My Experience Serving Under 15 CPs In Kwara – Retired PPRO
Ajayi Okasanmi is the immediate past but now retired Police Public Relations Officer of the Kwara State Police Command. In this interview with Daily Trust Saturday, the Akoko North East, Ondo State, indigene speaks on his experiences serving under 15 police commissioners and inter-rivalry between the office and other colleagues, among others.
As a retired officer, how would you describe the journey so far?
I joined the police in 1988 in Lagos and have had cause to serve in Kogi before Kwara State in 2014 where I was until retirement. I’m one of the longest serving PPROs in the country. We were the first set of officers trained as PROs by the police and almost all of them have left except the present Force PPRO, Muyiwa Adejobi, who is the only one that started before me and is still in service.
You served about 10 years as the PRO of the Kwara State command, what was your staying power despite opposition?
God, the good people of Kwara State and all the commissioners of police I served, for giving me the peace of mind to thrive and the opportunity to express myself, coupled with the benefits of the support of the people especially the journalists who gave me the necessary impetus. Sometimes, when things become difficult, I reach out to experienced journalists in the state for advice which really assisted me.
Also, because of my accessibility, people walk up to me to give me information that ordinarily they would not give a policeman due to lack of trust. But when they give me such information, whether genuine or not, I act on it and always give feedback, carrying my bosses along irrespective of our findings. This really built confidence between me and people. Though money is very good, it does not answer all things.
Was there no opposition at all, knowing the police environment?
There were people who were desirous of my job and were even pulling strings from the force headquarters, but the resistance they got made them back out. Of course, people tried to unseat me but it wasn’t possible because of the support of God and all the CPs I worked with.
Who can you describe as the most difficult CP in Kwara State and why?
I will not say the most difficult, it depends on your mindset and personality. If you are at everybody’s level, you find these things easy. I worked with two very senior police officers who retired as DIGs that are known to be very “wicked” among officers in Nigeria, I don’t want to mention their names. But we worked so harmoniously that I was asked how I was able to do it. Study their dos and don’ts and try to be truthful, honest and upright in anything you do. Sometimes, an officer’s disposition may not go down well with his boss’ spirit like telling lies, always late on duty, complaining always when given assignments or not having the capacity. Some express sadness or frown when they are talked to. But when a CP observes the opposite of all these in you, he will draw you closer and if you have the capacity, you guys will get along. Nobody is easy to work with as a senior officer because even the CPs are under pressure sometimes from the IGP and superiors. When they are on such climes, it may trigger unwanted/unwarranted action, just take it with equanimity. Nobody is difficult to work with, the job itself is difficult.
Your situation was not without sacrifices, what were they for you?
There are many; my wife is not here which means my traveling most of the times. Sometimes, I will not see my family for three months and it got to a point where I was asked if I’m the only person doing the job of a police PRO. A good PRO should be on duty all day. You don’t use the excuse of lack of funds to jeopardize task from superiors but find a way around it without comprising standards or morals. Sometimes for exigencies, you bosses can be in the office working till 12pm or more, you can’t leave him there because you know he is equally working. Some of us don’t understand this.
What was your greatest task/challenge as a PRO in Kwara vis-a-vis crime fighting?
If I was told that I would stay a year in Kwara, with the kind of stories we were made to believe that Kwara is a Sharia state (apologies to my Muslims brothers and sisters) and all of that, I would not believe. The first thing that struck me was the peaceful and calm environment unlike where I came from. Gradually, I started having this feeling of peace and security that the place is a good place to stay and I adjusted. Today, it’s a part of me. The state loves visitors, they don’t discriminate and they’re ready to support you as long as you understand their limits. On security, Kwara is a fast-developing state with proximity with Lagos, Oyo and others. However, anything that happens in those states find way to Kwara, like the issue of #Endsars and Okada ban. We have our fair share of crime, kidnapping and cultism which have become so worrisome.
Were you ever attacked by criminals or critics because of your work?
No, except a long time ago when the net of my window was torn and my phone stolen. The thing is that you cannot find me in questionable places when I am not on duty.
What can you say has been your most difficult task?
There are three, the incident involving the former Senate President (Bukola Saraki) at the Eid ground around 2016. It took a lot of energy for the command to dispel the misinformation woven around that issue. It would have been very damaging for us as a federal security agency not to be able to protect the then number three citizen. Many people wanted to sustain the false narrative; it took a lot of courage for me to do that. The second was the kidnap of four Turkish citizens at Edu LGA. It was a very serious matter that brought the world’s attention to Kwara and the present IGP, Kayode Egbetokun, as CP then mobilised all the tactical teams, himself leading, to liberate them with the help of vigilantes and local hunters and we handed them to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq at night in Abuja where he personally handed them to the Turkish ambassador. The third was personal. A boy claimed I collected $2000 from him on his blog. It really shook my faith because I don’t collect money from people as a police officer to do anything for them and I challenged any one that had a contrary experience to come out and say it. I am not saying people have not been assisting my office but not exploitation.
What next now after retirement?
If there is an opportunity to still serve the government or anybody anytime, I am still available. But specifically, I am going into security and media consult.
What informed the writing of your book “Memoirs of a Police Image Maker” which you launched few days to retirement?
I cannot be this long in the public relations of the police force without articulating my thoughts, actions and experiences which will serve as research materials for many people, including journalists. That it came shortly after that of former female CP Ebunoluwarotimi Adelesi was only a coincidence. The launch prompted people asking if l am retiring soon just as madam did and I said yes. But I am happy for putting it on record.
What is the most difficult aspect of running a PPRO office?
The perception of the people is very difficult to change as a result of the behaviour of some of the officers on the field. If I say bail is free, don’t pay money at the counter or stop checking people’s phone as instructed by the IG, then you see officers practically flouting these directives, it’s very difficult to talk again tomorrow for them to believe.
And again, the PPROs are doing their best with little to show for it. Some of my colleagues will understand what I am saying. From experience, some policemen don’t really like us. They believe you are exposing them to the members of the public, especially if they do anything wrong. The public that you are trying to cover/serve also don’t love you. That is the challenge. However, it does not mean we shouldn’t do our job once you have satisfied you good conscience.
As a Christian living in a Muslim dominated environment, how has it been?
I enjoy the Islamic ways of teaching and like going to Eid though on special duties but I enjoy the way they pray and worship. Even now, I desire to know how to recite the Qur’an, not for any identity, but I like the way Muslims are dedicated to prayers when they read it.
What’s your advice then?
There are so many things we lack as PPROs in running of our offices and sometimes we have no choice than to take some of these jobs outside. Some of us don’t have printers, computers or are using obsolete ones and we have to work. Some of us don’t have official vehicles and those that have, at times, do the maintenance themselves. The blame is not only on the police authorities but the fact remains that the country deserves the kind of police they have. The authorities are trying their best but that best is not enough.
Now that they are trying to professionalise the department, all the needed equipment should be provided – from typewriters, computer, to projectors, video cameras, stationaries including papers, biros and the rest of them. Then, I would suggest there should be a monthly stipend to run the offices. As PPROs, we all know what we are expected to do because we have attended series of capacity trainings. But what I am not comfortable with, about some of them, is their involvement in social media platforms. There are so many things that some of us are doing wrongly, though I used to advice them on our platform. You see juniors insulting superior officers, taking advantage of anonymity of the social media. We can put out our achievements on social media but not going there for frivolities.
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