Valors of the Old; Epitome of Refined Humanity

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Hope Olajumoke Fajana

History had it that there were Samurais, members of a powerful military caste in feudal Japan, who operated their ways of life by a set of codes of honor and ideals known as Bushido (the way of warriors) The Bushido code also known as the Samurai code is a code of conduct that emerged in Japan from the Japanese warriors, who spread their ideals throughout the society. They place a great deal of importance on loyalty and duty. The Bushido code contained eight key principles or virtues that warriors were expected to uphold. The principles of bushido emphasized honor, courage, skill in the martial arts and loyalty to a warrior’s master (Daimyo) above all else. It is somewhat similar to the ideals of chivalry that knights followed in the feudal Europe. The Daimyo were powerful Japanese Feudal Lords from 10th century to the middle of the 19th century; they ruled most of Japan from their vast, hereditary land holdings. Daimyo often hired Samurai to guard their lands, and they paid the Samurai in land or food as relatively few could afford to pay Samurai in money. They were further employed by their Feudal Lords to defend their territories against rivals, to fight enemies identified by the government, and battle with hostile tribes and bandits.

Samurai code (Bushido) allowed them to earn a reputation and status amongst their peers and masters. The eight principles of Bushido were:

  1. Justice
  2. Courage
  3. Compassion
  4. Respect
  5. Integrity
  6. Honor
  7. Loyalty
  8. Self-control

Drawing relation between the Samurais of the Japanese and the African Warriors, a particular story does not cease to obtrude into memory. In the African country of Nigeria, in a tribe known as the Yorubas in the Ekiti Kingdom, there was a war that spanned almost a decade known as the Kiriji (Ekiti Parapo War 1877-1886) What actually spurred the war and the reactions that ensued would be the content to be discussed here. An army of local warriors, over 50,000 of them, was produced through a coalition of forces by monarchs of Ekiti. They were to fight the legendary Ibadan warriors reputed to be very strong. Reason for the war? History had it that the Ibadans beamed their search light on Ado-Ekiti, one Ajele (Colonial Tax Master) from Ibadan was heard to have fondled the bosom of a prominent Ekiti Chief’s wife, thereby causing ruckus. This led to the hacking-off of the hand of the Ajele. The notoriety and high handedness of Ajeles were so much that Ekitis were forced to revolt. The threat of war from Ibadan led to the meeting of Ekiti Obas, they decided to mobilize against the rampaging Ibadan warriors. It would be safe to deduce that Ibadan warriors retaliated as a result of being press-boiled with indignation of being found wanting of noble characters expected of warriors. Perhaps they were of the opinion that their self-righteous anger was justified. Sexual harassment, inordinate taxes, bestiality, brutality and so on, all because the British government placed them in a position to supervise the vassalage states.

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 The emphasis here is not on the travails of the war, but rather, the high handedness of the Ajeles which culminated into the Kiriji war. If there had been no coalition of the monarchs of then to inaugurate Ekiti Parapo war team; their subordinates would have experienced nasty and brutish war treatment.

Bringing forth duo analogy from the above scintillating historical accounts and comparing the men of valor of then that is, the Ekiti Warriors to that of the Japanese Samurais, it can be deduced that they were men of courage, loyalty, integrity, justice and honor. They could not condone disrespect for their women.  In a similar vein, can it be said that the Ibadan warriors fought for just cause? This is not to apportion any blame whatsoever; since eons, there have been unruly behaviors among mankind, the stronger gets what he wants and the weaker suffers what he must. Accolades however are to be given to the men of valor (The Ekiti warriors) that can be likened to the Japanese Samurais who took it upon themselves to protect the weak.

ARE THERE SAMURAIS TODAY?

