#DailyGarlicWithJohnAnusie (4) 01.06.2020

How to Survive a Nigerian Policeman (and Members of the Armed Forces)


Dad’s Peugeot 504 had a mechanical problem one sunny week decades ago, and since he had to be at Obinze then, he went by public transport: a bus.

I was with him on that trip. How old I was then I cannot now recollect. At any rate, I was still a kid. I remember what transpired on that trip only too well.

Along Oyigbo road, on the way to Obinze, the bus sputtered to a stop to pick more passengers. I noticed a policeman (mopol) running ahead of other people who wanted to take the bus, his right hand steadying a Kalashnikov (AK-47 rifle) by his side.

He stopped by the open door of the bus and glared at the driver. “Why you stop here?” He barked. “I go just shoot everyone here now and nothing go happen.”

There was not a “No Parking” sign anywhere in sight.

He looked at everyone, passengers in the bus and those who had run with him apparently to catch the bus, with a sense of aggravation.

“I go just shoot everyone here now and nothing go happen,” he said again. I fidgeted and shrank in my seat.

Alarmed, my dad clutched me to his chest and bowed his head a little to shield me from any discharge from the firearm. Even in that state, he was mouthing placatory words to assuage the aggravation of the policeman.

Passengers in the bus, as well as those who wanted to take the bus, were equally solicitous, begging the policeman to harm no one.   

Although the policeman eventually waved the bus to continue on the journey, he forbade the driver from taking the commuters he had stopped to pick along the way.

To this day, the sight of a policeman, members of the armed forces, as well as their vehicles, traumatizes me. I am fidgety and terribly uneasy before them.

Perhaps this might change soon, the morbid fear of the police and other members of the armed forces.

Why did I narrate this encounter? That’s pretty simple: if you are a Nigerian, you are going to encounter the police (and other members of the armed forces) at some point.

And when this happens, it is advisable to remain your docile self. Bros, your turn never reach to die, and even if e don reach, you don’t want to vanish from this material plane as part of the statistics of victims of “accidental discharge.”

Now here is how to interact with the police and other members of the armed forces when they stop you on the road or anywhere. What follows is based on personal experiences.  

If a policeman should stop you on the road – or anywhere for that matter – “donate” a lavish smile to him and answer his questions with humility. If you are not the meek type, bros, fake the humility thing.

You may, for instance, prostrate before him. You may as well “throw” him a mock salute. Make the encounter about him. Ask him how he is surviving on the road and wish him safety in the name of the Supreme.

“Supreme” is a vague word that covers every religion out there. Although most of the policemen on the road evince animal rapacity, a disproportionate number of them are theists.

Look at the name tag of the policeman detaining/ interrogating you. If he bears a Yoruba name, speak Yoruba to him; if he bears an Igbo name, speak Igbo to him; if he bears a Hausa name, you know what to do…

If you can interact with him on a native (local) language level, half your problem is solved, bro.

If you can’t speak the language of his ethnic group, or if his name tag is hidden, let the psychology of the encounter, and the policeman’s temperament, guide you. Don’t be combative.

Combativeness leads nowhere, really, except perhaps you’re a big shot with access to the commissioner of police or a major in the army who can mobilize troops for your salvation in minutes.

Never forget that a nobody who tries to correct a policeman when he makes egregious policing slips is liable to be shot. (“E dey craze? Nah you go teach me my job?”)

Most often than not, the policeman will ask where you are from (state, local government, etc). Answer with a vast smile and share a joke. You may, for instance, say he looks Kanuri. He might answer you with his correct tribe. If you know the language, begin a friendly conversation FOCUSED ON HIM.

Some policemen on the road are there for egunje. Others are there to harass you and let you know you are beneath them although they might be in scuffed shoes and dirty uniforms.

In either case, you’re at the mercy of their lunatic whim. Learn not to be a victim.

Back in 1987, following the cold-blooded murder of the Dawodu brothers in Lagos by Corporal Ezeh Ibe, the late Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) had declaimed: “Police are untrained.”

Over three decades may have elapsed since Fawehinmi’s morbid verdict, but nothing has changed. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nought. Nothing.

Learn not to be a victim of the Nigeria Police. If you should encounter the police on the road, you know what to do.


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