A Marshal Under Siege


I love Denzel Washington. He is my favorite actor  and a delight to watch in whatever role he is cast. As a young actor, Denzel provided for me the inspiration to deliver on stage . I recall several times when I had to study him for inspiration especially when I was to be cast as Sizwe Bansi in Arthold Fugger’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead during my days as a member of Theartre15,at the University of Lagos. Without sounding immodest, one of my critics then at the University of Lagos, late Professor Femi Adetugbo who was then Dean, Faculty of Arts described our performance as the best he had seen, rivaling a similar performance he saw in the United Kingdom performed by professional actors. Although this piece is not about Denzel but his movies, Under Siege and a Man on Fire provides for me the title for today’s piece.

 If you are also a fan of his, then you must relish his performance in those movies. Like him, I was under siege and also came under fire, although a different kind of fire. I am sure you never heard that I was under fire. Not like the kind of fire Bovi and his crazy crew put themselves under whenever it is time for them to thrill  Nigerians  with  back to back comedy by the very best the entertainment industry can boast of. My fire was not from the nozzle of a gun like the case of my colleagues in Aba, Abia state. Mine was ignited by some transporters who a fortnight ago laid siege on my command along the Jos-Zaria Road in Jos,the Plateau State capital. Incidentally, this happened while we were discussing with their leaders. Their actions threw me off balance  bringing flashes of a discussion I had some years back with the former Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Osita Chidoka   on what Nigerians really want.

 Let me bring you up to speed on some issues in contention. Top on their agenda was what they termed the regular mobile court sitting, the ongoing enforcement on speed limiting device which commenced nationwide in February after months of advisory enforcement that entailed subtle enforcement without arrest, ticketing but rather extensive advocacy and public enlightenment in keeping with the position of the various stakeholders who had asked for robust enlightenment.In summary they desired an enforcement with human face. It was these series of complains that  prompted me again on Monday to convene an elaborate meeting with the stakeholders and was honoured to have  in attendance the  Commissioner of Police in the state, Peter Ogunyewo, who patiently waited   all through the over four  hours meeting alongside representatives of the other security agencies. After hours ofdeliberation,we made peace but they they were told  in clear terms that they could not break the law with impunity and yet choose to manipulate or teleguide enforcement to suit their whims. The stakeholders   left the  meeting excited at a fresh begining with frsc and other security agencies  in order to promote peace in the state.This siege is a wake-up call for me even though it is the first in my career as I have always managed to cement a strong synergy with stakeholders  whenever I worked.Before the siege, some angry drivers drove all the way from Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital to Hawan Kibo in Plateau State to disrupt patrol activities as a way of expressing  dislike for some aspects of our operations. That action and the one directly under my watch is a pointer to the level of impunity and lawlessness  against frsc marshals which has been condemned by government and well-meaning Nigerians.

 The events of the last one month have been captured by the social media. Impunity, lawlessness and disregard for human lives are getting worse in Nigeria. Proof of this abounds across Frsc commands. Even though most of these incidents occurred in commands outside my watch but I must say say here that there have been some bad cases earlier. Before I left Port Harcourt where I spent 12 months, I recall a case where construction workers mobilised under the leading of a uniformed personnel to mob and assault a patrol team, inflicting injuries on the team leader. His offence was that he stopped a vehicle belonging to a coloured driver who refered to himself as an expatriate.

Even though he failed to stop, he still had the effrontery to drive into their site, instigate Nigerian labourers to mob and assault their fellow brother in defence of a  coloured driver who  they mistook for a white man. The incident in Abak was totally different. So too was the one which the Punch editorial rightly captured thus: In another incident in Calabar in January: Cletus Okune, a driver attached to the Cross River State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Peter Egba, was remanded in Afokang Prison in the city for allegedly assaulting two members of the FRSC. The Commissioner, according to newspaper reports, was not in the vehicle when it was impounded for a number of traffic offences, including driving without fastening of seat belts. But, on arrival at the scene, Egba reportedly ordered his driver to assault them. “The Commissioner later joined in the beating and also used a stone to injure a colleague in the head,” Fidelis Eteng, one of the victims, said Egba denied ordering the assault.