It was like a baptism of fire. Just a few days after resuming duties as the Commissioner of Police, Lagos state, Zubairu Muazu had a taste of what it looks like to police the popular but notorious city of excellence. He came on the heels of serious preparations for elections into the different positions in the country.
However, the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos automatically made it one of the flashpoints of the election. In fact, it was like a do-or-die affair between the ruling APC and the major opposition party, PDP. What made it more worrisome was the seemingly belligerent posture of the incumbent Governor who was denied a second chance of governing the state and the uncertainty that surrounded his political leaning.
Worse still, the dwindling popularity of President Buhari of the APC and the anarchical posture of the man widely known as the godfather of South West politics, Senator Bola Tinubu, presented a glaring picture of desperation in all fronts. This, to a large extent, pitched a camp between those who claim to be real Lagosians and indigenes of other states especially those from the South Eastern part of the country reputed to constitute a sizeable chunk of visitors to Lagos. Thus, the stage was glaringly set for an epic battle whose resultant effect was unpredictable.
The embers of the palpable fire were stoked on the D-day at areas occupied majorly by non-indigenes of Lagos as heavily armed dare-devil political thugs unleashed mayhem at polling booths. Worst hit was the populated and densely populated Ago palace Way where they broke ballot boxes and burnt electoral materials.
They also chased away voters who were busy exercising their franchise at different booths in and around the area. This brazen attack in the full glare of security agencies and very near Ago Police station elicited no less a spontaneous reaction from the angry and aggrieved voters who gave them a hot chase and succeeded in nearly lynching one of the thugs at the scene.
The boomerang effect of the attack led to fears in other areas occupied by non-indigenes prompting a red alert by the police to stem the escalation of, not just the crisis but, its attendant ethnic cleansing that may erupt.
Alas, the new Commissioner of Police, Zubairu Muazu swiftly took the bull by the horn and swung into action. He made a quick detour from far away Lekki, Ajah, and River rine areas of the state where he was inspecting the conduct of the election and raced to the affected areas to calm frayed nerves which were already degenerating into crisis. His effort was nearly marred by some recalcitrant security agents who tried to divert his attention from the scene of the crisis at Ago Palace Way.
He was, however, able to outsmart them and ended up arriving promptly at the scene and dousing the rising tension which could have snowballed into a serious ethnic crisis. Not done yet, CP Muazu who was able to gather intelligence report pointing to planned reprisal attacks by both parties to the crisis quickly mapped out strategies aimed at ameliorating it. He embarked on visits to all the aggrieved parties where he assured them of the vow by the police to deal decisively with perpetrators of the heinous crime and called for calm.
He equally summoned a meeting of leaders of all the ethnic groups in the state where fruitful discussions were held with firm assurances of maintaining peace during and after subsequent days of the election. On the operational angle, the police in the state embarked on an all-out “Operation Show Force’ where they showcased the preparedness of the force to quell any crisis and deal decisively with anybody caught breaching the peace.
Remarkably, plain clothed intelligence men of the force were posted to strategic positions in flashpoints where the crisis may erupt while men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, diligently carried out raids on criminal hideouts with a view to rounding up all those that may allow themselves to be used in any criminal operation. Unknown to many, while the police were busy dangling the carrot to suspected troubleshooters, they were also discreetly applying the stick to identified criminals in such a way that their dens were set on fire. This, to a large extent, helped tremendously in stemming the crisis that would have followed the attacks carried out on the first day of the election.
Police sources intimated Crime Guard that CP Muazu personally led a midnight raid in some of the identified areas prone to crisis in the state. Interestingly, the zeal with which the Commissioner of Police was able to synergise with other security agencies in the state remains a magic wand to many watchers.
The dispassionate and non discriminatory manner the police in Lagos ended up cooling tempers, according to an activist who pleaded for anonymity, is worthy of emulation and kudos should go to the police helmsman in the state, Zubairu Muazu, who just assumed duties in the state only to be confronted with crisis of such gargantuan proportions in a volatile city like Lagos. “It is a testimony that he is ably fit to paddle the canoe of crime fighting in the city,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, information at our disposal revealed that the Commissioner of Police has also intensified efforts at solidifying the relationship between all ethnic groups in Lagos by holding meetings with their leaders even after the elections with a view to not only building a strong bridge but, ensuring that they contribute positively in stemming crime and criminality in the city.
By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor Vanguard