It is said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. In the era of new media and youtube videos though, one could well say a video clip is worth a thousand photo albums, a few seconds of which could tell a compelling story better than any book, verbal explanation or detailed written analysis. This is very evident in the recent video clip that has gone viral in social networks and Nigerian online communities, of Sergeant Sunday Badang, the young police officer in Kaduna, Nigeria who is blown to bits in a roadside bomb explosion set by the dreaded Boko Haram group. The video is very graphic and disturbing, viewer discretion is advised.
At first glance, one might regard the young policeman’s fatal action as reckless at best and utterly foolish at worst. The video captures the scene of an earlier bomb blast but a suspicious bag is seen at the roadside which in all probability seems to be packaged explosives. Everyone steers clear of the area, but Badang walks gallantly with a confident stride towards the suspicious package perhaps acting on the command of his superiors. As you watch the video, dreading what you think might and would happen in the next few seconds, you wonder and might even utter it out loud “what on God’s earth is this guy thinking”? He is without a bomb suit, body pad, body armour or any bomb detonation device. He is neither wearing a common bullet proof vest, nor a pair of gloves at the very least!! Incredulously, he is armed with only a metal detector to detonate an explosive device. As he approaches the bag and opens it, the dreaded happens, there is a powerful explosion and the rest is history. You are saddened, you are horrified, you are appalled, your stomach turns and when these feelings abate after a few minutes, you wonder how anyone could be so foolhardy.
Upon deeper reflection though, you may begin to realize that the entire two minutes and twenty four seconds long video clip aptly sums up Nigeria’s key problems especially those bedevilling the security apparatuses and their medieval approach towards tackling grave security challenges. With all the confusion and activity around the scene in the aftermath of the first explosion which had gone off earlier, the police didn’t think it wise to cordon-off the area from the public and comb it thoroughly. The late police officer who, attempted to denote an explosive device with his bare hands was, believe it or not, a member of the anti-bomb personnel as the Kaduna state police commissioner confirmed. This proves beyond reasonable doubt, how poorly trained and ill-equipped our police force and other security apparatuses are to handle present security challenges in the country. Their training is usually based on archaic techniques derived from colonial edicts and military decrees with few revisions here and there. It is easy to dismiss our much loathed police officers as a corrupt, incompetent and inefficient bunch whose specialty hardly goes beyond perfecting the art of harassment, extortion and brutalization of innocent Nigerians, as corroborated by police chief Mohammed Abubakar.
Looking at the bigger picture though, it becomes obvious that Sergeant Sunday Badang, his superior who (probably) gave him the orders and the numerous much loathed police officers are not the culprits themselves, but like everyone else, they are victims of a broken and decaying system that urgently needs to be overhauled. In our hurry to condemn, we fail to realize that officers like Badang receive poor pay, remuneration and incentives to work in treacherously perilous situations they are extremely ill-equipped and incapable of handling, yet we expect them to compete with Scotland Yard in discharging their duties. The tragic fate that befell Badang is by no means an isolated incident, only that it was captured on video. Hundreds of Badang’s ilk have fallen victim to Boko Haram’s deadly ambush of police stations and military bases in Maiduguri, Damaturu, Bauchi and Kaduna; police officers and even immigration officers have been out-gunned and ruthlessly murdered in the recent attacks in Kano and in other parts of the country, police officers have fallen prey to the killing weapons of not only Boko Haram, but kidnappers and armed robbers as well. They risk their lives in such perilous circumstances and when they fall in the line of duty, their valiant efforts are hardly acknowledged; widows, bereaved families and scores of dependants are left devastated from the loss of the only bread winner perhaps with little government compensation.
Now that the crippling deficiencies of our security agencies have come to the fore, at least the government has a better idea where it could judiciously channel the N922 billion ($5.8 billion) slated for security in the 2012 budget to train and equip our police officers on handling present day challenges. And for everyone else whom this video struck a tender nerve, we could be a bit more appreciative and understanding of what our police and security officers go through. Overall as a nation, perhaps we could imbibe a culture of celebrating everyday heroes like Sergeant Sunday Badang who fell in the line of duty, not just as a victim of Boko Haram, but as a victim of a broken system.