On Friday night, Kunle Bello, best known as Kaboom from his Trybesmen days, went out with the intention of rocking the night away at the club with his buddies. But fate had different plans. In the wee hours of the morning, Kunle and his buddies, along with other Friday rockers were unceremoniously bundled into a Black Maria and whisked off to detention. His captors, whom he identified as police men from the Sabo Police Station, held him at the Task Force Office at Alausa, Ikeja. Their offence was not disclosed.
In a number of poignant tweets (which have been conveniently storified here), Kunle Bello related his ordeal, and described how the police drove around picking random people. His tale suggests that the manner of arrest was haphazard, without reason or provocation. His last tweet was nine hours ago.
But that was by no means the last tweet on the issue. His messages were predictably picked up, and in no time, the tale of the arrest went around the Nigerian Twittersphere. Nigerian tweeps have reacted to this latest “police abduction” with a mixture of digust, rage, indignation and anger —
I have read with disdain how @kunlebello and others were kidnapped by the Nigerian Police Force, and no one has heard anything since.
— #BringBackOurGirls (@OLATUNJISPEAKS) November 24, 2012
Kaboom @kunlebello is the latest victim of the NPF.What is the crime for having fun at night in a civilized country?
— God'SON (@YnkaOkula) November 24, 2012
One minute @kunlebello was tweeting about food and song lyrics. Next thing he was being 'kidnapped' by the Nigerian Police Force.
— PrincessTosynBucknor (@TosynBucknor) November 24, 2012
Two officers Rotimi Idowu and Ologun Theophilus are demanding I tip them to check if @kunlebello here…
— Osagie Alonge (@OsaGz) November 24, 2012
Women in Abuja are afraid to stroll alone along many roads at night. Not because of robbers or rapists. Because of the Nigerian Police
— Elnathan John (@elnathan) November 24, 2012
Policemen are poorly paid, and have been known to seek supplementary income elsewhere. Such income will come from chaps like @kunlebello
— Chxta (@Chxta) November 24, 2012
Reading this kunle bello guy tweets and I'm worried,how can you go round and detain ppl for no reason,some from inside cars and bars?oga o
— Akindele Akintola (@luchif) November 24, 2012
I think we need to wage a campaign about standards of arrest. Our police have become kidnappers.
— Amara Nwankpa (@bubusn) November 24, 2012
OMG. Where are The Penguins of Madagascar when you need them? The Nigerian Police is a failed [________]. Fill in the blanks.
— #BringBackOurGirls (@IfeanyiGbemudu) November 24, 2012
In another twist, NaijaCyberHack, the Anonymous-styled Nigerian “hacktivist” group who become popular early in the year for the role they played during the Occupy Nigeria episode have declared their intention to take on the police in an operation they’ve labelled OpNigPolice.
— NaijaCyberHactivists (@NaijaCyberHack) November 24, 2012
We’ll see if their bite is as strong as their bark.
Nigerian law enforcement like to insist that the police is your friend. But the people have never pretended to believe in that assurance for even one second. In June, the IG of Police issued a directive banning the police from manning checkpoints across the country to considerable public acclaim, considering that most of these checkpoints are in fact roadblacks at which policemen routinely extort motorists. Recently, the police came under fire for the role they played — or didn’t play — in the tragic lynching of four young boys at Aluu, in Port-Harcourt. Incidents like Kunle’s arrest serve to re-inforce the animosity and suspicision with which the average Nigerian regards a policeman.
It’s not clear why Kunle stopped tweeting. Like someone speculated, he could have run out battery power…or the police could have realised what he was doing and stopped him themselves. Whatever the case, it’s out of their hands now and is going viral. A simple Twitter search for “Kunle Bello” not only reveals updates on his situation, but tweeps sharing their own personal experiences about traumatic encounters with the Nigerian police.
Kunle, or Kaboom, is now a free man, as tweeted by a man on the ground, Alonge Osagie. But for his celebrity status and the role of social media in the circumstance, he might have spent more time with our police friends, after which he’d probably need to be bailed with a sizeable amount of cash — never mind that bail is free. Kunle is incredibly fortunate. There are thousands of hapless victims of this exact sort of police behaviour who aren’t as lucky.
I’m hoping that the reawakened conversation about the state of the Nigerian police will not end as abruptly as it started last night on Twitter. What is wrong with Nigerian police? What needs to be done? And how far will the planned police reforms — expensive ones at that — go to accomplish these objectives? Beyond social media, these questions need to find a tangible outlet that will result in decisive action in the real world.
Hopefully, the Inspector General is listening.