I look like a middle aged father of 4 that can afford the car he is driving. However, there is no single day I have gone to Ajah or Ikeja or Palms Shopping Mall in Lagos that a batch of drunk policemen have not stopped my car. I say drunk because they smell heavily doused in perfume or incense and their eyes are super red plus whenever they flag my car down they point the rifles directly at the windscreen as against up in the air. All 7 or so of them shouting like a group of hunters trying to scare a deer out of thick foliage.
Usually by the time I park and look completely unbothered, remove my mask and keep my two hands firmly on the steering wheel, their body language changes. Maybe it’s the potbelly and copious white hair on my beard and head but they seem very deflated or disappointed that I was not their target market.
They still try though. They will ask for everything under the sun. It is when I wait till the very end before dropping the fact that I’m a lawyer and not sure why they need to know if my fire extinguisher is new, that they usually flag me off after attempting to ask me to settle them. If it is dark or a deserted road I quietly give them 2,000 naira because the other officer in front of my car is usually still pointing the rifle directly at me through the windscreen in case I make any sudden moves. Every single time I’m blaming myself for daring to stay out late in this madness called Lagos. My friends wonder why I’m even still in this entire mad country in the first place.
Imagine therefore what a young Nigerian man is going through. Just by virtue of his age and youthful appearance, he is already profiled as a fraudster and a layabout. The policemen who have not been paid their measly salaries cannot fathom why someone younger than them is using a phone that is worth half a year’s salary. They must get a cut from whatever imaginary fortune this young man, who is trekking under the hot sun by the way, MUST possess.
I once heard that a government can either provide economic advancement for majority of its citizens in order to reduce crime, or focus on unleashing aggressive law enforcement agencies on the populace. With the reports of the modus operandi of the Nigerian Police, NDLEA, MOPOL, EFCC, DSS and Environmental Task Force, the phrase “Law enforcement” is used very loosely in the Nigerian context.
Young Nigerian men are traumatised. They now have two phones and leave the decent one at home before heading out. They must tell the Uber driver exactly what route to take to avoid running into the police. Their friends must call them once every hour just to know they have not been picked up from the streets by yet another government agency straight to jail. No offence committed, no phone call allowed, no bail, just confiscation of their phones, invasion of their privacy without a warrant and extortion of all their savings via the nearest ATM. They will then release them only to catch them again the very next day and repeat.
How is that life? The resentment for law enforcement by this generation can never end well for all of us. They will only pass the anger on at the earlier chance they get, and to the nearest vulnerable person who they can overpower… because if society stood by and watched them be reduced to helpless victims then society deserves the monster it has created.