December 12th, 2008 is a day the residents of Sagamu in Ogun State will not forget in a hurry. This was a day in which one of their own, a woman, was shot dead by the police and then branded as leader of a gang of robbers.
The woman, Funmilayo Abudu, a mother of four, was until her death an innocent worker, going about her daily chores in the pursuit of ‘daily bread’ and a better life for herself and her family
The woman did not deserve to die, and definitely not under the circumstances in which she was killed. The fact that the policemen concerned did not show any remorse for a life “mistakenly” cut short by them, and instead went on to dress her corpse up as a leader of a gang of robbers blows the mind.
The scenario above reminds one of the criminal actions of the Nigerian police force in the pas,: the police terror of the colonial years such as the brutal killing of 21 Nigerian miners and the maiming of 59 others at the Iva valley Mines, Enugu in November 1949, by colonial police, or the insane killings of youths and students activists (remember Kunle Adepeju, Akintunde Ojo et al), or the killings of the Dawodu brothers in Lagos some years ago as well as those of the APO 5 in Abuja also readily come to mind.
More sharply the incidents call to mind the media reported brutal actions of the Nigeria Police within this short reign of President Umar Musa Yar’adua of the PDP. Last Year alone, a catalogue of woe, which included the following could be listed: Abayomi Ogundeji, a journalist with THISDAY Newspapers, was gunned down by people eye witnesses said were wearing police uniforms while going on the black Sunday night of August 16th 2008; or Modebayo Awosika, a banker while returning home from shopping on the night of October 1st 2008, who was shot dead, his car rolled into a ditch and set on fire so that it could look like an accident; a police van was however seen by on-lookers speeding off from the scene.
In a related occurrence, four students of Lagos State University were shot by policemen at a checkpoint while riding in a bus sometime in November and early on the 18th December 2008, Gregory Egba, a warehouse manager in Ajegunle, was also shot dead by the police during a minor misunderstanding at a “checkpoint”, which led to a protest by residents in the locality.
Actually, the list of nefarious activities of the police is unending. The cited cases are just a few examples of the “dividends of democracy” handed to the people by the present bourgeois government through the police force.
Or, how else would one explain the fact that till date none of the cops perpetrating these evil acts has been brought to book. Rather the scenario facing us is that the Police Authorities have shown no remorse about these arbitrary killings but continue to defend their men, giving all manner of lame excuses and never once owning up to their misdeeds.
As a matter of fact, stories of police brutality abound all over the world. Just last December, on the 7th precisely, Greece in Western Europe, was catapulted into turmoil when a policeman shot a 15-year-old student dead as an answer to the usual anti-police slogans that a small group of ordinary and completely unarmed school students were raising against him. The police officer shot at the group of school students in an area where there are many coffeehouses full of people and at an hour (9pm) when there are many youth gathered together in an evening outing.
From a Marxist outlook, relevant lessons need to be pointed out to the working masses. The first thing to note is that these killings (even though they may seem isolated) taken together are an expression of the reactionary nature of the bourgeois state and the present PDP Govt. They are not accidents. For the ruling class, state terror is a necessary weapon in support of the capitalist system.
Capitalism as a system is characterised by poverty, exploitation, privatization and, of course, police brutality. As capitalism enters more and more into its stage of senile decay, police violence will drastically increase. This is because at this stage the class struggle (between the working class and the ruling class) will be intensified. So for the ruling classes all over the world an easy method of propagating class war against the working class is to unleash police terror.
Checking out all the examples of police brutality cited above, one would easily see that they are mainly directed against ordinary innocent workers and youth going about their daily chores. Marxists react against police brutality because we see it as an organized violence against the working class and the youth by the ruling capitalist class.
The whole labour movement must be carried along in this struggle. The mass organizations of the working class must mobilize all their forces in unity. Unless this is done many more innocent workers and youth will still be killed arbitrarily by the police.
On this note, the NLC and the TUC with all their affiliated trade unions and the students’ organizations, under the umbrella of the NANS and the students’ unions, must come together and fight this hydra-headed monster called police brutality, which is actually a symptom of the overall crisis of capitalism. Hence, the ultimate struggle that will put a stop to brutality of the police is to bring the present unjust system of capitalism and replace it with a workers’ democratic socialist society.