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The Police: Between M. D. Abubakar and Sergeant Badang

First, about the late sergeant Sunday Badang. Sometime during the night of Monday 13/02/2012 or in the morning of Tuesday 14/02/2012, somebody or some persons…

First, about the late sergeant Sunday Badang. Sometime during the night of Monday 13/02/2012 or in the morning of Tuesday 14/02/2012, somebody or some persons had planted two improvised explosive devices (IED), or bombs as they are commonly referred to, at Anguwan Sarki, one of the oldest settlements in Kaduna where the Premier of the Northern Region, Sir. Armada bello lived. As of this moment, the usual suspect, Boko Haram, is yet to claim responsibility; so nobody can say with certainty who planted the deadly explosives.

What is certain is that whoever it was, had meant to cause maximum damage by killing as many people as possible. This is evident to anyone familiar with the city of Kaduna, located 200km north of the federal capital Abuja. Kaduna is generally regarded as a northern elite playing ground and it’s political nerve centre. The bombs were placed under a flyover bridge which serves the Sultan Bello Mosque, kaduna’s biggest and most influential Mosque. Everyday hundreds of people use the bridge while hundreds more walk under it to cross over from one side of the road to the other. The motorway under the bridge is itself arguably the busiest in the city, at least within the northern parts of the city. Thus whoever it was that placed those bombs, must have done so with the deliberate intention of snuffing the life out of as many people as possible.

But as it turned out, one of the two bombs exploded without killing anyone. That left the second, placed not too far away from the first, possibly in such a way for the blast of one to trigger the explosion of a second! After the first “harmless” explosion, people came over to satisfy their curiosity (a tragic sign that violence is being accepted as a way of life in the city). As the crowd formed, they noticed a suspicious parcel in the middle of the road. Alas! it was the second bomb, concealed in a polythene bag waiting to explode.

From amongst the half excited and half terrified crowd, out stepped a Police Sergeant attached to the police bomb disposal unit. It was Sergeant Sunday Badang, stepping out to perform the job for which he was trained. As Badang took his first tentative steps towards the lethal bundle waiting to kill him, the crowd watched, and then began to cheer him on. But not everybody was cheering; from among the crowd, some were shouting at him not to go near the parcel; but the voice of the cautious was drown in the fatal screaming of the reckless. Buoyed by the cheering majority, Badang marched towards his death. When he got to the bundle, no sooner had his fingers made contact with the IED than it exploded, dismembering his body and flinging the parts to various corners of the gathering. That was the end of Sergeant Badang.

It was a tragedy right out of a Greek Classic. Imaging if a school bus carrying school children had driven over the second bomb; or a bus full of ordinary people on their way to their ordinary destinations; or if it were a bus full of religious officials on their way to some spiritual program or other. Any of those probabilities could have happened and instead of one casualty, perhaps we could be talking about a dozen or more. In other words, Sergeant Badang died so that an unknown number of innocent people could live. What sacrifice could be higher than that? Badang’s heroism and supreme sacrifice was so unusual to the extent that many people could not believe it; instead they tried to find a more ‘Nigerian’ explanation to his action. They chose to believe that Badang was not a bomb disposal expert but a foolish man that played to the gallery. Mercifully, Aminu Lawal, who is the spokesman of the Kaduna police command, came out with this: “The officer (was) a well trained and competent personnel. He was involved in defusing bombs at many places here in Kaduna. You journalists can testify to that because you were witnesses when he defused some bombs at Gonin Gora and other places. (Daily Trust, 16/2/2012. P.2). In other words Sergeant Badang was a patriot, a courageous officer and true hero to whom the entire country and humanity at large shall remain eternally grateful.

Now to Mr M. D. Abubakar, the Acting IGP. Twenty four hours after the gruesome death of Hero Badang, Abubakar addressed Assistant Commissioners in charge of command operations, the most critical officer cadre in police operations. In summary Abubakar merely repeated what Nigerians have known more than two decades ago. Still, it was comforting to hear him made such rare, candid admission. One particular paragraph from Abubakar’s speech captures everything that is wrong with our police force:

“Our Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) have become killer teams engaging in deals for land speculators and debt collection. Toll stations in the name of check-points adorn our highways with policemen shamefully collecting money from motorists in full glare of the public.” In full glare of the public, I think, is the killer punch.

Surprisingly, Abubakar made no reference to Hero Badang. That, I think is the missing piece in the so far very positive, very courageous and very reassuring attitude that the Acting IGP has brought to the force. For him to succeed in building the new police force of his dream, he must find a way to convince his men that Nigeria is worth dying for; because with armed robbery, kidnapping and terrorism at the level they are in the country, policing Nigeria is a life and death struggle.

Some experts, including retired senior police officers have argued that no matter what salary and welfare package the police receive, they will still be corrupt. True or false, that is one of the major challenges that Abubakar must find a way to surmount. No police force in the world is corruption-free, but the target is to keep it under check, to make it the exception rather than the rule, as it has become within the NPF. A new, effective system of reward and punishment must be developed and pursued honestly and relentlessly.

Two examples: What is happening to the trial of those that are being prosecuted for the extra judicial murder of the late Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf? They were paraded, arraigned in court and then, nothing. That murder, we must recall, was the precursor to the current, ruthless Boko Haram that is giving all of all sleepless nights.

A second example is the death of Sergeant Sunday Badang. Are we to assume that we have heard the last of this extraordinarily brave and patriotic officer? Doesn’t he deserve a state burial? Don’t his children deserve full scholarship from the federal or the Kaduna state government? Doesn’t his family deserve a condolence visit from the Kaduna state police commissioner and the Sultan Bello Mosque committee; and for him a post humous national award?

A quick check revealed that what is statutorily coming to Badang’s family are (1) N25,000 burial expenses from the police; (2) N500,000 life insurance for officers of his rank and (3) Whatever his gratuity amounts to calculated from his years of service.

Is that the best we can do for a man who sacrificed his life for others to live?