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Tribune Online
Why I was always posted to crisis-prone states —Apapa

Lasisi Jimoh Apapa is a retired, highly celebrated commissioner of police. The 92-year-old joined the Nigeria Police Force in the 1940s. In this interview by KEHINDE OYETIMI, he speaks on his experience.

 

 What events characterised your growing up?

I was born on June 30, 1928 at Akinyele Local Government Area but brought up in Ibadan. My father, Jimoh Apapa, was a Muslim; he sent me to a Quranic teacher at Osogbo but the teacher turned me to a servant instead of a student. He was a trader. And with six penny, we were supposed to travel to Osogbo but I would not be given any money. I had to trek from Osogbo to Ibadan; when I tell people this, they don’t believe. It took me just one day through Offa, Lalupon and my boss usually expected me back by evening. He would take the train while I trekked the distance. I later passed the Quranic lessons. I went to Anglican school in Kuta and from there, in 1942, I was taken to Osogbo Baptist School for my first school leaving certificate.

While I was there, I did better than other children. I was later employed at Mapo as a junior clerk under the man in charge of tax collection. I had a friend named Olookun; we used to go to Dugbe and every other place in search of job.

In 1947/1948, we saw a recruitment notice to join the police force with the caption: “if you have height, it is okay. If you don’t, blame yourself.” The height barrier was 6 feet and 5 inches.  My friend who was short wasn’t eligible. We were examined. They said I passed in January but I went to Enugu in November. My father supported me but my mother was against it.

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The kind of police then was much more honourable?

Yes it was; we had southern police college in Enugu.

 

What was the experience like?

When we got there, the force then was dominated by Igbos and Hausas in 1948; we were just 10 Yoruba people. I came first in the examination but there was an Oyewole who was my rival. We alternated the positions of first and second. There was a Major, Audu, who was Hausa. He trained us in firing but he was very rude and he would heap curses on our fathers. Audu was like that. We had another trainer from Cameroon who trained us in firing too.

 

What was the experience when you were commissioned?

The experience was terrible. While we were being trained, we didn’t live in offices but hand woven mats and in tents; they sleep in fine houses today.

 

There are complaints that the police force doesn’t take care of its officers, how was the care given to the average police officer?

In our days, the major was there, everyone was there; the person who would inspect you would come on a bicycle. If you were found sleeping, you would be asked to go back home. Two torches were in our pockets when we slept, there was raincoat for everyone. You never run from rain like today’s officers do.

 

The average security officer is faced with death every day; how did you confront this then?

We were always on duty; if you are on duty, you are a target. If robbers see you at alert, they don’t strike.

 

What was your first combat experience like?

It wasn’t as terrible as expected. As a policeman, you don’t play when you carry a rifle. You are a target.

 

Which state did you serve first when you were promoted and what year?

  1. I was promoted to the rank of a commissioner at the Lagos railway. The lower rank was a bit different; we were not accountable to others, but if we did good we were praised, if you did bad you were dealt with as an officer. We had sleepless nights; I had my dog. We had a team which paraded the nights. I moved round; the patrol teams could reach me. They knew I would be there.

In 1976, there was a coup; I was taken to Ondo and then to Abeokuta, Ogun state. There was trouble there. Anywhere there was trouble, Apapa would be there because I didn’t believe in death. I knew what would kill a person would kill that person. When I was a deputy commissioner I was transferred to Kano, they said an average Kano police officer was arrogant and they won’t do anything.

During the Maitatsine period, his followers believed if you killed a policeman you would go to heaven. I dismissed about 10 of the police officers who were too scared to do their jobs. Soon they voluntarily asked to be given jobs. That was my first commendation; they came willingly.

However, when it was time to confront Maitatsine, I led the team. When we saw the whole thing, we reported to Lagos which was the capital then.  We sent nine vehicles during the operation to get Maitatsine and within a twinkle of an eye, he burnt them to ashes. Drivers were burnt in our eyes. We later discovered their weakness. We handed over to the army with more powerful vehicles and weapons. Within three weeks, they were all killed, including Maitatsine. His body wasn’t buried, but we secretly did something to it and his people can’t find him till today.

 

Today Nigeria is confronted with so many security challenges: Boko Haram,  and herdsmen/farmers’ clashes. So many police officers have lost their lives. What advice would you give the government and the police force itself?

Well, I will give pieces of advice to the head of state; I wrote about five letters to the head of state before, and it is the same that I will give the government in power now. But I won’t reveal the contents of this letter to public. If they follow, okay, if not, that’s all.

 

Do you miss being in the police force?

I don’t miss it

 

Many people believe that gallant officers as yourself must have employed diabolic means in the discharge of their duties. What did you use?

When Akala was in government, he asked me what I used in carrying out arrests of notorious suspects and criminals. I told him that I only relied on God’s power. At Ijebu Ode, a civilian asked me to tell them what I used. I asked why and he said he was at Ikorodu and saw many commercial vehicles parked, he asked why they were not in motion. They told him Apapa was on the road on duty. He joined a private vehicle to look for me.  I was on the road controlling traffic. It was generally said that when one committed an offence and Apapa was in charge, it’s either God saved such individual or Apapa allowed them go.  I spent 13 years training students out of the 37 years I spent in the force. I would tell them God would bring help their ways.  I would not collect money from any driver, they tracked me but I wasn’t found guilty.

 

How do you feel at 92?

I feel I am here by God’s grace; it’s not my doing. I exercise every day. I do so every morning. I walk every morning. This helps blood circulation. I also don’t envy other people or wish to have what they have. If someone buys an airplane, I will not put pressure on myself by asking unnecessary questions. That’s their destiny. I stay out of other people’s business.

Why I was always posted to crisis-prone states —Apapa
Tribune Online



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