The police must be professional at all times

The crude attempt to circumscribe the liberty of the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Agboola Ajayi by preventing him from moving his personal belongings out of the government house is symptomatic of the extent to which personnel of the Nigeria Police Force have been dragged into partisan politics. The ‘offence’ of the deputy governor was that he would be leaving the political party that brought him to power and moving to another political platform as most politicians do in Nigeria. That it took the intervention of the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, for the Ondo State Police Commissioner, Bolaji Salami, to restore the security details of the deputy governor is a shame. How can such a police officer who is already sucked into partisan politics enforce law and order in the state? Who will trust him to be dispassionate in the coming gubernatorial election?

As we have always argued on this page, the moment police personnel are seen as acting in promotion of one political party or another, the principle of equality before the law is eroded and so does their credibility. It is therefore no surprise that citizens now turn to gangs, vigilance group and militias to protect themselves as it is increasingly becoming common across the country. Due to the failings of the police, we now have a situation in which ill-equipped and clearly confounded young soldiers are deployed all over the nation, to deal with civil policing duties that fall outside their charge.

One of the critical elements defining a democratic society is a police force that is subject to the rule of law, rather than the wishes of some politicians. At all times and in all circumstances, their personnel must be accountable to the public, as the myth that stands between chaos and social order. That then explains why their functions make no allowance for partisan politics. So, when their personnel begin to openly take sides with certain politicians or ruling parties as it has become a fad in Nigeria today, the society is endangered.

At a time they need to develop professional capacity and build the trust of the civil populace, it is important for the police force to understand the level to which it has undermined itself through the conduct of its men and officers. In recent years, some of them have been used to rig elections and commit acts of atrocities against the very people that they are out to protect. The last gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States were sordid examples. Some police personnel were accused of being agents of politicians in ballot box snatching and all acts of electoral malpractices. The current situation in which police personnel were also deployed as enforcers in the drama that led to the dissolution of the National Working Committee of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was another disgraceful occurrence.

A police force whose senior personnel would seek to deny a sitting deputy governor his fundamental rights is a disgrace to the society. The earlier some of their officers who are acting like card-carrying members of the ruling party realise the damage they are doing to the system and retrace their steps, the better for the society. The Ondo scandal should be probed and with appropriate sanctions meted to culprits. It is the nonchalant attitude of not investigating and punishing misconduct that has allowed this culture of impunity. The Inspector-General of Police therefore has the primary responsibility of re-educating his men especially in the area of respect for people’s rights so they would not continue to see misconduct as a badge of honour.