By the time you read this, the undertakers would have buried the dead. The widow, relatives, friends, colleagues and sympathisers of Mr Ayodeji Paul Ogundeji would, however, continue to bemoan the shattered pieces of their lives. At each passing day, there will be soulful existential questionings of the meaning of life. Daily, Nigeria will now be seen through emotional mist and in the process, the broken hearted will curse it as a land of cheap, senseless death. A nation where there is unrelenting, mad harvest of violent epiphany. Sadly, the more we explore this philosophical reflection, the dimmer our wisdom becomes.
Merchants of death, either armed robbers or deranged police officers, have reaped a sudden, bloody harvest. Just like that. Pray, who are the untamed night raiders on the prowl snuffing out innocent lives so callously? Who are the hounds of hell unleashing nocturnal terror and moistening our eyes with bitter tears? Who are the escaped demons throwing evil arrows on defenceless angels? Who are the jobless miscreants, and in this I assumed his killers were armed robbers, who go about disobeying the sixth commandment: thou shall not kill?
The summary of my anguish was best captured as I cried when I saw the young, smiling picture of Mr Ogundeji, affectionately called Apo, in the Internet edition of The Compass newspaper. I was immediately damaged by the terrible and unpleasantly wicked gesture of his assassination by ………who do you think? Already, friends are trapped in a mixed emotion of eulogy and anger, no, vituperation, against the Police. He was a stubbornly good guy, brilliant, wordsmith, rigorous, sociable and dedicated.
Then how could such a soul who calibrated professional integrity, grace, charm, respect and dedication be swallowed up in the murky waters of Nigerian violent society? The answer, which many writers have not observed, could be located in Apo’s naive belief in night time Nigeria. He saw protection instead of murderous assault in the policemen at the next checkpoint. He saw safety in midnight Nigeria rather than danger. He forgot my grandma’s timeless proverb which says….eni a bi re kin rin ru……anybody born with silver spoon does not night crawl.
Respected public figures, writers, journalists, op-ed pieces are naively carpet bombing our cop-corporal on patrol-as the agent that pulled the trigger. From Mike Okiro to the last shoeless traffic policeman directing traffic in Ojuelegba, a fortress is being erected and the entire Nigerian Police are running scared into this official bunker of lies and more lies. The same esprit de corps uniting the Police is equally visible in the ranks of our journalists. Writers are closing ranks and wearing down the police with sharp accusation of murder. The new Police Balaam, in the person of the Lagos State Police Commissioner, Mr Marvel Akpoyibo, went on his Mount Peor and rained curses on journalists who lied against the police.
State or police assassinations of unprotected and innocent Nigerians will not end. Every regime must sow this seed and yearly reap its own harvest of violent epiphany. Probably we should peep into our past hall of murderous shame. Let us open the old wound of unresolved assassinations and state murders. When Babangida and Abacha were in full flow, assassinations became a regular denominator of their regimes. Under Babangida’s watch, Mr Dele Giwa was parcelled out like a Christmas present. Under Abacha’s opaque-seeing goggle, Chief Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni right activists were gassed and incinerated. Then, under Adulsalam Abubakar, Chief MKO Abiola was fatally caffeinated. Someone should tell Malam Abubakar that his new makeover, grey beard and all, gives him a howling resemblance to a somersaulting chimpanzee.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo fared badly on the assassinations barometer during his eight years rule. His was a democracy truly marinated in innocent blood. A regime truncated badly by horrible, unexplained and unresolved deaths. On whose hands are we to place the blood of Chief Bola Ige, the erstwhile Cicero of Esa Oke, Chief Marshall Harry, Amnisoari Dokubo, Jerry Agbeyegbe, Ajibola Olanipekun, Isyaku Mohammed, Jesse Aruku and unknown others. The same seed of death, the same curse, is being sown into Yar’Adua’s presidency and we are awaiting more bloody harvest.
Why is our society turning into a graveyard that feeds on the great and the good? What is draining away our traditional values of simple decency, fair play and respect for the sanctity of human life? The simple answer is primitive greed and materialisation of our public office. It is true that you could know the soul of a nation through its police force. Of a truth, London has evolved into a violent society. The manner of the killings here is dictated more by prosperity boredom rather than lack, in the midst of plenty. British police are highly paid, well equipped, well trained and operationally well endowed. Fatal police killings will only happen in a confused atmosphere of gun siege and never in a check point. British police are not issued with indiscriminate guns as standard issue but baton and more recently, gas canister to blind and disable criminals.
If our conjecture regarding the death of Ogundeji is true and police is eventually convicted as his killers, then we have to sympathise with the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mike Okiro. Of a truth, he heads a violent, disparage, frustrated, demoralised, cantankerous, poorly-kitted and poorly paid police force. Politicians have dehumanised our police force and this is stridently visible in the black uniform they wear. Again, if it is true that Ogundeji argued with the police, then we the living is now blessed with a timeless wisdom. Never, I dare say again, never argue with anybody, police, armed robber or your next door neighbour, if he is kitted out like a Rambo.
Once a bullet is released, yes, we pray very often that no weapon formed against us shall prosper; nevertheless I am yet to see where speaking in strange tongue could avert a point blank shooting. Sometimes, Nigerian policemen can really be our friends and protector of our lives if we are clever enough to suspend checkpoint argument, play the monkey and drop the cursed N20.00 note into outstretched, hungry palm. The same is true of night raiders, I mean armed robbers, when they outsmart us and breached our razor-topped fence. Or when we are caught like a bird in their evil snare in a traffic or decoy checkpoint. Obey, cooperate and see UMYA out of office in 2011. Boy, disobey, grumble or show that schoolboy rudeness, then Mopol, the coded name for virtually all Nigerian armed robbers, may send you on a journey of no return.
Ogundeji’s death falls into either of the two scenarios. Was he killed because he argued with the police over £20.00 or a robbery heist that went fatally awry? I leave the puzzle to investigative journalists sifting and putting the puzzle together. I equally leave this puzzle to the readers. In today’s Nigeria, who possesses more of barbaric nature, the police or armed robbers? Or are you going for all the above? Let me know. So long.