When the evergreen adage, “You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”, was donated to us by the wise ones, they knew the challenges faced by mankind. They have been around long enough to understand about the bad eggs messing up the good ones if they were not detected on time. Hence, in everything we do in life, we need to bear that proverb in mind so we don’t make mistakes we will come back to regret.
Of course, judging by the title of this article, one could tell its content. A lot of people don’t want to hear anyone talking about police reformation these days; all they care about now is, “sack them”, “end them”, “disband them”, “prosecute them”, “shut them down”, and what have you. Someone even said he preferred being attacked by armed robbers than by men of Nigerian Police Force, especially those from SARS units, because robbers will just collect money and go while police will collect money, laptop, phone, ATM card, money in the bank and so on. But of course, he is a very young man, who obviously has not had his door broken down late at night by arm robbers, who hit men in the house on the head with gun butts and rape the women there. But that is not the issue right now. The major thing now is that Nigerian policemen need to be dignified and professionalised. But the first factor is what this article is all about.
Yesterday, while discussing the Nigerian Police with my sister, I learnt so much from her. She pointed out that the problem with Nigerian policemen is their mindsets – they look down on their profession. Truth is that in Nigeria, every policeman is branded as corrupt. People look down on police officers. People laugh at those that say they want to join the police. People consider that job as a last resort, not because it is risky or that it pays poorly, but because it is considered as unworthy: something made for the lower class.
But of course, our policemen are not helping matters. They stand on the road to collect money from motorists. They demand for money when people come to report issues. They beg for money at every opportunity they get. And they look tattered. Our policemen lack dignity.
There was a time I heard that the uniforms of our police officers will be changed to colours and styles that look more dignifying. I don’t know what happened but most of our men still look like roadside mechanics and village market truck pushers. I am not trying to undermine them, I am only stating what is obvious. Our men don’t look dignified and that is actually affecting them. You don’t see men of the Road Safety, VIO or even Civil Defence looking the way our police officers do.
Believe me, most Nigerians don’t respect our policemen because of their physical appearance. The military men, irrespective of anything, always look smart and trim. I have never seen any soldiers wearing torn, discoloured or faded uniforms. I have never seen any of them with unkempt hairs, protruded tummy, slouched postures, and what have you. Our police officers are everything our military men are not when it comes to physical appearance. And the thing here is that when we look down on these officers and disrespect them, they turn mean and become brutal. Well, that’s my philosophy anyway.
So, here are my suggestions:
- Better Salary for the Police:
I don’t know how much they are paid but they always look “hungry”. I am not advocating for a better salary so that they will stop collecting bribes, begging for money and harassing motorists, but because I think they deserve to look like they could take care of themselves. At least, when they look “filled”, they can obtain respect from many people. Apart from that, people with good backgrounds will want to join the police force if our police officers look better.
- Change of Uniform
The black and black police uniform, well, needs to be changed. The weather isn’t good for it. Those men stay under the sun most of the time and so it fades their uniform. Most of the black and black uniforms I see have turned orange, brown, grey and even whitish-black. Furthermore, there is a need to enforce these men to change their torn and old uniforms. They should start looking at the military and the paramilitary personnel and emulate them. They need to remember that people will address them based on how they dressed, and not really by the baton or guns they held.
- Physical Fitness
I know this is not my business but all those police officers with pot bellies and stoop shoulders need to do something about their physique. They should do their possible best to look like those that can pursue thieves if it comes to that. But then, most of our policemen can’t even lift their arms or cross their legs not to talk of going after thieves.
Please, this article is not meant to castigate or insult our police officers; the things noted here are facts they might not know about. A little overhauling of the system is all that might be needed to make these brave officers love their job and try to maintain the dignity that comes with it. I come in peace.