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'We'll make Africa great if kept safe,' says Dotun Adebayo

BLACK STAR: Marcus Garvey had big ideas for Africans

TO PARAPHRASE Donald Trump (sort) or was it Marcus Garvey: Let's Make Africa Great Again.

Honestly, I’d be the first person on that plane to Nigeria to do my part. I don’t even mind going on the Black Star Liner. The only thing is, when I get there, who is going to bodyguard me, Mr Bodyguard?

Because you can’t rely on the police in Naija to do jack for you. Despite the rubbish service we get from the police over here (compared to our white counterparts), I’m not sure that many of us could put up with (let alone survive) the joke ting they call “police” over that side.

As coppers go, the Nigeria Police Force is the worst in the world. And that is official. It’s even worse than those over here. According to the latest rankings by the International Police Force and the Institute for Economics and Peace, the rozzers in Naija are rock bottom of the world league tables.

They’re even worse than the Jamaican ‘red stripes’ and the ‘assassination squads’ of the Philippines. Why it has taken two international organisations to come to that conclusion we can only guess, because they’re not saying anything that Nigerians have not known for generations.

But what has got Nigerians all across the universe chuckling with bitter sweetness is the official press response from Nigeria Police Force that is stating that they are not actually that bad. Yeah, cue a belly roll of ironic laughter all around. Especially at that bit in the statement where the Naija coppers implore: “All Nigerians and international community to disregard the report as un- founded and misleading...”

Are they taking the mickey? How on earth can you look in the eyes of the very citizens that you resent and torment and demand bribes from on a daily basis and expect them to ignore the truth that is staring them in the face? You have got to have a shameless cheek to do that. And, clearly, the old bill of Nigeria have no shame.

Why should they? To have shame, you have to respect the people for which you are ashamed. Let’s Make Africa Great Again. In the view of many Nigerians it is the police who are the criminals and these criminals have no shame, otherwise they wouldn’t be robbing you blind, not to talk of beating and mistreating you and, sometimes, shooting you dead.

INJUSTICE

Brother Bob done told us already that “man to man is so unjust”. We dun know. So what follows should not come as a surprise or cause distress and ought not to need a parental advisory sticker. However, there’s an old English saying which, if it didn’t come directly from the slave auction house, certainly informed the proceedings as enslaved Africans were forced to stand on that auction block, regardless of age or gender or level of the trauma resulting from being kidnapped, used, misused and abused.

That saying is: “You get what you pay for.” Let’s Make Africa Great Again. When the ‘slave master’ paid top dollar for the strongest African male for sale, he expected to get an Anthony Joshua or a Muhammad Ali working on his plantation. But the ‘slave master’ had to be careful what he wished for. And he had to work out how he was going to subdue that guy to work for him without the guy downing tools and kicking ass. Ya get me?

Well, with the Nigerian police it is the other way around. Nigerians get what they don’t pay for. The plods over there are so poorly paid that they are basically working for tips. They call it “dash” over there. We call it “bribe”.

Pure and simple. And they ain’t reticent or covert about it neither, which suggests that management approves of customers leaving a tip where service is evidently not included. You can call the cops in an emergency and they’ll tell you there is no petrol in their cars to come and protect you from the armed robbers shooting up your home.

In Abraka, Delta State, I am told, the police are virtually running a protection racket with five or six officers on every corner on any given evening demanding bribes from transport operators.

As one officer told me when I happened upon his ad-hoc roadblock one Christmas Day as I was driving my car in the city of Aba in the East: “The corruption in Nigeria starts at the very top with the president (at the time) and filters its way down to the grassroots where officers are just trying to make enough to feed themselves and to send their children to school. So we have to turn to the public to make a living.” I couldn't argue with that.

Well I could, but if I argued I was going straight to jail to spend the rest of the festive season in a cell. So I didn't argue with that. Let’s Make Africa Great Again. Most Nigerians wouldn’t even mind topping up the coppers’ salaries, if the police bothered to do anything for it. But they don’t. They are not there, after all, to “protect and serve”.

If they were and all they needed was a decent salary, most people would not begrudge them that, but as they are not there as a ‘service’ many Nigerians think, ‘What is the point of paying our taxes?’.

The crooked politicians are going to cream off the top of the taxes in any case, so the police will always be poorly paid and so on and so forth is the vicious circle that explains why Nigeria is a world leader of rubbish police officers. But all of this comes at a cost.

LAWLESS

Which one of us would go to visit, let alone go and settle in a lawless country? It ain’t gonna happen. And yet there are plenty of Nigerians with the requisite skills and the available equity in our comfortable two up two downs over here to return home to Nigeria and set up something nice there and Make Africa Great Again. Because this is really what it’s about.

While Nigeria’s Keystone Cops are the laughing stock of the world, we who could make a difference aren’t going to go there for security reasons. We can put up with everything else in the lack of infrastructure, but we cannot compromise on security. And mark my words, we can never Make Africa Great Again, unless we who are spread out across the seven seas are willing and able to go back.

We can only Make Africa Great Again by being there – we who are the missing puzzle of African unity and greatness. All we are asking is to give us some protection when we get there. Otherwise we ain’t going. We will continue instead, using our talents, making Britain great again, as we have done for hundreds of years already.

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