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Friday, March 3, 2017

Dogs Beware Of Men: Richard Akinola

Three of us, Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu and l sat down in his Oduduwa, Ikeja, Lagos abode. I charged at CSP Alozie Ogugbuaja, the then revolutionary, quitessential, iconoclastic PPRO of Lagos-“Wetin dey do you sef? You no go settle us? Afterall, we dey settle your people for check point. Abeg, give us my regular” He laughed hysterically. Alozie, a very cerebral officer was also a bag of humour. He retorted: ”Richard, you dey craze o. You be visitor for dis office? Go get am yourself”. I replied “You know say my oga dem dey here, so na you go serve us by yourself”. He stood up from his chair, saying “comot for road, yeye reporter”. Dele Giwa quipped: “What did you just call Richard?” “Oga abeg o”, he intoned apologetically as he went to the fridge to bring out a keg of chilled palm wine. Dele Giwa said, excitedly, “this is it”.
That was the camaraderie we all exuded each time we were with Alozie. Each time you were with Alozie, you would feel like joining the police. Then a young, handsome, slim, tall guy, an intellectual, a voracious reader who was so much in love with the police uniform.
Some few months earlier, Alozie had done the unthinkable as a police officer. Dele Giwa had been arrested and charged to court and the Lagos state Council of NUJ decided to embark on a protest rally to terminate at the NLC secretariat, Yaba, Lagos. Guess what? Alozie joined in the protest march in uniform! That earned him a query by the Commissioner who wanted to know if he was a policeman or a journalist. Alozie, a graduate of Mass Communication, who maintained a weekly column in the defunct “Sunday Times”, replied his query that he was both. He added that journalists were the people he had to work with on regular basis to reach the larger public, hence, he had to identify with them. End of story. Due to his civil and genial way he approached the issue of policing, he earned the confidence of many who ordinarily would be antagonistic to the police institution. An example would suffice. There was a demonstration by UNILAG students. They had barricaded the gate of the campus. Alozie decided to handle it his own way. Unarmed, he approached the students, spoke with them in the language they would understand and they dispersed. If the police had come with a contingent of armed men to confront the students, the students would have resisted and it would have been bloody.
However, Alozie was soon to run into stormy weathers with the powers that be. The Babangida regime set up the Akanbi panel of inquiry over students riots. Alozie represented his boss, the Commissioner of police. In his usual fearless and forthright manner, Alozie recounted how the police had been oppressed by the military over time with meagre pay, making some scathing remarks about the army who he said were better paid for doing nothing other than to revel in pepper soup joints where they kept planning coups because they were idle. According to him, a well-trained and well remunerated police would foil any coup.
Hear him: “ the Army is the unregistered political party of Nigeria…quietly behind closed doors, they can decide to increase their salaries while policemen have become glorified ordinary men. The fact that the police are given power with sirens to clear the roads does not mean they have enough powers.
“Since the military had come into politics in Nigeria, it will not be in its interest to have an effective and efficient police force because an efficient and effective police force is capable of foiling a military coup…. On a week day, you see Lieutenants, Captains, Majors, Colonels, Brigadiers drinking pepper soup and beer at 12 mid-day …you will weep for this country. And there are so many of them, other ranks, then you wonder, no wonder they have time to plan coups. We used to say idle civilians, now we have the idle soldiers.”
“If you want a good police man, you will pay. If you want a cheap one , made in Taiwan, you will get it.”
Instead of an applause from his Commissioner, Gambo Jimeta, Alozie was given a verbal query for embarrasing the military.  Then, the intrigues began. Since there was no cogent reason to discipline him, the police High Command now exhumed a query they gave to him eight months earlier, to the effect that he allegedly had an “illicit” affair with a Youth Corper. Wondering how a bachelor could have an “illicit” affair with a spinster. He was now placed on suspension. Thereafter, Dele Giwa was bombed to death. Few days before he was killed, securitymen had accused Dele of trying to hire suspended Alozie.
Barely a month after Giwa’s death, a similar attempt was made on Alozie’s life, where a grenade was thrown under his car as he was about to enter his residence one night. Anti-bomb experts were called in at mid-night and the grenade was detonated. Police Commissioner Gambo down played it, as nothing unusual. But he couldn’t explain why the pin of the grenade was almost off. A security man who showed up at Alozie’s house later that night, claiming to be Alozie’s friend, was arrested but released almost immediately.
After a long period of suspension, following much pressure from the media, he was recalled and transferred to Calabar as a DPO where they set him up just to get him out of the Force. He was then dismissed without any query. Alozie, through Gani Fawehinmi challenged his dismissal in court and won. He was reluctantly re-absorbed to the Force and sent to Maiduguri, with no office, no desk. Eventually, they dismissed him again- ending a glorious police career, stabbed at the back by the same bosses he was fighting their cause. No wonder, at the gate of his house then at GRA Ikeja, a crazily poetic and humorous Alozie, in a parody of such sign boards where many people put in front of their houses - BEWARE OF DOGS- Alozie put his own this way- -“DOGS, BEWARE OF MEN".

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