The news that Commissioner of Police Hakeem Odumosu ordered the arrest of four security guards, who denied him entry into a gated community, Brooks Estate, is far more instructive than a simplistic adjudication of who is right or wrong. Media reports stated that Odumosu was humbled by mere security guards who would not allow him passage. Furious, Odumosu ordered their arrests.
Since the news broke, public comments have been divided between those who thought the security guards should have granted Odumosu access based on public recognition and those who believed Odumosu went too far. Both seem to be missing the chance to ask where the person Odumosu was going to visit in the estate was while all that drama happened. If there is one question I would like answered, it is to determine if it occurred to Odumosu — while he negotiated an entry at that gate post — that his supposed host did not care that much about receiving him?
In a country where power is literally worshipped, some other factor must have accounted for how Odumosu was treated beyond the presumed intransigence of the security officials. Think about it, the CP was there at the gate post, accompanied with the pomp and paraphernalia of his office, but those four security officials turned him down out of sheer overzealousness? That is hard to believe. From my experience going through gated communities in Lagos, most of the security officers stationed at the gate post have access to the residents’ phone numbers. They would have tried calling the person Odumosu came to see on his behalf, seeing he was a VIP. Given the nature of their jobs, one can take it for granted that they knew who Odumosu was, and they could reasonably grant him access based on that courtesy. Also, let us factor in the possibility that that was not the first time Odumosu was visiting the place.
Also, I want to believe Odumosu himself called his host on the phone to let them know he was being held up at the gate post. If the person still did not do much to facilitate Odumosu’s access, it should have occurred to him that he was an unwanted guest. Who leaves a whole Commissioner of Police at the gate for at least half an hour? What could be the distance from the person’s house to the gate post that they did not do much to retrieve the CP while he stood there?
What is far more likely is that those security men took their cue from the person Odumosu had come to see. If the person had thought Odumosu’s visit was crucial, they would have made some effort to go to the gate post to receive the CP. That the supposed host left Odumosu at the gate post for an extended time while he haggled with the security men should have taught the CP that he might not be a particularly valued guest and that his presence at the social function he was going to attend was so significant. If the host could not leave whatever they were doing to either go to the gate post to facilitate his entry or call the security men on the phone to give them the necessary instructions, it means they did not want to see the CP.
Of course, the Lagos police spokesperson attempted some damage control by saying Odumosu was at Brooks Estate to “see someone at a function where an urgent matter bordering on security was to be discussed.” This is an extremely laughable excuse by publicity strategists who do not think things through before sending out press releases. If Odumosu truly had an official meeting, should he not have scheduled an appointment in a conducive place like his office? Of all the places a CP would discuss urgent security matters, it had to be a social event taking place within a gated community he could not even access! Who discusses “urgent security matters” over plates of jollof rice and the din of music blaring out of the speakers? On a side note, I recommend that some of these officials take a course in Logic 101 before they write their silly little press releases. It is one thing for them to think so poorly of public intelligence that they make puerile explanations, it is another thing entirely to betray their own lack of acumen in the process.
Either way, ordering people arrested is wrong, a needless show of power by an officer who found he was no longer as important as he imagined himself to be.
It was just last Wednesday when the Lagos State House of Assembly honoured Odumosu for his services and bade him well as he started his final month — this January — as both the CP and policeman. With only a few weeks left before Odumosu fully retires from service, it is quite possible he was denied entry because he is considered to have served out the purposes for which the big people who live in gated communities used to invite big people like him into their social circles. He did not have to take his frustration out on the lowly officers who could have been acting on instructions from their employers.
For a man with only a few weeks left before retirement, it is implausible that what took him to Brooks Estate had anything to do with urgent security concerns. Given the way the civil service bureaucracy works, a man with 30 days left before his retirement would be preparing his handover notes, not pursuing active work. The people he was going to see in the estate must, of course, know he is leaving his exalted position. If they do not demonstrate as much zeal to welcome him to their parties, he should have taken it in his stride. In a society where virtually everyone’s social relevance is a matter of who you know and who knows you back, people understandably cultivate friendships with public officials like a CP for a purpose. Once you leave the office and are no longer as useful for their purposes, your phone stops ringing.
Rather than throw his weight around, Odumosu should have wrapped whatever was left of his dignity with his agbada and left the place. He should have known that those security officials at the gate could not have been acting on their own whim, seeing what he represented. His trip back to his house — or wherever he chose to go afterwards — should have been an opportunity for him to reflect on his social life when he no longer has official power. Whether he comes to terms with it or not, with his pending retirement from public service, he is becoming “former” CP. Those who used to butter up to him are waiting for his successor to be named so they could start sending out their party invitations. The days are still coming when Odumosu would call some of those people who used to grovel before him while he was in service, and they would deliberately miss his call.
In a society like Nigeria where survival entails sucking up to people in power, the CP’s humiliation is the reality of no longer possessing what made people fraternise with you or even stoop before your almighty presence. Clout chasers who use state officials to bolster their social influence are always that quick to move on. What follows a public officer at this late stage of their career are the testimonies of the lives they changed.
Perhaps, at some point, it finally dawned on Odumosu too. Ordering the arrest of those security officers must be a desperate effort to demonstrate what he could still do with the power he embodies for another few weeks. For him to take out his anger on the small fries, he must have been severely humiliated. His actions at such a vulnerable moment are a lesson for public officials who miscalibrate the weight of their self-importance, only to find out otherwise in the last hours of their career and start throwing a tantrum.
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