Friday, 28 November 2008

On......death and the Nigerian policeman

The average Nigerian is terrified of death. Well, who isn’t right? But Nigerians are especially scared about the prospect of packing their bags and jetting off to the land of their demise. Take the police for example.

I was covering a bank robbery in Lekki a few days ago and the Mobile police force atypically made it to the crime scene before the robbers had completely scarpered with the loot. However, when they did arrive, they were so reticent in exchanging gunfire that all but one of them took cover in a nearby uncompleted building. Only one aged, dedicated cop had the balls to engage in a shootout with three of the armed robbers. His pleas to his cowardly colleagues, audible in spite of the staccato pummelling of the gunshots, were the saddest footnote in on overall distasteful affair. “Assist me,” he cried. “We fit take them, we plenty pass them”. The valiant enforcers of the law, protectors of the civil populace, cowered in their hiding place until the gunshots had died down and the armed gang had comfortably escaped.

I waited and waited but no ambulance came to treat the injured and pronounce the dead dead. The latter was obvious enough though; the lack of movement in a lifeless body, horrible in its stillness, is a dead giveaway. I saw no ballistics experts recovering bullets that had embedded themselves in the road, the cars and the perimeter fence that had surrounded the gunfight. There were no CCTV cameras to capture the faces of the brazen crooks who thought it impractical to bother wearing any sort of mask. The police interviewed no witnesses and dusted for no fingerprints. Blood was allowed to congeal and no samples were rushed to a forensics lab. There were no helicopters combing the area. I saw a few guys trying hard to look inquisitive and serious. They were either detectives or constipation sufferers. The only thing the police did of any note was to look exceptionally befuddled by the whole thing.

You should see the vigour with which our policemen hound commercial vehicles. If one tenth of that enthusiasm was reserved for confronting criminals then our society would be virtually crime free. Instead of nurturing their talents, they nurture their potbellies. They fear death like zombies fear life. Look to the west and think of the countless law enforcers that sacrifice their lives each day in the name of the fundamental ethos of their profession: to protect and to serve. In Nigeria, they have an ethos too - to pickpocket and to steal. A motto which they are quite prepared to die for.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

On...... Lagosisms, LASTMA and laid back sloths

Life is nature’s hangover; the splitting headache that it can never quite shake off after a drunken binge. Life is a long hiccup; one that I do not particularly want to cure because death awaits at its end. Lagos life is inconveniently simple and orderly. You kinda know where you stand.

You know that people will not wait for you. You know that they will attempt to fleece you at every turn. You know that bus drivers are worshippers of Beelzebub and are in a hurry to donate their souls to him. You know that the rains will bring with them chaos and excess flooding. You know that you will find excruciating hardships and acute comfort, quite often as intimate strangers. On any given day, there will be at least one unloved, unclaimed and very dead body on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway. Bomb craters will occasionally masquerade themselves as state roads. The unending thrust and momentum of Okada drivers will make the Energiser bunny look like a cannabis smoking sloth. The water hyacinth will be a perennial eyesore and you will wonder where it all comes from and where it all goes. LASTMA will harass the law abiding drivers and turn a blind eye to the reckless ones. You will be the daily recipient of verbal and possibly even physical abuse. Ten minute journeys become one hour excursions. You will begin to suffer from dirt blindness: an affliction that prevents the sufferer from seeing trash and garbage, no matter how vast the quantity. You will hear the words Balende, CMS and Anthony at least fifty times a day.

There is a certain inconvenient order and simplicity to all of that. And I kinda like that.