THE METAMORPHOSIS OF SARS TO SWAT:
A Macabre Dance To Fela's Perambulator
Sometime in 1983, Fẹlá Aníkúlápó Kútì released his epic album, entitled "Perambulator". I took more interest in listening to his pungent but acerbic truth, often encapsulated in his lyrics earlier from 1980 when he miffed and expressed doubt via his "Original Sufferhead" album, that the government's promise then, (viz 1980) to provide water and electricity for us by 1990 was not going to be a reality. My angst with Fẹlá then was his incurable pessimism about government promises. I reasoned that since there was a space of good 10 years between 1980 and 1990, there was enough period of time for the government to achieve the feat.
Sometimes, optimism has therapeutic value on the body chemistry. Like the uncrushable spirit of a coupon player, there is nothing like relying on hopes. I love hanging on to hopes; perhaps, because I grew up during the period when coupon playing was rife.
A certain man around Ẹ̀gbátẹ̀dó in Òṣogbo was reported to have won a whopping £150 from a coupon jackpot. That was huge in those good old days. It didn't take half as much to build a plum mansion and procure necessities of life in those days. It was no wonder then that the ovation that greeted the ace coupon player's success rose to the high crescendo and ricocheted to every corner of the whole city. Everyone passing paused momentarily at the frontage to gape at his living abode. The exclamation: "Oh, that's the lucky man's house" rented the air for a long time. He became the envy of many people. Success has many friends. Poverty often suffers ostracism.
Surprisingly, few weeks thereafter the lucky coupon player remained wretched in his one room apartment. News went round that, hoping to win higher jackpot, he had staked the whole £150 to play another round. Even with his unfettered optimism and the courage of an ace coupon player, he didn't win a penny this time. He lost all he staked! And he went back into his wretchedness. No wander the Bible says that wisdom protects its owner.
Perhaps, like many Nigerians, because of my being imbued with the incurable hope of a coupon player, Fẹlá's pessimism pissed me off. "How on earth would anyone distrust the government who was promising via endless media hypes and bravado in 1980 to provide pottable water, electricity and housing for her citizen by 1990"? - a long and enough 10 years time lag, through UNO special programme.
But Fẹlá remains a seer till date, even at death! He was downright right. Year 1990 came and is gone. No water. No food. No electricity. No house for common man. No passable road. According to him: "Dem dey tell us now. Na 1990 dem go give us water. Via special programme from the United Nations". Fela provided answer to his rhetorical question. In a laconic but derisive tone, he asked: "Government sef dey? . . . He no dey" Consequently, he concluded: "Dem turn us to suffer head. Original suffer head."
It is difficult to ever doubt his claim in his "Perambulator" where he hollered that ". . . Na the same place we dey. We no go anywhere." Obviously, any country that had moved forward thereafter would not parade a security outfit called SARS up till now, whose mandate was to stem the tide of armed robbery, but ironically exacerbated the scourge by chanting "Le tat ces Moi" - we are the Lords; and turning their lethal weapons to maim and kill, quite often innocent youths on the street on spurious and unfounded allegations.
To most SARS men, possession of costly IPhone, flashy android phones, laptops, wrist watches, cars and valuables by a young person was a grave offence that attracted serious penalties, including summary death penalty. "Nemo judex in causa sua," so says one of the cardinal principles of natural justice. This is because a man cannot be an accuser and a judge in his own course. Indeed, the "Audi alteram partem" maxim emphasizes that a man is presumed innocent, until he has been duly tried and convicted of an alleged offence by a legally constituted court of law.
But our almighty SARS men, often referred to as "super corps" became vicious and a law to themselves. They alleged, arrested, prosecuted in a jiffy, often on the spot beside the road under nocturnal circumstances. Victims who were lucky to be set free often needed to part with withdrawals of huge sum of money, usually via the ATM at gunpoint. By definition, who really is an armed robber?
Until few days ago before the ever complacent and evasive government had the courage to disband the murderous Gestapo-like squad, apparently, due to mounting youths' street and social media demonstrations and pressures from foreign countries, report had it that there had been a Committee report on the entire police reform, but never acted upon by the government. But why do government set up committees, often made up of the society's eminent technocrats and great academicians, only to dump their subsequent reports under the carpet? Can such a country ever move forward? Must a country always vacillate or slumber until precious lives are lost before acting on vital committees' reports? What does it take a government who truly values the wishes of the people - which are the legitimate foundation of any government, to revisit previous committee white papers on issues that are capable of threatening the peace and security of the country? Of what benefits is government's ambivalence, complacency and quibbling at doing what is reasonably expedient?
If after several avoidable calamities, citizens' maiming and untimely deaths, the dreaded killer SARS are replaced with SWAT, how are we sure it is not a mere transmutation or metamorphosis from the old wolves?
At youth, I recall the unbridled penchant my peer and I had for making catapults, apparently to hunt and kill bush rats, birds and allied games. Until our parents took us to the farms either during holidays or week ends, quite often, our unfortunate victims then were always the innocent fowls and lizards, straying goats and sheep, house rooftops, water pots, etc.
Our exuberance and ignoble acts of flinging stones with catapults always came with attendant ululation and curses by the pet owners and neighbours. The excitement to show dexterity with the use of our catapults, albeit in a wrong place, viz the crowded city, was always rife.
The disbanded trigger-happy SARS men, perhaps were a victim of non or low maximization of full potentials. A fully armed, strong, energetic and bubbling corp entrusted with AK-47 rifles, expectedly will always be anxious to show his vigour and acquired military skills and marksmanship dexterity.
Consequently, to maximise the potentials and get the best from the recently disbanded SARS men, it will be to their eternal benefits and indeed the nation's if they are all deployed immediately to the insurgency areas in the core north, especially to showcase their skills and curb the mounting insurgency and banditry.
It is then and only then that their potentials will be fully harnessed. Otherwise, mere swapping from SARS to SWAT may amount to a macabre dance to Fela's "Perambulator".
Verbum Satis Sapienti
Tunji Ajayi, a biographer, author, creative writer and documentary producer writes from LC-Studio Communications, Nigeria (+2348162124412)