Square Pegs and Round Holes


January 2013

The Nigerian Police College – A Signpost of National Decay

President GEJ and the Ikeja Police College Commandant

The Nigerian Police College at Ikeja is the premier training facility for cadets and new recruits into our Police force. From the previously quiet landmark at GRA Ikeja, having boisterous neigbours like the Lagos high courts and the LASU teaching hospital, it has suddenly become a media crowd puller. After a Channels TV rejuvenation initiative, which exposed the rot in this institution, even Mr. President (GEJ) was moved to make an unannounced visit in mid January to see for himself. While GEJ’s visit was quite impressive and seemed to be what might bring about a renewed focus on improving the facilities at this college, his comments, as reported by the media, are far less inspiring. He was said to have queried the access granted Channels TV to film at the college. He also made statements that implied that the Channels TV initiative to revive the college, etc., was a propaganda attempt to smear his administration.
So what are conditions like at the Police College? Hmmm…how about deplorable, gut wrenching, disgusting, shocking, unacceptable, disgraceful, appalling, horrifying, atrocious, abysmal and horrendous. I could go on and on. My two-year-old son peeked over my shoulder as I watched one of the YouTube videos and made an eeuw face while gesturing at his nose. Phew!
So, now we know why these guys can never show pity to us citizens. Why they cannot be loyal to the State. Who passes through such deplorable conditions and retains their humanity? It takes desperation to spend a whole week at this concentration camp called a training school. The images are just like Auschwitz, save for the white exercise gear. The Channels TV video where the “inmates” were shown sharing one fish as they were being served their outdoor meals made me almost cry. 20 cadets to one fish? Goodness! These guys are basically trained to be perpetually hungry survivalists and “egunje” takers. No wonder their most coveted possession once they graduate and “make it” is a grotesque potbelly.

So who moved their cheese? What happened to the allocation for these folks’ welfare and upkeep? How long has this rot been festering? Will heads roll? What systematic changes will be made, if any? How many more institutions are in the same state?
 Like one commentator opined, the condition of the Police College is a metaphor for the Nigerian state.  Dilapidated facilities, non-existent infrastructure, break down of law and order, absence of consequence, unbelief in the government, grand scale corruption and a scrounging desperate citizenry.

See videos showing the conditions at the Police College below. I must warn you that your emotions will be greatly challenged after this.

Sharing Food


Burnt Toast

“So at this point we would like Mr. XYZ to come up and say a few words as he proposes a toast to…” And then you rise up with some trepidation, trying to remember your lines and checking yourself out one last time. It could be quite unnerving. I always thought of myself as that shoot-from-the-hip kind of adlibbing king, until I was in these same shoes described above and totally made a mess of it. I mean, it was an absolute shambles. So, I took the Mike at a friend’s 40th, and was so emotional, confused and out of sorts that early on in my speech I described the celebrant as “one who liked conflict?” I actually wanted to say he was one who always tried to help resolve conflicts amongst his friends, etc., while growing up. Phew! Almost like a Shina Peters “soonest recover” moment.

After that error it all sort of went downhill. And I went on and on about something totally personal that the audience was not interested in. My goodness! I wished I could disappear from the stage. The room was filled with uncertainty…”where is he going with this?” I was suddenly that person who raises their hand when the priest asks “if there is anyone who feels this union should not go forward”….. So I spent the better part of five minutes rambling on and trying to correct myself while being embarrassed to death. Once it was over, I wished I could practically ride into the sunset and never return.

As the celebrant, it can really get scary when you’re not sure what the person giving the toast is going to say. I remember one “toaster” at a wedding a while back, telling the crowd how the bride’s patience paid off. According to him, she had to suffer the guy’s philandering as a bachelor, etc. And she listened when Mr. Toaster would advise her saying “you’re the one he loves”. Another Toaster from hell released several “gbagauns” and broke so many fuses in his short speech that the 3-step wedding cake almost collapsed. But the one I would never forget was my good friend’s wedding where the MC used the groom’s mother as the subject of a joke so tasteless that I cannot even mention it here. I remember her gasping out – “Jesus!” Comedian MCs? Please never hire those guys, period! You can never control their tongue. I remember the one that did a very insensitive joke routine about stutterers. I almost froze in my seat. I sat with a father and two sons (my friends) who all stammered. Yes, he cracked the whole hall up, but broke the hearts of all of us on my table.

I had previously been the MC at a retirement party for one of my bosses back in the day, and I held that quite well. So what happened at the Hotel Derek? Why did I suffer that meltdown? I still cringe just from thinking about it.

Here are a few tips for a successful short speech or toast at any occasion:
1.      Remember you’re there because the celebrant trusts you
2.      KISS. Keep it simple, stupid
3.      Never exceed 3 minutes! It’s not the Nobel Prize acceptance speech
4.      Use a cheat sheet with short notes…adlib can come back to bite you
5.      Make a connection with someone really close to you in the crowd…the celebrant?
6.      Smile and try to have fun
7.      Try not to make references to third parties or tell long tales…Stay PG
8.      It does not have to be funny
9.      Stay off the drinks until you complete this assignment
10.  Try not to trip over anything as you return to your seat

So where you ever the Freddy Krueger any celebrant would love to forget? Made a hash of it yourself? Given the audience a few “oohs and aahs” in your time? Drop a comment and tell us about it. 

By the way Karl, this is saying sorry…again.


Patriots Needed

2012 has gone with all things good and bad. One of the worst episodes of 2012 had to be Aluu 4. This is not because 4 young men were cut down in their prime: we had Boko Haram kill hundreds of innocent Nigerians and Dana airline cut short the dreams of 163 very promising folks and their surviving families. Aluu 4 was the tolling bell that signaled our diminishing humanity, because of the folks who watched and did nothing. Dozens of people were complicit in a gruesome lynching just by their presence and inaction.

