Melaye, Relax, Police is Still Your Friend

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The lingering stand-off between Senator Dino Melaye and the police is laughable. Importantly, it ridicules the institutions that both parties represent, writes Olaseni Durojaiye

When the nation thought it had seen the worst of brazen, unprofessional conduct on the part of the Nigeria Police Force under the current leadership of Ibrahim Idris, the latest standoff between the police and the senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Dino Melaye, certainly compels a rethink.

The whole saga is both laughable and shameful. And this is applicable to both parties. Their conduct has indeed brought shame and disrepute to the nation as well as assaulted the psyche of its people, who are being force-fed what could best be described as obscene clips from a theatre of the absurd.

The two parties have been familiar foes for the better part of last year just as their encounters have also muddied the reputations of the institutions of state that they both represent. In saner climes, where public figures jealously guard their integrity as a miser does of his wealth, the two would have resigned their offices and retired to quiet private and ignoble lives.

Though both parties are to blame, the force deserves a bigger share for its open display of lack of tact and strategic approach to dealing with what has become the simple Melaye malady.
Matter-of-factly, the Police under Idris had demonstrated a never-seen-before open partisanship and brazen disdain for the opponents of the incumbent administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. And Melaye, a drama king, has exploited same to covet public sympathy, hug needless headlines and enjoy being a discussion item even when in doing so he often behaves so incredibly childish.

The police invasion of his residence on Friday, 28 of last December was not the first. On 11th of last October, the police sent a detachment of its men to his country home in Aiyetoro-Gbede to arrest him in connection with the July 19 attack on one of its operatives, Sgt. Danjuma Salihu by thugs suspected to be loyal to the senator, who allegedly shot him. The cat and mouse relationship between both parties predate that incident though, the senator’s current ordeal is however linked to that incident.

Melaye has since (as of filing this report) remained holed up at his Abuja residence. The police have also continued to keep vigil at his residence and vowed to arrest him and bring him to trial. Even with police insistence to arrest him, Melaye has vowed not to give himself up. And so the stand-off continues.
This was coming barely a week after Melaye made a pubic claim that police planned to arrest him and while in their custody inject him as a way to silence him. Given his penchant for headlines hugging theatrics, it is easy to dismiss the claim with a wave of the hand. But the reality is that the force under IGP Idris has over time demonstrated that nothing is beyond it when it comes to unprofessional conduct least expected of a vital state institution like the Nigerian Police Force. And instances of this submission abounds.

The force’s inability to curb incessant killings by suspected herdsmen, wanton kidnap and killing of defenceless people especially in Zamfara State, and inability to check highway banditry and armed robbery are some.
But perhaps the most telling of the force partisanship and unethical conduct remains the handling of the infamous Offa banks heist and the killing of a former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Bardeh.

The force was quick to link high profile opposition politicians to the heist but over six months after, it is still to put the suspects to trial. That the culprits are yet to be put on trial is a demonstration of incompetence and a huge indictment of the force’s leadership.
As if that was not bad enough, the death of the kingpin of the Offa robbery, Michael Adikwu’s death in police custody and the off-hand way the force explained the death leaves much to be desired of the force under the leadership of IGP Idris.

The handling of the murder of Bardeh is another case – a shoddy handling of criminal investigation. In one breathe the force had announced the motif as robbery gone wrong and scheduled to parade the suspect before the media, and then it called off the briefing. Reactions to the U-turn were yet to simmer when the force released confessional videos of the suspects.

Bardeh’s family has since punched holes in the force’s claim and with plausible explanation too. The family said an analysis of the crime scene revealed their benefactor was killed by expert marksmen. This position aligns with an exclusive report in THISDAY, last Sunday, which indicated that the former Bardeh’s killing was a cover up assassination.

If indeed friendship is built on confidence and trust, there is no gainsaying the fact that the police as they presently stand cannot be a friend to anyone. The police as the first line of defence in internal security cannot be said to be the friend of the people, when the people have lost confidence in its ability to safeguard their lives and properties. But the same force flexes muscle against the underdogs of the society.
The force as it stands today has eroded the public relations gains the campaign slogan, ‘police is your friend’ fetched it years back. As a matter-of-factly, the Police under Idris have become synonymous with distrust and while the competence of officers and men of the force is not in doubt, Idris has failed to offer professional leadership and patriotic direction to the force.

This explains why the force has been jumping from one poor and unpopular outing to the other, the latest being its running battle with Melaye. While laying siege on Melaye’s house in the bit to arrest him is condemnable, it is unbelievable that the force couldn’t devise a better strategy to arrest and bring him to justice especially knowing that this is election period and everyone is busy campaigning.

However, the force’s comedy of errors does not reduce the gravity of Melaye’ culpability in the whole episode – far from it. If at all, rather Melaye’s conduct has ridiculed the National Assembly and often portrays him as a misfit for the Red Chamber.

Melaye has jumped from one shameful scandal to the other with relish. From certificate and paternity controversies to jumping off police truck to evade being put to trial, appearing in court on a stretcher to avoid possible remand in prison while undergoing trial, Melaye has hopped from one crisis to the other since he attained political limelight.

One noteworthy question remains: for how long will he run or hide from the law? It is unthinkable that in any civilised society, a lawmaker will refuse to honour police invitation much more attempt to evade arrest. It becomes even more worrisome considering that the police claimed to have a warrant for his arrest.

On a superficial evaluation of the situation, it is reasonable to argue that Melaye was evading arrest, because the police’s invasion of his residence had put him in a state of fear – a good hypothesis that is. But then, was running from the law or hiding inside his residence the solution? Good enough, he tried the court to prevent his forceful arrest and the court insisted he must give himself up before eventually giving in.

Indeed, the court remains one of the most viable options available to a professionally guided force. The conduct of Senator Melaye to say the least was not befitting of a lawmaker, who should ordinarily be a champion of obeying the laws of the land and not flagrantly flouting it.

There is therefore no gainsaying the fact that initially hiding at his residence was not the solution. The solution was in the court and obeying the laws of the land, which is why the judiciary must be strengthened, if need be, through acts of parliament, so that it could perform its constitutional functions independently. Melaye’s eventual resolve to embrace a rational option at the end of the day is to say the least commendable.

But, in the final analysis, both parties clearly poorly handled the situation and as such, deserve knocks for insulting the sensibilities of Nigerians as well as assaulting the nation’s psyche with their drama of the absurd.
Above all, Idris gets to be blamed more for leading the police to this lowest of the low. Never has any IGP led the force to such unprofessional lows since the return of democracy about 20 years ago.

Importantly, however, the police must make sure nothing happens to Melaye. He had served a note of warning that there was an attempt to kill him and that is very instructive. And since this is coming at a time suspects die mysteriously in police detention under Idris and without any sensible explanations, this is certainly a sensitive case in the hands of the police and nothing, under whatever guise, must go wrong.