come’. Of course, what the policemen did with him can best be imagined.
So, when I heard that soldiers attached to 93 Battalion, Takum, Taraba State, opened fire on officers of the IRT team in Taraba, I immediately suspected two things: either the police officers told the soldiers ‘spirit dey come’, or they were speaking high-sounding grammar to not-too-lettered soldiers, who only speak with their guns.
Either way, I was expecting only one reaction from the military high command – that the attackers were not of the Nigerian Army. That they were either Boko Haram insurgents or members of the kidnap gang, wearing military fatigues. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised when a statement from the army confirmed that the assailants were indeed genuine soldiers.
What did not make a lot of sense, however, was the reason given for the attack; that the policemen did not properly identify themselves. That the police team had sped through three previous military checkpoints, refusing to stop. Incidentally, it would seem that the circumstances of the fatal shooting clearly point to the fact that the police team actually stopped. Even more curious is that the alleged kidnap victim whom the soldiers claimed to have freed from the ‘kidnapper policemen’ was neither detained nor profiled. Instead, he was simply allowed to disappear into thin air. The little red head in my fish brain tells me that the soldiers had a deal with whoever was being transported by the police. The plan was probably to overpower the police and free the person.
That is why some of us have always suspected that some bad eggs in the security services know the criminals, and sometimes work together. That was why kidnap kingpin, Evans, revealed that whenever he had a very technical kidnap job to do, he’d call up two of his soldier accomplices at the Abalti Barracks, especially whenever he wanted to put firearms to maximum use without firing a shot. That was why some people still believed that there were a few things that just didn’t add up in the Dapchi girls’ abduction. That there are a few curious things about the manner in which we allegedly reabsorb repentant Boko Haram insurgents into the society, and even into the army.
One is so happy that it’s the police that are picking holes in the Army’s statement – and vice versa. Now, the services can have a taste of what editors feel with the unintelligent statements that sometimes emanate from the security agencies, which media houses are ‘blackmailed’ into using – on grounds of national security.
On several occasions, one is tempted to puncture the claims of the military on the progress of the war on insurgency. That is why we’re not asking anyone to give us account of how the funds appropriated for fight is being spent. We are also saying nothing about claims on the number of towns and communities liberated and those still under the control of the insurgents, the status of Sambisa forest, Chibok, Dapchi, Madagali, Leah Sharibu, etc. We just believe everything because the army said so, or because the police issued a statement.
When they treat the police like trash, and the army like kings, we keep quiet and watch, knowing that the country’s security/policing setup had long been rigged against the police force by long years of military rule. And if the police don’t complain, why should a bloody civilian like me be weeping more than the bereaved? Now, however, that they are openly disagreeing with each other, I think we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s pray it’s not the light of a coming train. Even at that, all I have to say is: No comment. For, as the youth of today would say, ‘Na dem’.
If the soldiers did not extend espirit de corps to the policemen slaughtered in Taraba, I guess the police are not morally bound to cover the Army’s secrets over a less-than-intelligent press statement. Very soon, the DSS and EFCC would be at each other’s throat. And later, the Army would tell the Airforce that their planes cannot fly over areas liberated by soldiers. And naval officers would no longer be allowed to walk on land, and be restricted to walking only on water.
Of course, it all points to the tragedy of inter-service rivalry among our security agencies and government departments. But, as Gov. Nasir el-Rufai once said, whenever you hear two government officials and departments quarrelling, forget whatever they’re saying and just follow the money; that is usually the cause of the disagreement.