 Exploring the nexus between the Samurais of the Japanese and the Law Enforcement Agents across the world while beaming the search light on the Nigerian Police likened to be the Samurais of our time, the Nigerian Police have failed miserably in upholding ethics and discharging the duties expected of Samurais. The fundamental duties of a Police officer includes safeguarding lives and properties, protecting the innocent, keeping peace, community service, ensuring citizen’s rights to liberty, equality and justice. There are codes of conduct to provide members of the Nigerian Police Force with guiding principles and standards of behavior while on or off duty. The Nigerian Constitution as well as the Police Act also serves this purpose. The question is: Do Nigerian Police Officers observe this code of conduct?

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Nigerians are increasingly losing hope and confidence in the Nation’s Police Force because of the unethical conduct of some of its operatives. Most of the actions of the Nigerian Police Force have brought embarrassment to the Nation. Cases of bribery and extortion, sexual misconduct, extra-judicial murder are on the increase. It has been established that the rule of law has been disastrously negated by the unprofessional attitude of the largely ineffectual Police Force.

Below are some uncanny and unruly behaviors of the Nigerian Police Force which is least expected of people deemed to be Samurais of our time.

Unlawful Detention and Extortion

Going by the provisions of section 35 (4) & (5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended 2011), the Police supposedly not, except in capital or other serious offences, detain a person beyond 48 hours in any case. Unfortunately, countless ordinary Nigerians attempting to make ends meet as taxi drivers, market traders, and shopkeepers are accosted on daily basis by armed Police officers who demands bribe and commit human-right abuses against them as means of extorting money. Those who fail to pay are frequently threatened with arrest and physical harm. Far too often these threats are carried out. Meanwhile, victims of crime are obliged to pay the police from the moment they enter a police station to file a complaint until the day their case is brought before a court. In the shadows, high level police officials embezzle staggering sums of public funds meant to cover basic police operations. Senior police officers also enforce a perverse system of “returns” in which rank and file officers are compelled to pay up the chain of command a share of the money they extort from the public.

Extra Judicial Murders

Many Nigerians went on the social media in the month of May 2020 to demand justice for Tina a 17 years old girl, who was allegedly killed by a trigger-happy policeman in Lagos-State. The killing is just the latest in a series of extra judicial killings and unlawful actions by members of the Nigerian Police force. Judicial convictions for extra judicial killings in Nigeria are rare and many cases of human rights violations by law enforcement officers remain largely unpunished.

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Sexual Misconduct

Sexual assaults are widespread in Nigeria. An estimated two million Nigerian women and girls are sexually assaulted annually. Apart from the stigma associated with being a rape victim, it is preposterous to be raped by Law Enforcement Officials. Of recent, Pamela 23 years old, arrested on a public transit from Port-Harcourt on July 28, 2020 for not wearing face mask as against the Government directives to prevent the spread of Corona Virus pandemic was allegedly raped by four Police officers. According to her, she was driven to a guest house and was threatened to be eliminated if she did not cooperate. Law Enforcement Officials had faced accusations of rape and assault even before the Corona virus pandemic and lockdown. In April last year, more than 65 women were arrested during a raid on nightclubs in the Federal capital Abuja. The women reported of been taken to a police station where bribes were demanded in exchange for their release. Those who could not afford to pay the bribes were allegedly raped by the Police officers who used empty plastic bags, often used to sell sachet water instead of condoms. All these are appalling and should not be heard of our supposed Samurais.

 Corruption

According to a survey conducted by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), “a bribe is paid in 54 percent of interactions with the police. In fact, there is a 63 percent probability that an average Nigerian would be asked to pay a bribe each time he or she interacted with the police. That is almost two out of three.”

To wrap up, this piece does not intend to praise the Samurais of old to high heavens but history speaks still that they were men of selfless integrity and high moral standards. Unfortunately, their supposed modern substitutes have created a vast contrast from which we draw ironical comparisons.

Hope Olajumoke Fajana is a graduate of Law. Having completed her Bar part 2 program at the Nigerian Law School, her areas of interest include legal research, life coaching and writing.

She can be reached via hopelantiki@gmail.com

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