The police is your friend,” say those words that Nigerians are very familiar with. Pathetic as it sounds, a phrase that should confer a feeling of safety and protection has been reduced to a harbinger of doom and inexplicable horror in our country. There are too many tales of police brutality and so rampant they have become that the average Nigerian’s psyche has been revamped to consider these sacrileges as routine.
Today, I would like to share the ordeal of Olaide Adebayo, an orphan whose life met a sudden volte-face as a result of the animalistic treatment meted out to him by officers of the Nigeria Police Force. Stories like these have lost seasoning and may no longer even strike the chords of people’s hearts due to their ubiquitous nature, but this one I will share, nevertheless.
The young man was held by the hand and carefully led to our meeting place by an elderly man. From afar, I wondered why a full grown man whose eyes seemed wide open had to be guided. But as the duo came closer, I didn’t have to ask the obvious. Olaide’s case was not that of the scriptural Bartimaeus, who was born blind. He was a victim of another man’s lack of scruples. His story was compelling… an unfortunate trip from Ogbomoso to Alagbayun in Oyo State did him severe harm.
At the sunrise, before the unfolding of the obnoxious event, Olaide had thought it was an auspicious day. The date, Thursday, 25 June, 2009, would linger forever in his heart as the day all of his monumental dreams and aspirations hit the ocean bed like the Titanic sank into the North Atlantic Ocean.
With positive energy and hope for a bright future, he had climbed onto his motorcycle, locally called okada and the trip from Ogbomoso to Alagbayun had ensued with enthusiasm. Enthusiasm because an orphan who had been left for years to solely support himself and siblings by eking out a means of survival, was three months away from the commencement of his final year examination as a student of the Osun State College of Education, Ila Orangun, and looked forward to becoming a graduate. Unfortunately, however, Olaide can only be aptly described today as the one-eyed, orphaned tertiary institution dropout. He never graduated, not because he did not want to, but because of the butt of a police man’s rifle!
Amidst tears, Olaide told me: “I was travelling from Ogbomoso to Alagbayun village on a motorcycle but before I got to Alagbayun, I encountered a police checkpoint. I was stopped, the policemen requested money and I gave him N100 but as I proceeded, just by the corner, I met another police man who stopped me.
“He didn’t ask me for anything but a trailer was coming behind me, so I tried to move. Without saying a word, the policeman hit my face with the base of his rifle. I fell to the ground, wriggling in pain as blood gushed out of my eyes. He carried me into the bush and placed my motor cycle on my body, leaving me to die in the bush.”
But for providence’s intervention, Olaide would have been reunited with his parents, ahead of his time. He went on: “Some hours later, I miraculously gained some strength and managed to dial a random number on my phone. The person I called that day got in touch with my family members and that was how I was rescued. I was moved from one hospital to another in Ogbomoso, including Bowen Teaching Hospital, before I was finally referred to Ilorin Teaching Hospital.”
It was after 18 months of treatment that Olaide could partially use one eye. His left eye, according to the medical report from the Ophthalmology Department of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, was permanently damaged. Thus, he was declared permanently blind in one eye and severely impaired in the other.
I felt pangs as I watched him inquired: “It has been six years, didn’t you ever fight for justice?”
He gave a derisive laugh, shifted in his seat and began the next episode. “After I got better, I employed the services of an Ibadan-based lawyer, Peter Idowu.” Idowu encouraged him to go to court and the arduous journey of finding justice began earnestly. Olaide as the applicant, claimed a sum of N100 million as general, exemplary and aggravated damages for the violation of his fundamental right.
On Tuesday, January 22, 2013, after four years of pursuing justice championed by his lawyer, Idowu, providence smiled on Olaide. Honourable Justice Mashud Abass of the High Court under Ibadan Judicial Council awarded the sum of N20 million as general, exemplary and aggravated damages to the applicant, Olaide, being damages for the violation of his fundamental rights but the judgement was not enforced.
In May, 2013, Olaide employed the services of another lawyer, Wale Adesokan of Adesokan & Co., Onikan, Lagos, to take over the appeal and the enforcement of the judgement from Peter Idowu. Adesokan, according to Olaide immediately swung into action by filing an appeal in 2014. But the appeal was dismissed by Hon. Justice Tsammani and the judgement of N20 million remained unsatisfied.
Though I met Olaide in 2016, almost a year has sped pass since our meeting. It has been almost seven years since the assault that changed Olaide’s life abruptly and though judgement was proclaimed in 2013, almost five years have gone by and the police is yet to pay for a life ruined. In February 2016, Adesokan, Olaide’s lawyer, wrote to the Attorney General of the Federation, appealing passionately that the relevant authorities are directed to comply with the judgement of the high court to save Olaide’s life.
The following is an extract from Adesokan’s letter: “Since the injury to Olaide’s eyes, he has not been able to do anything to earn a living for himself. He is at risk of losing the partial sight he has left because he has not been able to undergo series of surgeries as recommended. He must be saved from imminent total blindness.”
As Olaide prepared to leave on the day we met, he gave me a long glance and said, “I have suffered terribly. My life was drastically changed and for years, I have not been able to get justice. I just want the police to pay. Help me.”
If I had some millions tucked away in foreign banks like some of our public office holders do, I would have, on that very day, paid for the police brutality but I didn’t. As a matter of fact, I have neither silver nor gold to give Olaide but in the last one year, I have been trying to get his story to the appropriate ears.
To get their side of the story, several futile attempts were made to obtain police response to Olaide’s story. Olaide is just one of countless Nigerians suffering quietly and some have passed away in their travails. If court judgments are not upheld and damages unaccounted for, how do we mitigate such barbarity since we cannot eradicate them from this society? If these ruthless acts keep going unchecked, we condemn our offspring to a bleak future fraught with the harsh consequences of our own inactions.