It is difficult to comprehend – not even in our wildest imagination – how life was snuffed out of Omobolanle Raheem, an enterprising young woman who was a lawyer, realtor, wife and mother. Bolanle, who was pregnant with a set of twins, was killed on Christmas day by a misbegotten police officer. Understandably, there has been widespread outrage and the story of her devastating death is still trending far and wide.
Personally, I haven’t been able to overcome the shocking news or wrap my head around the motive of the police officer who shot Bolanle, identified as Drambi Vandi, an assistant superintendent of police (ASP). The gruesome death of Bolanle and her unborn twins will haunt Vandi forever.
So you can understand my dilemma on the one hand, and the pain and grief caused the deceased’s family, friends and associates on the other. The family was thrown into deep mourning over the avoidable death of beautiful Bolanle. Death was clearly not part of her plan on December 25, the day Christians all over the world celebrated the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55).
This is not the first time trigger-happy police officers will kill innocent people and it is not going to be the last. It simply means no one is safe even as the police try to be our “friend”. Will the police learn any useful lessons from Bolanle’s death? It is a question the rank and file of the police force should answer honestly.
The untimely death of Bolanle exposed Ajiwe Police Station in Ajah, Lagos, as a den of notorious killers pretending to be police officers. On December 7, another police officer reportedly gunned down Gafaru Buraimoh who was on his way to buy fuel in cold blood. We now have two deaths in one month – less than three weeks apart – by police officers from the same station. What does that tell you?
If indeed ASP Vandi has spent 33 years in the police force, what kind of training has he been receiving? If he could shoot Bolanle from such a close range in her chest without provocation, it can only mean one thing: Vandi was probably high on a banned substance. He definitely needs help and psychiatric evaluation.
After the shooting incident in broad daylight, Vandi and his colleagues absconded. So the guilty are also afraid? If you followed the series by English writer James Hadley Chase (1906 – 1985), he wrote the epic thriller, The Guilty Are Afraid in 1957.
In hindsight, maybe it was a good thing the three police officers ran away, otherwise a mob action could have followed from angry bystanders. But how can officers with loaded guns be on the run? It showed that they feared for their lives.
Although the officers ran away, we are not looking for Vandi; he is in custody and he will face the full wrath of the law. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos State governor, has promised to lead from the front in the matter and ensure Vandi is brought to justice.
However, some people are doubtful if justice will truly be served in the case. Unfortunately, Nigeria has been turned into a killing field with several unresolved extra-judicial murders. In a country full of unknown gunmen, bandits and kidnappers who are unleashing mayhem and terror in the land unrestrained, what should we expect?
Hopefully, Vandi will learn useful lessons from this tragedy during trial. One of the lessons will be that police officers are not armed to kill law abiding people. Another lesson will be that extortion of motorists and commuters at illegal checkpoints is a crime.
The #EndSARS protests two years ago was mainly about ending police brutality but it is evident no lessons were learnt. Police officers nationwide use brute force to intimidate and molest their victims just because they want to extort money from them. A lot of videos have trended on social media confirming the despicable behaviour of rogue police officers.
Sometimes, the punishment is dismissal from the police force but when you know someone who knows someone, the officer might get a slap on the wrist and posted to another unit.
Extortion has become a pattern of oppression with the tacit endorsement of senior police officers. Some postings are considered lucrative because of the expected daily “returns” which is a key performance indicator across the board. However, it should be noted that we also have bright, dutiful and diligent police officers who lead by example but they are in the minority.
What usually happens is that the “rotten eggs” in the police force have a code of conduct different from the established code. This code is about their individual survival which compels them to follow the money at all times. The rogue officers have the tendency of influencing and recruiting the good officers in their midst. If you cannot beat them, you might be tempted to join them for causes that are not noble.
Have you ever been to any police barrack or police station? You will weep and wonder at how these men in uniform operate under those unsatisfactory and unacceptable conditions. Apart from the fact they are poorly paid, there is no incentive to be an “honest” officer.
Take a look at all the police divisions in the country and you will be shocked at what their monthly operational budgets are. Junior police officers belong to the 133 million multi-dimensionally poor Nigerians which must be addressed as a national emergency. We do not have to wait until they kill more people – it does not matter whether it is an accidental discharge; every death is painful.
Police officers cannot go on strike and it explains why they do not show empathy towards anyone. Since wearing the uniform is a confirmed meal ticket for survival, it will always be business as usual since they have “clients” who pay for their “services”. These payments are made grudgingly most of the time.
The mere fact that Bolanle and Gafaru were brutally murdered does not mean the reforms we have been asking for in the police force will manifest overnight. These pesky officers will always have their way because they know that when they press the right buttons, there will be no consequences for their bad behaviour.
Policemen express their frustrations privately but it is a job they still have to do. They also face the struggles of daily survival just like the rest of us but they cannot complain.
In spite of their challenges which are mainly underfunding, deplorable conditions of service, low morale and poor career prospects, we cannot do without police officers whose primary duty is to maintain law and order in the society.
In view of these problems, sub-national governments are shouldering the responsibility of funding and equipping the police force in their respective states, a clear signal and justification for operationalising state police.
No matter what we do or say, Bolanle is no more and overcoming the loss will not be easy for her family.
When you listen to her mother speak, you could be overwhelmed by your emotions but one thing is clear: her world would never be the same again.
Healing and forgiveness will be a difficult and long process.
-Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng)