I Siddon Look

The Nigerian Pidgin, because it is an ever-evolving hodgepodge of so many languages, is best for capturing certain thoughts succinctly. You sure are missing out so much in life if you are not adept in this strong Nigerian brand that is expanding globally. Why else would Manchester United’s White Englishman, Wayne Rooney, proudly preach the gospel of no wahala?
Nigeria’s assassinated Federal Attorney-General and Minister of Justice under the administration of then President Olusegun Obasanjo, the late Chief Bola Ige, was a true wordsmith, a polyglot, who vocalised languages, notably the Queen’s English, with so much panache.
It was, therefore, not surprising when the one-time Governor of old Oyo State chose the channel of Nigerian Pidgin to capture his feelings about the contrived transition to civil rule of then Nigeria’s maximum ruler, now late Gen. Sani Abacha. I siddon look, Ige said, noting that the then five registered political parties were “five leprous fingers of the same hand.”

The Cicero of Esa Oke, who had also served the Obasanjo administration as Minister of Power and Steel, with these Nigerian Pidgin words, siddon look, concisely captured the philosophy that commonly guides the typical Nigerian to relax and await the passage of particular trying times. The philosophy of siddon look has ingredients of resignation to fate and cynicism.
If you are domiciled in Nigeria, working hard to make an honest living, you are bound to imbibe a healthy dose of the siddon look philosophy to be able to get by. You do need to siddon look to enable you cope with the dearth of critical infrastructure and a swarm of high-handed public officials.
Therefore, I siddon look when Alhaji Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar was appointed Acting Inspector-General of Police (IGP), replacing Alhaji Hafiz Ringim as the head of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). I siddon look because Abubakar, even if his position is initially provisional, he, as is usual, is bound to be confirmed in substantive capacity, whether he performs or fails to execute his brief well. Is Abubakar not already wearing the pips of Nigeria’s top cop? Was Abubakar not appointed Nigeria’s provisional IGP, in spite of his alleged indictment over the internecine civil crises by one of the panels that had been headed by Justice Niki Tobi? Abubakar, according to the Tobi panel, then as Commissioner of Police, Plateau State, had allegedly not been quite equitable in the execution of that brief as it concerned the contending forces in the unending ethno-religious strife that has turned the formerly peaceful Tin City into a death zone.

Like others before him in the NPF top post did, but all the talk came to naught by the time each vacated office, Abubakar is talking tough about transforming for the better an institution that is top contender for the ignoble position of the world’s most corrupt security agency. Affirming his resolve to transform the NPF, Abubakar said: “The wind of charge is blowing. Those who are willing will go along, but for those who are not willing, the wind will blow them away.”
The Afro Beat icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, had recorded a particular song (can’t readily place it now) alluding to the NPF as a bank; Divisional Police Officers (DPOs), bank branch managers; and the IGP, Managing Director. It was biting riposte on the endemic corruption in the NPF, in which the operatives up and down the line brazenly extort (collect deposits from) the public. Routine perversion of justice for lucre has also been a favourite past time of many Police personnel.
Clearly, Abubakar may be haunted by the biting lyrics of that Fela song and he wants to distance himself from any allusion as a bank Managing Director, rather than the nation’s top cop. The IGP says he is disturbed that Police stations have become “business centres and collection points for rendering returns from all kinds of squads to superior officers.”

At a meeting in Abuja with Assistant Commissioners of Police (ACPs), whose commands are in charge of operations and Criminal Investigation Departments (CIDs), the IGP had eloquently served notice that his administration would reposition the NPF by tackling the corruption that has assumed the status of a veritable religion, with many devout adherents spread through the various ranks. At that meeting, Nigeria’s incumbent top cop ordered the dismantling of all intra-state and highway roadblocks, especially Lagos and Edo states, as well as in the South-Eastern states of Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Abia and Ebonyi.

