By Adewale Adeoye
Less developed minds have the custom of looking at issues from their appearances, not the substance; from shadows, not reality, from abude,(part) not odindi (whole). We cannot understand the alleged slapping of a policeman by Seun Kuti without looking at the historical, legal, moral and psychological context. I do not support any attack on policemen. I do not support police attack on any civilian either. They are in bad taste.
The Gist of the Matter
With his family, Seun was driving through the Third Mainland Bridge, away from downtown Lagos. We were told that suddenly, the police vehicle hit Seun’s car. The Police vehicle sped off. Seun caught up, engaged the police. He then used his hand to hit the police. I watched the clip. Some Nigerians have jumped into conclusion: Seun should be roasted. He should go to jail. On a whazzap group, I read one disgraceful comment by someone who said for standing for Seun, Falana, our icon in public defense ‘should go to hell’ and I asked him if he was aware of how Falana had saved many Nigerians from hell on earth and if he would be the Maigard at the entrance gate of hell. The rage is a rainbow of many interests: It is time to deal with Seun for his stand during the February 25 Presidential election; it is time to feast on a family ceaselessly hunted by a corrupt system in a state known for its timeless tradition of bully, intimidation and despotism. Some don’t even conceive of the need for a trial. They sought immediate justice, if possible by the police.
The police also see this as a stand up against its preserved privileged to be the only one to slap, beat and kill civilians without any form of resistance. This siege mentality undermines the depth of reasoning and questions the shallow, public perception of law, morality, public order and good conscience. For many Nigerians, Seun alleged slapping is not the issue, but that the victim is a Policeman.
Policeman not more important than Civilians
Police deserve do not have higher form of status than civilains in the face of law. To think otherwise fuels the logic that equality before the law is of higher grade when a policeman is involved. Unconsciously, this thinking reflects a warped sense of judgment arising from agelong state mental repression that distorts perception of the reality that equality before the Law does not distinguish between a policeman and a cobbler. In upturned psychology, this thinking suggests that the police reserve the right and obligation to ‘slap, kick, beat and even kill’ a Nigerian while it should be the mumun posture of the civilian to remain docile even in the face of uncontrollable reflex action to fight back embedded in human natural biology. So, when a civilian slaps a policeman, it is ‘abnormal’ , it is a non issue, but when a ‘policeman’ kicks and even kill a civilian, it is the norm. This explains some of the current outrage without the iota of critical thinking on the variation in human behavior in the face of perceived danger or threat and the fact that the law recognizes human beings before it as equal and had no preference for anyone. So, we could as well argue that Seun allegedly slapped a Nigerian. Why civilians owe it a duty to respect the Police, the police also owe Nigerians the same respect. When there is infraction from both sides, our attitude should be to condemn the act and not just because a policeman is involved. If we understand issues from this perspective, dealing with the Seun episode becomes easier. It is also important to understand that in dealing with law, the nature of the society must be taken into consideration.
The higher goal of law is public order. The fact is that many Nigerians see the police as threat, enemy, scourge to be avoided. This has brough Nigeria into a triangle of ceaseless violence. There is overwhelming bitterness against the Nigerian Police, many of who have killed, maimed, raped and insulted the dignity of Nigerians in the most savage and irresponsible manner. I recall the killing of 8 people from the same family at Oko-Oba, the shooting of my friend, Abayomi Ogundeji, a journalist, by the police. The only witness, a lady was trailed and shot dead. Parents are beaten, shot dead, husbands are whipped, killed, right in the front of their children and loved ones, leaving a lingering memory of hate and sorrow. Hidden in the sub-consciousness is vengeance. The action of Seun, to me is a summary of accumulated public anger that has just found expression in a single punch against a derided institution.
Seun alleged Slap and the Deficit of Public Trust
Across the country, this rage against the police has never stopped. Seun gave an alleged slap, but in some parts of the country, the resistance against the Police regime is through AK 47. There is a crisis of trust between the people and the police, often expressed, once closed, now open, in our very eyes. Putting Seun in jail will not address this deficit. Clamping him down, parading him with a long convoy of armed police will not create a paradigm shift necessary in building a new country founded on public trust and mutual respect between the Police and the people, who nurture agelong acrimony against the force.
Seun’s Slap, Family History and Post trauma disorder
In the case of Seun, it is even more biographical. He grew up watching his father beaten by armed men, wounded, hauled in Black Maria and smitten by iron rods. From the age of two, he watched with anguish and awe, tears of blood gush out from his father’s forehead. He was arisen from sleep-the shriek of a troubled child- to behold armed raid, siren and a cacophony of gunshots. He heard the story of how his grandmother was on February 17, 1977, thrown away from a story building. Mrs Funmilayo Ransom Kuti, the mother of the Nation. She died. He heard the story and even watched of how his own mother was stripped naked, beaten and brutalized by the police. On one occasion, Seun at one was hacked off the back of his mother and thrown away, landing on a bed nearby during a raid. Hues and Cries of a little baby, now an adult. One day, he would have thought, as a little child, ‘I will wipe out the police in this country.’
Thank goodness, he allegedly slapped and not adopt the philosophy of proportional response to the sorrow, tears and blood he has witnessed from the age of one when he was old enough to perceive and interpret real oppression and tyranny. So, Seun, even without his knowing it, is a victim of post-trauma psychosis induced by the Nigerian security operatives. The traumatic memory must flush in his brain, his veins, his artery, each time he accosts a police man. The adrenaline and compulsion of vengeance is bound to surge. This was what happened on that day.
My encounter with Fela
I first met Fela in 1987.We were building a National radical mass movement one of which leaders was now Prof Uzodinma Nwala, then my University lecturer. Nwala wanted Fela to be involved. He took me along. We first met a smoking Beko Ransome Kuti in his historic Imaria Street. A calm, but stony man of courage. He fixed a midnight appointment with Fela. We met Fela, pants halfdown as he walked the staircase down, holding a Saxophone amidst the bevy of beautiful girls.
The second time was as a reporter with The Guardian. Myself and Niji Akanni were to interview Abami Eda. Again, he fixed a 1am appointment. We met him also half naked as we had an extensive interview with him. It was in the build up to securing an appointment that I had a first-hand information about the upsetting stories of inhumanity to a family that none in Nigeria has and can ever endure.
Seun Kuti: What way forward?
I met Seun closely in 2001. He is a man of non-violence. He is affectionate and kind. If I happen to be the Governor of Lagos State, I will set up a Judicial Inquiry on this matter and the focus would not be Seun slapping a police man, but it would be on building the fractured trust between the police and the civil populace. The worst that should happen to Seun, in my view is a fine. But he should not be compelled to pay. The fine should be deducted from the over $50million the Nigerian state owes his family for the suffering and misery imposed on, since the 1960s. Seun’s alleged mild slap is the first case of an attempt to express this historic discontent in the most physical but mild manner.
The Policeman at the centre of the Drama
What the police man allegedly slapped did is the height of professional responsibility. Seun was not armed. The policeman should earn a medal. Even when armed, he took everything with stoic calm. That, in my opinion is the ideal policeman. It shows the Police is not just about bad eggs. I have always known there are excellent policemen. At the end of the day, he won the public judgment even before trial. He places the police, for the first time, ahead of public moral expectations and perspectives. He would have lost out, the police would have lost if he had attacked Seun because the story would be “Policeman assaults Seun Kuti” No one would have believed he was not the aggressor. Justice in this case should be for Seun Kuti, for the Policeman and for the Society that have been so maligned and bruised by the state itself.
Leave a Reply