• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

When the Police dangle their carrot

One dies, Police arrest 46 suspects as cult groups clash in Kwara

A child stands before a disciplinarian parent he has wronged. There’s considerably safe distance between them. The child could flee if a whip magically leaps into the hands of the offended. But there’s no cane at the moment with the man who is never seen without the opa (baton). The young fellow sees something else with the man staring at him: a basket of assorted fruits and sweets. He’s inviting him to come closer to take his pick: fresh fruits or sweets? No cane on offer. The lad is surveying the surroundings. Something isn’t adding up. A rod hidden somewhere? Is the basket a Trojan horse? The older man breaks the ice. He throws his arms wide open, and swings around 360 degrees to assure the calculating boy he has no malevolent agenda. This is fair and transparent, the boy concludes. So, he moves gingerly into the free hands of the man he has always known as the unforgiving rod man. What follows is a feast, a dialogue and the creation of a new world to banish the cat-and-mouse relationship between them.

This skit is the fictional rendition of what the Ogun State Police Command under Alamutu Abiodun Mustapha did the other day to elicit the support of the community in the war on insecurity in the land. Commissioner of Police Mustapha and his management team brought together more than 1000 artisans, largely woodworkers and furniture makers, hosting them to a seminar at the Police Officers’ Wives Association, POWA Hall, Police Command Headquarters, Eleweran, Abeokuta.

It was the maiden edition of a non-kinetic initiative to usher the citizens of Ogun into a strategic Police-Community partnership against insecurity. The seminar, with the collaboration of the Police Public Relations Department headed by Omololu Odutola, had the theme, Strengthening and Fostering Security in Ogun State. According to the Police Public Relations Officer, Alamutu “invited (the artisans) to collaborate with them as a means of grassroots policing…(with a view to) knowing and working closely with them.’’

The Ogun CP said he was impressed with the large turnout of the artisans, interpreting it as a significant demonstration of their love for the Police in the state. He extolled their stand on the dignity of labour and commended them for shunning crime and antisocial activities to earn a living legitimately. Alamutu advised the young apprentices to stick to ‘’integrity and dignity.” Applying their educational and vocational skills, he counselled, is more valuable than going into criminality and cult related tendencies. Besides, he said, insecurity in society is held at bay if its teeming youngsters are engaged in productive callings that make them inaccessible to crime godfathers and unpatriotic politicians.

The Police boss was joined by Governor Dapo Abiodun’s aides who offered security tips and admonition on being upright and satisfied with one’s rightly earned income.

This move of assembling the youngsters for a pep talk on attitudinal change must be the way forward to getting a vibrant section of the community involved in rescuing our crime-wracked land. It must be the cornerstone in the emerging conversation about community policing, away from the orthodox approach of battling insecurity only with guns and bullets. To a large extent, we’ve remained in the same spot over the decades wielding kinetic tools to tame crime, which, on its own, hasn’t remained the same, but has taken on frighteningly monstrous shapes from age to age.

The Police, with the entire paraphernalia of state authority, needs to bond with the neighborhood content of society to secure the people. Our security personnel must engage the grassroots in strategic synergy over the final goal of returning us all to the path of sanity, peace and law and order. As it is, the answer to the crisis is no longer exclusively in the conventional confines and abodes of our compatriots in uniform. These gallant men and women and officers need the input of the larger society. They’re being overrun by the sheer numbers of criminals exploiting socioeconomic challenges and our weak and leaky political fabric to unleash havoc on us.

It’s clear that we can’t afford to have the ranks of these social adversaries grow. They must not only be depopulated; we must also work hard to prevent others from joining them.

The authorities may go ahead with plans to recruit more Police personnel and kit them with sophisticated weapons needed to outmatch those of the miscreants. We can lean on the limitless prospects proffered by AI, even as we rely heavily on confidential info on suspicious movements. But the bedrock of the new order should be creating a nexus between the law and community, the bottom strata of society: market women, traders, artisans, students, workers, drivers, the unemployed etc. The Community Policing we’re talking about as an urgent necessity is going to be built around them. They know the ecosystem of crime more than the authorities. It’s clear to me that was the point the Police in Ogun made in meeting those 1000+ artisans for a strategic relationship in the war on crime.

Subsequently, it’s going to be easy for the Police to work with them in areas of intelligence-gathering to deal with communal infractions. Trust with confidentiality, long lacked between them, will be in place to disallow suspicious body language and acts. On the part of the authorities, they must reform the Police operatives to truly portray themselves as the friends of the citizens. Genuine friends don’t exploit; they don’t dehumanize; they don’t compromise to undermine the law they’re meant to underpin; they don’t make merchandise of ignorant motorists and pedestrians, when a caring word of enlightenment could settle the issues instead of the usual threat of arrests and demand for financial gratification; nor do they enter into deals with felons to defraud or destroy the state, its institutions and its people.

Let’s hit the vulnerable underbelly of insecurity by engaging in serious community-based policing. We can’t achieve results otherwise. We never did when we stuck to the one-sided kinetic approach all these years. It’s certain we’d be experiencing the same old fruitlessness if we continue in that same old barren road.

 

.Ojewale is writer in Ota, Ogun State.