by Usman Alabi
The state has a life of its own, as a matter of fact, the state is fully alive. But the life of the state is not necessarily that of the various groups that constitute it. The state is said to be a neutral force that mediates between the various groups and classes in the society. It, however, only uses coercion when its existence is threatened which is not common.
The Nigeria police is one of the various means by which the state enforces its will, they are not meant to be biased or have any interest other than that of the general good. But over time, they have gone out of their responsibility of protecting the constitutional rights of the governed to jeopardizing them.
The Nigerian police keep missing the point of protest. Protest is a protected right! It is their responsibility to protect that right and not take sides with anyone. Whether what the people are protesting for makes any sense or not, it is not their responsibility to be the judge, as long as such protest does not affect the rights of other citizens and also not a threat to peace and security.
The police have no right whatsoever to disrupt or disturb a peaceful protest in any way whatsoever, by doing so, they take sides with the same forces that the citizens are protesting against.
The recent protest by a group in Abuja calling on the President to either resume or resign became rowdy when the police fired tear gas at the protesters who were peacefully exercising their rights, it was reported that one of the conveners of the protest, Charles Oputa, popularly known as Charly boy collapsed due to the tear gas fired at the group, and one person was also injured.
The Nigerian police have in the past displayed a high level of ignorance when it comes to handling protest especially in this age of citizens activism and civic engagement, and this has shown that they are nothing but an archaic relic of colonialism that have refused to move with the times.
How do you justify a police that was founded as an instrument to keep the people at bay with a system that dehumanizes them? The Nigerian police is one of the relics of colonialism militating against our collective resolve to make democracy work.
Protest is a part of democracy; a democracy without protest is tantamount to a totalitarian and authoritarian regime. People will always want to know, they would always want to ask, they would always want to demand, even if the answers are obvious, they deserve to be told.
It does not matter what the people are protesting against, it doesn’t matter the logic of the issue that warrants the protest, the moment they take to the street with placards, the police must understand that they seek the attention of their own leaders on matters of interest to them as a group, and their leaders have no other choice than to look in their direction.
It is then the responsibility of the police to protect the right of these few people who feel that they deserve to be heard, who feel that their rights are threatened, people who through a collective voice wants to be heard. It is this voice that is silenced when the police attempt to dismiss or disrupt their protest.