In 1955, Albert Einstein said –The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing”.  I never could bring myself to watch that YouTube video. But I sometimes think of the guy who filmed it. What was his motive? Did he do it to expose the murders or was he just collecting a trophy? What of those who were too afraid to either prevent it or to go call the police?

In the same vein, for fifty odd years we have watched a plundering mob of greedy politicians, military rulers and thieving government officials turn this country from a fledgling promised land into a failed state despite her many human and natural endowments. That is the real Aluucase for me. I see that gory incident as a metaphor for the siddon look citizens. The ones too afraid to, even “whistle blow”, not to talk of speaking out or taking action.

At this point I would like to introduce our guest writer for today. I present Dr. Bawo Okonedo. “Patriots Needed” is an excerpt from a yet to be released literary offering from this young doctor’s creative chest.
When you read this story, think of Albert Einstein’s quote and relate it to our dear country, with you in the middle. It is time to act!
Ulli turned the bend along a dusty bush track that spilled into the plain that lay beside the road leading to that temperate city of statuesque rocks, Jos. But here was Kabin Nauda. He would find rest for the night. However, as he lifted his eyes from the path and emerged into the plains, they were greeted by a disturbing sight. A uniformed man lifted his gun and crashed its butt on the head of another man who appeared to half kneel, half crouch helplessly on the ground.  He could see, it seemed, the man’s head had immediately following that blow, colored red. He could hear the gruff voices of the assailant’s colleagues and the helpless wails of the victim even from the distance. The disparity between both set of voices was clear. One reeked of unbridled power; the other, untrammeled fear and pain. Ulli quickened his steps to a half-run, almost as involuntarily as his heartbeat which was now galloping and his mouth which was dry. As he drew close, the obvious, disturbing as it were, jumped at him: people were gathered and watching this spectacle almost calmly, almost with the decorum of a theatre audience. As he reached the scene, he noticed two vehicles: one army green van apparently belonging to the soldiers, the other a mini truck. The van had sustained a nasty gash in its fender. It told half the story. Ulli was soon to learn the full version: the driver of the mini truck was not quick enough to give way to the military van which then inadvertently rammed into the tougher mini truck, lacerating its own fender in the process.
 ‘You go die today!’
 ‘Abeg na, officer. Na my fault, abeg forgive me, nor vex!’
Thud, thud, thud!! The blows rained in quick succession efficiently ripping flesh apart and divesting skin off bone with faucets of blood turning to rivulets, to be followed by plaintive wails and calls for help and mercy. None came. The sands on which the victim crouched, reminiscent of a medieval blood sports or torture arena, were bespattered with his own blood. A few faces grimaced at the horror and shifted uneasily, but not a single voice rose in protest.
Ulli was not going to let this continue. His heart was charging like a mad horse, his breath was raspy and labored from the effort it took to silence reason. That Reason that preaches the tact of the coward, that likes to use the word ‘discretion,’ and discredits unhesitant action as ‘rash’. That Reason that placates naked conscience with the small speech of self preservation and assuages the remnant of guilt with the line: ‘there was nothing you could do’ or better still: ‘ you didn’t have a choice.’ That delusory clot of Reason that clogs the arteries of honor and chokes the veins of truth paralyzing our power to aspire to bold decision in the face of adversity. He who fears for his life will lose it! Maybe not today…but something dies within. When injustice and oppression is witnessed unrebuked, unchastised, within something dies. When no tongue is lifted in dissent, no saliva is spat out in outrage and repudiation, when no fingers are poked in accusation of evil; something dies in our collective psyche as a society and what is left of our individual innocence…almost like a dieback of our ‘peripheral’ values. It slowly invades the core though, like a fungating mass…
So pushing through immobilized bodies rooted to the spot by cowardice and the unsound reason of fear, Ulli worked his way to the front, facing the soldiers and the persecuted. “Stop! He is a human being; you have no right to do this!” The hot February air froze! Silence! Now comes that moment when uncertainty hangs in the air and everyone holds his/her breath in deference to the significance of the moment awaiting what it would birth; hoping for the best, expecting the catastrophic. Silence! The lead persecutor gave Ulli a bloodcurdling glare which metamorphosed into sheer disdain. He eyed Ulli from crown to slippers (the crowd too), the way Goliath would eye David. Obviously dressed in typical nomadic Fulani fashion, Ulli cut the appearance of an ‘aboki’ and a personality which was discordant with his appearance, especially for the fact that he worded his rebuke in perfect English.
‘You say what?!’
‘Yes leave the man…’
The rest of the sentence was snatched off Ulli’s lips with a fearsome blow that nearly seemed to divorce his head from his shoulders. His mouth and cheeks were ripped raw. The pain that followed dithered a moment as if its intensity was beyond Ulli’s sensory threshold, before it rushed at him like an overwhelming hurricane. He could feel warm wetness all over his face and that he was lying in the sun baked dust. He knew it was blood and he knew more blows would follow. But the hitherto stupefied crowd sprang to life like a captive animal which had ruptured its bonds. A single unified organism. They charged the soldiers who jumped in their van and fled. From the haze of blood, dust and the fuzziness of a concussed brain, Ulli glimpsed the first victim, his own wounds gaping in half a dozen places, spring to his side, crying and calling for aid. Disoriented, he wondered what the bother was about. Clutching his calico rucksack, he saw bright lights dancing in the periphery of his vision until slowly…like falling stage curtains, in the background of cursing and shouting of a hitherto docile, now irate crowd bent on retribution, they faded away.

Dr. Bawo Okonedo works as a medical doctor in Delta State, Nigeria

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