The now dead New Nigerian used to run a series of explosive interviews under what it called ‘The New Nigerian Parley’ or ‘NN Parley’ for short. In one of the series with an IBB – era Military Governor, the handsome guy said that whenever he wanted to annoy one of his stubborn children, he would tell him that he is destined for a career in the Police. It was an archetype slippage in language use that may have earned him a quiet reprimand for officially endorsing popular criticism of the Police.
It is arguable if anything has changed in the image of the Police in Nigeria. Although the members of the armed forces, be they the Navy, Air force or the Army, are more brutal when they relate to their others, they are, individually, more gentle and urbane than the Police. The Policemen and women are, unfortunately, seen as rather gruffly, streetwise and incurably determined to keeping enacting the institution as the colonial creation that it is.
But the Police is not a homogeneous entity where when you see one, you have seen all. Rather, it is, like all other such huge establishments, a space of multiple identities. Beyond the ones the average Nigerian encounters and hates so much, there are also highly trained, very exposed and exceedingly professional in handling the job. Unfortunately, these are not the ones the average Nigerian encounters in the spaces of everyday. The problem is how the undignified conduct of a few officers and men has constituted the image burden of the Police as an institution in Nigeria in spite of the embodiment of excellence that also abound within in the profession.
It would appear that the Police has been thinking about this and might have started unpacking it. The argument here is that only such might explain why no other institution in Nigeria’s security establishment could possibly be rated higher than the Police in its self-representation in the anti-COVID 19 mobilisation.
In a world of images and the ‘textual turn’, the police self-representation in its anti-COVID-19 intervention is not just a master stroke but also a model in ‘banal nationalism’. They did not only reckon with the dialogic nature of meaning, they responded to it by choosing symbols that are all time signifiers of purity and promise about, around but also beyond the Police as an institution. The symbols in question are the pupils bearing the messages. It is thus not a favour to the Police to recognise such a masterful self-representation by any national institution but a celebration of the sort of thing Nigeria ought to be pushing out on all fronts at all times.
The hope and wish is that this triggers in the Police a sustained sense of the possibility of a magical self re-imagination towards primacy in the coming post – COVID-19 world where it will be survival of the fittest now with the death of the rule-of-the-thumb mentality which has killed Nigeria!