A day or two ago, a video trending on several WhatsApp platforms, and said to be from Ughelli Area Command, A-Division, Delta State, showed some police officers and men running and singing solidarity song at the same time. Momentarily, a voice-over broke in, on the tape that had since gone viral.
“The police are protesting,” it announced. “Stop the killing of police. Stop burning police stations. You have killed our people enough. The police are human beings. We are tired. We are ready to kill those hoodlums now. They are trying to burn the station but we will overpower them and send them back. We will kill them. We will wait for them. Yes. Enough is enough. Stop killing police. Stop burning police stations.”
Apparently, speaking to his fellow policemen, the voice ordered: “Everybody go and protect the barracks there. They said they are coming. We are ready to kill now. Let them come. Yes. We are at alert. We are waiting for them now. They said they are coming. We are ever ready. The IG has given us order. We are waiting.”
Police recruit OPC members to protect them, guard stations
In Lagos where hoodlums are said to have razed to the ground over 17 police stations and allegedly killed over 50 police officers and men, the story and scenario are remarkably different. No policeman is thinking of confronting the hoodlums. None of them is thinking of waiting for them to come meet them at any of the remaining police stations. None of them is ready to carry out any order from anybody, IG or Police Commissioner, to kill or shoot on sight.
Rather, everything about security of lives and property of the police officers and men have been sourced out to members of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), the Yoruba socio-cultural cum security organisation founded in August 1994 by Dr. Frederick Fasehun, after the annulment of the June 1993 elections, and the 1994 arrest of Moshood Abiola, winner of that election, to protect and promote the interests of the Yoruba people.
A senior officer who was amongst those that were wounded during the attack by hoodlums at Ajao Estate Division of the Nigeria Police Force, Lagos State Command, confirmed this fact when he told Saturday Sun that they were helpless and had no choice than to hire OPC men to protect them.
His report: “It is horrible that we are now the target. These were hoodlums and we were not permitted to shoot at them. We had no choice than to beg OPC to help us. But this was after the hoodlums carted away our rifles.”
In years gone by, the OPC had drawn much support from the less educated population through its use of myths and fetishes. For instance, its members are said to be protected against gunfire through magic. They are said to be armed with charms believed to prevent bullet, cutlass or knife wounds from penetrating the body. A handkerchief soaked in a concoction, a small gourd with black powdery substance, native rings which have also been soaked are believed to prevent gun wounds. Incisions are made on the bodies of the members to prevent harm from befalling them in times of battle.
The senior police officer who does not want his name in print lamented that “it is normal that they will tell you the casualty rate but the truth is that several policemen were butchered while the hoodlums raided the police stations. Hiding the figure will not change the fact that they are dead; instead they should let the world know that we were the real victims during this protest. We lost several rifles. I can tell you that not less than 100 police rifles are in the hands of hoodlums right now.” Some security experts consulted by our reporter said that unless those rifles are recovered and recovered very fast we might likely see a spike in violent crimes across the state and the country in the days ahead.
Ironically, in the past, there was no love lost between the Nigeria Police Force and OPC, especially after the Federal government outlawed the group in 1999 and urged the force to deal ruthlessly with the organisation. But overtime, the relationship between the two seemingly sworn enemies has come to thaw.