(Published in The PUNCH, on Friday, May 19, 2023)
The stunned policeman, whose left cheek Seun Anikulapo-Kuti sandpapered on the lagoon last Saturday, didn’t turn the right cheek. I know why. He feared losing his eardrum and, or a couple of teeth.
Seun doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ and His temptation story. He doesn’t believe in Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), either. Does he believe in Satan? I do not know.
But Seun chased a nameless policeman up the Third Mainland Bridge – on the dark Lagos Lagoon – cornered him, and asked, “You dey mad? “You dey craze?”
Before the policeman could answer any of the angry questions, a thunderbolt fled Seun’s left palm and exploded on the cop’s cheek, t-w-a-a-i, silencing the susurrating waves of the sea. Mark you, the bridge, with its height of three kilometres, which is 9,842 feet, is probably higher than the mountain Satan took Jesus to for the didactic temptation.
The slap was dirty. Very unclean and unholy. It got the policeman appeasing the fire burning his cheek by rubbing it soothingly, wondering if the fire-spitting gentleman in Sango-red blazing shirt was a beast from the deep or an ‘ábàmì’ from the jungle.
Six days after the slap, its echo is still reverberating on the bridge, its venom has travelled in the lagoon, mixing with other bodies of water nationwide, causing a babel of reactions.
“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous,” says Albert Einstein. In my own view, coincidence is the scientific stairs to the marina of spirituality. Seun doesn’t believe in the idea of a white Christian God. But he believes in nature and the presence of an omniscient being who interweaves all the elements in the universe.
That Seun slapped the unnamed policeman right on a large body of water might not be a mere coincidence. Fela, his late father, affirms the indispensability and curative powers of water in his song, “Water No Get Enemy.” However, Seun failed to cool his head down with water when it was hot, losing his head in the face-off.
In failing to heed his father’s counsel on the curative use of water, Seun also played the rat that went to bite the tail of a cat in the song ‘Palaver’ by Fela. He not only got ‘Palaver’ on the Third Mainland Bridge, Seun also totally misconstrued his father’s dislike for the colonial concept of a gentleman, when he sang, “I no be gentleman at all…I be African man original.” The 40-year-old probably thinks engaging in avoidable ‘Palaver’ was not being the ‘Gentleman’ Fela sang about. No.
Unlike Seun, Fela proved he was far smarter than the police, going by the legend behind the song, “Expensive Shit”. In the behind-the-scene story of ‘Expensive Shit’, Fela, whom the police thought they had got on a hook when they caught him with weed, rather swallowed the weed, but was subsequently arrested and detained – in the belief that he would excrete weed.
However, Fela, inside his cell, swapped his faecal bucket with other inmate’s, and so, the police couldn’t find weed in his waste. Due to lack of evidence, Fela was subsequently released. Thus, he waxed ‘Expensive Shit’ to narrate how the police futilely tried to nail him.
Seun heeded his father’s counsel in ‘Shakara’, a song that lampoons cowardice, but Fela, the father, didn’t urge Seun, the son, to be foolhardy and act in a way bordering on public obscenity. Seun’s indiscretion, going by the fallouts from the viral video of the slapping, was condemned by Fela in ‘Gba Mi Leti Kin N D’olowo’, 47 years ago when Fela dared a ‘big man’ to slap him, saying he would become rich when the court awards him money for damages.
Enough on Seun. I shift attention to the police.
The identity of the slapped policeman remains indefensibly hidden by a police force whose record of messing up good cases in court, as a result of showboating or mischief or ignorance, is again at play in this particular case.
If you publicly parade and disclose the names of dismissed errant police officers, why can’t you disclose the identity of a policeman whose conduct, in the face of provocation, you’re proud of?
The Nigerian police need thinkers and media strategists who should be given a free hand to work. Disclosing the name, age and rank of the unidentified policeman would’ve burnished the bad image of the police, reinforcing the unconvincing catchphrase, “The police is your friend,” giving hope to the masses that within the police remained some scrupulous officers.
That was the kind of reassuring image the fallen supercop, DCP Abba Kyari, cut before he was cut into pieces by the scissors of corruption. An effective police force with an eye for good public image would’ve seized the momentum presented by the Seun saga and acted in a decorous manner, instead of the condemnable media trial it’s currently fuelling.
Or, do the police know that this slap case is not watertight, and do not want to risk institutional ignominy? Because I don’t understand why the police are bungling the case before it took off. The police are fully aware that the laws of the land frown on public parade of suspects and showing their faces. Seun’s lawyer, Femi Falana, is going to sink his legal teeth into this free chunk of meat, and might exact damages by claiming that Seun suffered business-crippling loss.
By parading Seun in handcuffs along with criminals, Falana could claim malice, saying the police are out to pervert the course of justice and nail Seun by all means.
Even when the US killed Osama bin Laden, the Saudi Arabian terrorist that masterminded the gruesome death of nearly 3,000 Americans, and the injuring of thousands more, the corpse of Laden wasn’t paraded like a trophy, the way Seun is unintentionally being given a larger-than-life trial. Since last Saturday, not even the news about Nigeria’s President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) nor the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had trended as Seun’s story.
This is the same police that shilly-shallied when the disgraced Kyari was caught on camera negotiating a drug deal, after he had been indicted by the US of wire fraud. This same police force refused US’ request for the extradition of Kyari even as his trial has been moving with the lightning speed of a snail.
It’s ridiculous and belittling that the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, and the Chairman, Police Service Commission, Solomon Arase, personally called for the arrest and trial of Seun while both keep silent over the lawless killings of Nigerians nationwide daily, leaving murder, anarchy, banditry, kidnapping, ritualism to state commands.
For the IG and Arase, who deployed their offices and resources in a dogfight over supremacy, the Seun case presented an opportunity to be seen in the news as working, but does Buhari care? I doubt if the issuance of separate orders for Seun’s arrest by the IG and Arase isn’t an extension of their stupid supremacy battle.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Kunle Adegoke, condemned Seun for slapping the policeman, adding, however, that the policeman was liable if he hit Seun’s car from behind.
Adegoke said, “Slapping the policeman is tantamount to assault. It’s wrong. It’s not honourable. It’s criminal. But the police are stretching their luck too far by restraining (handcuffs) and parading him along with other suspects. Seun has a good lawyer in Mr Femi Falana. The police are portraying themselves as persecutors rather than prosecutors.”
Giving a historical perspective to the saga, a Professor of History at the Osun State University, Siyan Oyeweso, said Nigeria should be careful in managing the imbroglio even as he advised Seun to embark on counselling in anger management.
Oyeweso, a Fellow of the Historical Society of Nigeria and member of the Nigerian Academy of Letters, who blamed Seun for slapping the policeman, said, “Nigeria shouldn’t do what they did to his grandmother and father, to him. The police are our friends, regardless of their imperfections.
“Whatever measures they are taking against Seun must have a human face, so that the state won’t be seen as a terrorist state that terrorises Seun’s heroine grandmother and his father who was the greatest musician cum activist from Africa.
“The Seun-police saga presents Nigeria with the opportunity to have alternative models of reforming the police force and Seun. The policeman in question should be commended.”
Yes, let’s remake our police.
Facebook: @Tunde Odesola