Lagos Commissioner of Police – Hakeem Odumosu Playing the Scripts of Nigeria’s Powerful
By Ebuka Onyekwelu
Reports of blatant abuse of power by AIG Hakeem Odumosu, who doubles as the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State simply resonates with the traditional, or if you like ‘normal’ behavioural pattern of Nigeria’s powerful. What happened at Brooks Estate in Magodo of Lagos State is not unexpected as nearly all powerful people in Nigeria would have acted in the exact manner the Commissioner of Police is alleged to have acted. This is not a justification whatsoever, but just so we could understand the depths of Nigeria’s leadership crisis. Those who have power always abuse it and this they do with reckless abandon. But this is only the beginning. I have read commentators blame the CP for being insulted by Brooks Estate security guards because he did not properly introduce himself. In other words, corners can be cut for a big name. This is not to exactly demonize the courtesies of self recognition under the circumstances, away from that, this is Nigerians saying by themselves that rules and maybe laws are not meant for everybody to follow. If the guards are on routine security check and the visiting CP is required to follow the laid down rules, why not? It is a tragicomedy that the CP who abused his exalted office thinks he should be given special treatment in people’s private residence and those who accuse him of abuse of office thinks he should truly be given special treatment only that he failed to duly introduce himself! This is how Nigeria works; remove the CP for a moment from the scene, but this is just how it works. Perhaps, if the CP introduced himself properly, like, “Prof”. “Dr”. “Engr” “Chief”, “Sir”, “His Majesty”, etc, this or that and “I am the CP of Lagos state”, you already know how this would have panned out. Anyone can bet that under the circumstances painted, if possible, all the estate security would have voluntarily offered to escort his vehicle to anywhere he was going in the estate, even if it means losing their job. The reason for this is simple: those at the down ladder of Nigeria’s economic chain can harm themselves to please a big man that is of no significant value to them, in faith that doing so may bring their miracle. You know, Nigerians, for the most part, do not respect each other. They do not regard the dignity of each other’s personhood. What they certainly respect is title and power. There are always exceptions, but the rule is that an average Nigerian is most likely to respond to your political connections, titles, etc, than to you as just a human being and fellow Nigerian. Nigerians are in an abusive relationship with each other
I have been unfortunate in the hands of Lagos estate guards at least once. When my host called the gate to notify them that his guest is there and should be allowed in as it is usually done, they differed and instead manufactured some new rules. In fact, my friend who owns a house in one of these estates in Lagos was once insulted by a guard, calling him an ordinary driver who is posing with someone’s car. Really, the manner some estate guards conduct themselves and approach their job is simply abusive. But like we already know, they too are Nigerians and they may want to create the impression that they are not ‘common gatemen’. To achieve this, they can at random, add or remove rules to prove that they are not ‘ordinary gatemen’. At least to balance routine abuses they suffer from some estate residents.
In Lekki, I know an estate that came up with a new rule that people should not be moving within the estate from 10pm. From same time, supermarkets, hotels and restaurants in the estate should not be open for business according to the new rule. In Lagos, it is incredibly ridiculous to say people should not move about by 10pm. In that same estate, people move around by 10pm. Those walking are likely to be harassed by guards or estate management but those driving are not even talked to by anyone. This is telling to the effect that we do not have standards. When you put all these into perspective, you will have a better and more balanced mental picture of what transpired at Brooks Estate in Magodo. In Nigeria, tyranny of the masses is real, but also the brutality of the powerful is stronger and goes all out to ensure obedience and total compliance to the powers that be.
Typically, Nigerian powerful demands and always secures support no matter the veracity of their abuse of office. It is normal to apologize to a Nigerian big man who has offended you perhaps, so they are not traumatized by your guts to claim right or seek redress. And so, here, the letter addressed to the CP and signed by Engr. Ayoola Lawson the Chairman of Magodo Brooks Residential Association reads in part, ‘on behalf of the residents, I hereby tender an UNRESERVED APOLOGIES for the improper conduct of our estate security men towards you on 1st of January’… Those were his exact words in which he made sure the ‘unreserved apologies’ were written in capital letters so that the CP and anyone reading will never afford to miss that part. That is exactly the point. Nigerian powerful people are never wrong, maybe only if they venture into wrong political cycle. Indeed, the estate management in its letter did not acknowledge the widow whom with her son were alleged to have been detained till almost midnight on 1st January, along all the guards on duty during the drama, and other guards who came to replace the first set that were picked up on the orders of the CP, for absolutely no reason. The focus of the apology shifted to the CP because he is a powerful police officer. This is the Nigerian big man syndrome of becoming victims in cases where they are villains.
Those who are powerful must intuitively discern what they must not do with power because they already have it, so there is nothing to prove. If the CP acted with grace and class, he would have had a more positive and enduring impact that is superior to whatever point he intends to make with the inordinate arrests, illegal detentions and obstruction. Worst is that from the tone of the letter, you can tell that any attempt to seek redress in court by the individuals detained will be deemed preposterous by the estate leadership. After some days, everybody moves on and AIG Hakeem Odumosu might even become Nigeria’s police chief. If that happens, Nigerians will congratulate him and express optimism in his ability to reform the police force even when he failed to manage small differences with estate guards.
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