Notably, the IGP’s orders came after the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) directed the scrapping of all Police checkpoints in the South-East geopolitical zone, following the alleged murder of a commercial bus driver by a Mobile Policeman in Onitsha. The killer top had shot the victim at close range over denied graft. The killing had generated violent protests in the commercial city.
Besides, ordering the dismantling of these Police roadblocks that were simply toll gates for the great predators to extort motorists and other passersby, their perpetual preys, the IGP at the meeting with the ACPs sought the scrapping of all squads, teams and other operational or investigating outfits “under whatever name,” directing such groups to collapse into “the original structures recognised by Police standards.” These extra-ordinary bodies, of course, are entities that facilitate extortion of the public.
Growing up in Nigeria in the halycon days of military rule, actively aided and abetted by the Police, with successive juntas claiming to be the messiah for long-suffering Nigeria and Nigerians, it is very easy to dismiss the efforts of Abubakar’s fledging administration. Abubakar may have been a Commissioner of Police (CP) in various states and at other strategic commands, and an Assistant Inspector-General (AIG) in charge of a number of zonal commands, but this is the only time he is IGP and truly the Officer-in-Charge (O/C) of the NPF. So his orders in his present position truly matter. That is if he is not merely paying lip service, as his many predecessors have uncannily not failed to do.

Abubakar, thus far, appears resolute at enforcing his orders on the dismantling of roadblocks by the Police. And pedestrian and vehicular movements are the better for these. How I wish the good times of no Police roadblocks will go on and on. How I wish the horde of rapacious commissioned and non-commissioned Police personnel, who prior to the IGP’s orders, would invade several locations, hunting and, on trumped-up charges, arresting goods-laden vans and trucks. Lagos ports access roads were their favourite haunts, as they greedily laid ambush to extort drivers of trucks returning empty containers to the ports or terminals; trucks conveying cargoes from the ports; and fairly-used vehicle imports from the ports.
The Area ‘B’ Headquarters of the Lagos State Police Command is located to your right soon after you descend the Ijora Bridge into Wharf Road, Apapa. An imposing sculpture, encompassing a ship and the Rotary International marquee, obviously commissioned by the global voluntary organisation, welcomes passersby to the Port City of Apapa, the home of the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), and the Tin-Can Island Port Complex. The NPF Lagos State Command Area ‘B’ Headquarters does not offer the luxury of a welcome Certainly not with the disorganised state of the complex. The operatives don’t help matters by routinely impounding trucks, which drivers don’t meet the demands for toll fees.

Lately, though, the Area ‘B’ Headquarters and environs are wearing new and cleaner looks, finally complimenting the efforts at beautifying Apapa by the local government through the largesse of one of the leading corporate citizens of the locality. The IGP’s orders have hit home in Apapa, the Port City, and the Police personnel there are beginning to learn the skills of decent behaviour, an alien culture for so many of them, male and female; low ranking and high ranking, who view the ports access roads as fertile fishing grounds for filthy lucre.
Will the changes Abubakar is seeking to enthrone stick? I hope and pray so. But sanitising the Augean stables that the NPF has become is no mean task. One can only pray fervently for the IGP, wishing him success in this critical assignment that has so much bearing on the well-being of all law-abiding persons in Nigeria. Why do personnel of the NPF on foreign missions excel so?
The effect of the few weeks of Abubakar’s orders on dismantling of roadblocks has been astounding. What great joy it is moving ever so freely without the usual molestations by endless teams of NPF personnel, uniformed, half-uniformed, plain-clothed and half-plain-clothed. I pray this great joy does not end any time soon. I pray this great joy never ever ends.
But with the benefit of hindsight, these are mere wishes, recollecting a particular IGP who preached “fire for fire” against criminals by the NPF, but ended up in disgrace, having filed away so much loot.
I siddon look, because no be today y—h begin get centre parting. 
Obiajulu Agu
obiajulu.agu@shipsandports.org



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