Which would you rather run into on the highway, suspected Fulani herdsmen, armed robbers, kidnappers, or either of my friends and yours?
I went to the National Stadium Surulere for a church program, some years ago. As I was seeking to exit the facility, a shout of respectful recognition emanated from one of the police vans providing security at the venue. It was “Ilero that came out to greet me.
Now, Ilero: literally translates as “soft ground”. He was my very first driver. I was all of 30-31 years old when I was warned to take care not to aggravate the early onset of hypertension, and driving was the identified trigger. My salary was 12k a month, when I employed Ilero on a salary of 8k a month. He was a necessity.
Ilero was a fantastic driver, and is the very first driver that I would trust enough to sleep when he was behind the wheel. That list is only two long: my late driver, Yakubu being the only other person on the list. He was a good driver. Problem is, Ilero was chronically addicted to marijuana, and had no control over himself once he was not at work.
I overlooked his excesses for several months because of his otherwise exemplary driving capabilities, but his indiscipline and drug addiction became impossible to ignore. To crown it all, I received a call that Ilero took a prostitute to the place I rented for him at Ajiran, and which I allowed him to keep after sacking him, and along with two others, used her services overnight and then refused to pay. He was thrown out of the house by the villagers and the traditional authorities.
But here he was, gun in hand, resplendent in corporal striped uniform, and swaying from side to side, evidently inebriated and reeking of marijuana. Ilero, my former driver, who is almost incapable of expressing himself in the English language, pidgin, king, or queen, is now a Nigerian policeman. He is your friend. I am reliably informed, that he is the beneficiary of a political godfather’s influence, and that he was part of a crop specially recruited for the 2011 elections.
I have a few farms in the backwaters of Ijebu, adjoining the Apoje Farm Settlement at Ijebu-Igbo. I came to know Biyi whilst farming my cocoa plantations. We have adjoining farms, and I had bought my very first farmland from his father. Biyi is a good man. He has superintended my farm holdings in the last few years, and I have had no cause to complain. Biyi’s life is a simple one. Married to two wives, and the proud father of several young children. A brood to which he adds with amazing regularity, and to the consternation of my wife, whose lot it is to send the customary “owo omo” on my behalf.
Biyi called me yesterday, and he wasn’t calling to announce the birth of yet another child, or to remind me that the cocoa farms required fumigation. Biyi wanted money as usual, but his story was stranger than fiction.
He was calling me from the police college he said. He has joined the Nigerian Police. The problem though, was that when they were out on the parade ground, someone broke into the luggage and lockers of the cadets parading outside, and made away with all the valuables in the room. The money intended for the purchase of Biyi’s uniform, had been stolen and he needed me to send him another so that he might be able to purchase the uniform for his upcoming passing out parade. Biyi is your latest friend in town.
The Nigerian police is the way it is deliberately. As with everything Nigerian, we have built our security systems on lies, delusions, and false hope. I will not bother to point out the obvious compromise of our national security interests by the fraudulent choices of our rulers. But when you get exasperated with the policeman at the next illegal checkpoint, remember that it might just be Ilero, and he is your friend.
Which would you rather run into on the highway, suspected Fulani herdsmen, armed robbers, kidnappers, or either of my friends and yours? I know I am always happy to see my friends. Hopefully, Ilero wouldn’t be higher than a kite. Accidental discharges remains unchecked.
First published 13 October, 2019.