Like fake men of God, absentee parliamentarians and corrupt public servants, policemen have the right to buy themselves a fair amount of corruption and impunity in their professional conduct. While they are mandated to protect us and enforce our laws, the police see themselves as egopowerful predators whose fate is to wear a badge and wield a gun. Behind their badge is a heart like ours. But unlike ours, theirs is behind a badge. And people who wear badges must have a sense of discipline to carry their gun.
Lately, the fate of the police has not been a good one. In one week, the IGP changed from an ill-fated orphan to an Ogbanje (a person with bad luck) in need of decent birth. It was as if the gods had gone before them to misguide them, and schemed behind them to expose them. The IGP and a Regional Police Chief were chased away by the youth of Kumasi for killing seven suspected (but reportedly innocent) armed robbers. Elsewhere, another officer had killed a Bullion van driver while some fourteen (14) other libidinous officers had been interdicted for sexual misconduct while abroad.
Before the week ended, Lance Corporal Frederick Godzi Amanor, a policeman attached to a savings and loans facility in Accra, caused national uproar when he assaulted a poor trader who attended the company to withdraw her savings. The Ghanaian public is still trying to understand what went into the training of a law enforcement agent whose only responsibility at the bank is protect life and property. In a video that went viral, the incensed officer wrestled with Patience Osafo, the poor woman, administering hefty blows to her head while repeatedly kicking her body with his boots.
The public reaction was almost predictable: an avalanche of press releases, condemnations, sympathies and solidarity. There have also been gifts, money and other items to make life comfortable for a woman who had only GHC250 to her name until 21st July, 2018. The favours also include a house reportedly donated by Peace FM owner, Osei Kwame Despite, and a shop by another well-wisher. My friend, Justice Abeiku Newton-Offei, promised to give her GHC1,000. I hope he makes good his pledge.
Next to be beaten
The cynical also asked: Could we have shown the poor lady this extravagant goodwill if she had sought financial help prior to the beating at the Midland Savings and Loans? We see them all around us every day; the poor and vulnerable, I mean. Do we wait for a beating before we help? The victim has since become a poster lady for civil poverty, impunity and hypocritical sympathy. She lives in a kiosk with her children and other dependents. And it is not for free; she pays GHC40 a month. She is only 36 but looks older.
Alas, a terrible man in uniform located our milk of humanity and forced us to pour it away when we were not yet ready. In all occupations, there are terrible people masquerading as professionals, but our men in uniform are often the biggest fraud. In London, a police officer was called to arrest freethinkers acting a pornography film in a moving vehicle. The officer ended up playing a role in the film. He threw away his gun and dressed one of the pornstresses with her cap. He banged away on open camera.
One of the finest soldiers in Canada shocked the world when he was exposed as a murderer who had the weird habit of collecting the used underpants of women and sniffing them before killing his victims. There are many stories of men in uniform in some North American cities who demand sex from women after their arrests. Some frame up charges on innocent black people to cover up their unprofessional lapses.
Our way with the poor
Perhaps, they call us civilians because we are expected to be more civil than those who carry guns. L/C Amanor is a bit like all of us: We trample on the poor and powerless and seize what they have. With so much impunity, we steal public money and deny millions their right to decent roads. We render institutional processes ineffectual by taking unapproved routes to achieve results. We buy votes and extort patronage from the poor in the name of democracy. We cheat the poor and gag them to accept our terms.
We have given the poor very little chance to succeed while we prosper in our greed. A tip here, a tap there, we have made up for our hypocrisy by pretending to take sides with them. Yet we insist we are not populist. I regret not doing much to help the young car wash attendant who summed up the value of his poor life in these cold words: “Some of us are human leftovers only good enough to serve people like you.”
When he saw my car, he complimented: “Sir, you will buy another beautiful car next year”. I assured him he would also be a car owner in the New Year. “Me? It is not possible in my lifetime. Look at my condition. I barely have enough to eat,” he submitted, rather pitifully. Like Patience Osafo, the young boy may never own a house or see a cash saving of GHC250 grow into GHC40,000 until there is an assault. Yet, life has assaulted him enough but he has nothing to show for it. We have wronged people like Patience and Richard.
I gave him a heavy tip and invited him home for dinner on Boxing Day. His life has not changed. He wouldn’t mind a few beatings by the police for a hand-up or a hopeline. This is our way with the poor. We are very poor at handling the poor until they become poor indeed. Who is next to be beaten?
Tissues of the Issues with Kwesi TAWIAH-BENJAMIN
Writer’s Email: firstname.lastname@example.org