Musings on Seun Kuti, Deborah Samuel, Leah Sharibu and Olabode George By Bola Bolawole
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Top of the news that has trended in the last few days is the “dirty slap”, as they call it, that Seun Kuti gave a policeman in uniform last Saturday. Seun is the son of the iconoclast and Afro-beat king, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. The event leaves much to be desired on many fronts. If it is true that it was Seun that bashed the policeman’s car and the policeman complained and was then offered a dirty slap to the bargain, this is impunity of the highest order. It is also what they call insult upon injury! According to reports, the policeman trailed Seun to his home and, there, both settled. Seun apologised and also offered the aggrieved policeman N12,000 to repair his damaged vehicle. Seun must have thought that was the end of the matter but, trust a policeman, the money and apology from Seun were treated as evidence of his culpability and could be exhibited in court as the policeman reportedly made (or had made) a report and then deposited the money with the police. The incident soon went viral (by who?) and, then, outrage. If the report is true that Seun boasted that the policeman in question was not the first he would slap, then, we must ask whether slapping a policeman (with or without justification) has become sport or pastime!
Seun gave the police authorities the opportunity to flex muscles like the proverbial lazy husband who only flexes muscles with his wife at home! Thinking he was doing something noble and heroic, the Inspector-General of Police was reported to have ordered the prompt arrest of Seun – like Portable, the singer, was also arrested weeks ago in an unnecessarily dramatised fashion. I do not want to believe that the IGP is so un-busy that the arrest of Seun should be top priority for him. If I may ask, is there no hierarchical structure in the police again? What is the duty of the Area Commander where the incident was reported? What of the Lagos State Commissioner of Police? I think they used to have DIGs in charge of Zones. Are we saying none of these is big enough to order the arrest of an errant musician? Is Seun such an untouchable that only the IGP could order his arrest? If it takes the IGP to order the arrest of a “mere” Seun, I dare to say, you can now understand why big men are treated as untouchables here. They commit blue murder in broad daylight and no one dare touch them. With this action, the IGP, I am sorry to say, belittles his office and ridicules his subordinates whose duty it should have been, appropriately, to handle this matter.
Then, the police authorities over-reacted. They killed a fly with a sledge hammer. For a police Force conversant with the nuances of public relations, they should have leveraged on this incident to shine. They should have been very civil the way they handled the matter, not for the sake of the errant Seun but to win over the sympathy of, and accolades from, a discerning public. Rather than order the arrest of Seun, the appropriate Police authorities should have invited him. “We heard this and that happened, can you please come and state your own side of the matter?” Are the police no longer our friends? Proper psychology was not applied by the police in this matter. Now, the IGP ordered Seun’s arrest and the musician turned himself in to the police. He was not on the run. He did not tarry or delay from going to the police. He was not forced or compelled to honour the police. Why put him in handcuffs? He was not violent. He was not unruly. He did not comport himself in a way likely to cause a breach of the peace. He – and his supporters – did not storm the police station in IPOB or Obidient style. Why, then, put him in chains if not deliberately to ridicule him? The pictures of Seun that I saw depicted a remorseful personality. Why, then, put him in chains? That was mean of the police authorities. And the shame of those handcuffs on Seun, I dare to say, are not Seun’s but, sadly, of the police authorities. This is not the picture a police force that prides itself as our friends should portray.
Then, the Police Service Commission (PSC) was quoted as saying that Seun would be used as an object lesson for those who disrespect policemen in uniform! Haba! The police should have some training in Law! I should think they do! There should even be sound lawyers in the Police Force. If so, what is the import of the statement from the PSC? It can only mean that Seun has been pronounced guilty ever before he is tried! Even before he is given the opportunity to defend himself, the guilty verdict has been pronounced on him by the highest police authority in the land.
So, the police became the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge at one and the same time! Yet, it is trite that no one shall be a judge in his own cause! How can this basic tenet of the rule of law be lost on the police that play such an indispensable role in the temple of justice? Having assumed the firm and unmistakable position that it has taken on this matter; can we expect Seun to get proper and unbiased investigation from the police? Even if the guilt of Seun is as clear as daylight, it is not in the place of the police to pronounce him guilty because the police are not a court of competent jurisdiction. Even if Seun confesses and or admits to having committed an offence, it is still not in the place of the police to pronounce judgment on him.
And it is trite that an accused person is deemed innocent in the eyes of the law until he has been pronounced guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction after he/she has had his/her day in court, that is, having been put through the rigours of fair trial. Why all of these were lost on the highest echelon of the police should give us more worry than the infantile radicalism of a musician. Kindly note that everything said here is not about Seun as a person but about the grave issues of fundamental human rights and the rule of law involved. It is Seun today; it can be any one tomorrow. This case has seen the limelight because of the personality involved and we can, therefore, comment on it; but how many such cases involving ordinary citizens are swept under the carpets?
The police that were swift in ordering the arrest of Seun were lethargic when Deborah Samuel was murdered in cold blood, in broad daylight and in the most horrendous and audacious manner by her school mates a year ago! One year later, the same police have the temerity to tell us that the vile murderers remain at large! This remains a blot on the police. If men of power have drawn the curtains on this sordid affair, has God? Will the blood of Deborah, like the blood of biblical Abel, not cry unto God from the belly of the earth? In like manner, Leah Sharibu, who marked her fifth year in Boko Haram captivity last February, will forever remain an indelible stain on the president, retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari , and his administration. Not a few believe that Leah was left to suffer because she refused to renounce her faith. “Serves her right”, some might have said! “Let Jesus, whom she professed, deliver her!” Not so? God created the vulture noted for his patience; so He is more patient than the vulture.
Dele Giwa, himself also a victim of vicious vampires, said: “No evil will go unpunished; any evil by man to man will be redressed, if not now, then, certainly later, if not by man, then, certainly by God, for the victory of evil over good is temporary”
Have you heard the news? Some elders of Lagos State are trying to offer PDP chieftain, Chief Olabode George, soft landing! They are reportedly brokering what has been said to be a truce between George and the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and from reports, the former has stylishly climbed into the boat! The only option he is left with is to be man enough and honour his threat to go on exile should Tinubu become president! Lesson: Bridle your tongue, especially when tempers run high! Refrain from using swear words! Never say “Over my dead body!” As a student of history familiar with the story of the founding of the old Kingdom of Abomey, which later became Dahomey, and now the Republic of Benin, I have also learnt to refrain from being sarcastic. Useful lessons, I am sure, have been learnt. And no one is too old to learn. Next should be moves to reconcile Pa Ayo Adebanjo with Tinubu. Over to you, Lagos/Yoruba elders!
*Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.