Hakeem Olusegun Odumosu, Lagos State Commissioner of Police is one of the quintessential law enforcement officers in the country having proven the stuff he’s made of with handling of high-profile police assignments across the country.
It was not surprising that the Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu recommended him as the head of enforcement unit of the Presidential Taskforce on Apapa gridlock in Lagos, a position he held until he was appointed the CP of the State. In this interview, he spoke extensively on his journey into the police force, his near death experiences and his passion for education, among others.
Why did you decide to enlist into the Nigerian police?
After my graduation from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1984, I went to Port Harcourt for my national youth service. I got involved in transportation, I was also a lecturer. As at that time, federal government had this policy, if you don’t have any credit in English, no promotion. That was how so many private schools sprung up and since English was my major area, I became a hot cake. While I was doing my official lecturing duty, I was also organizing private lectures at home and some highly placed people don’t want to be seen in the classroom. I was arranging private lectures at home for them. I became a celebrity in academic field. It took me around the South South and South East. I realized that since it is a one man’s job, and people started telling me that after spending 20 years, I will not receive pension. I then asked myself which job I can do that is challenging. I discovered that I have a restless nature. I want a job that I will use my intellect and physical abilities. I went to Customs and failed, I tried police and was shortlisted.
Were your parents okay with your choice of career?
I did not even tell them at all being the first son. I applied in 1988 and was told that I have to go back to my state. I applied in Rivers, which is zone 6 and I am from Ogun State, which is under zone 2. I didn’t succeed in 1988 and I had to wait for another two years because then police used to recruit every two years. So during the period of waiting, I put myself together, came back to Lagos and got another teaching job at Igbobi College. I was there and when the police started recruiting again, I applied and luckily I succeeded.
On March 3, 1990, I was enlisted and since then it has been a story of success. I am currently 30 years in service. My family heard about it after I was enlisted. It was my mum that gave me tough time and I understand her feelings as a woman. I don’t know how she got to know some of the things I went through during Police Mobile Force training.
In the beginning, I did not tell them and when I returned I was able to persuade them to allow me stay. I told them that all I needed was constant prayers. I told them that even if I wanted to leave that I am expected to spend at least 10 years or I will be arrested. Luckily, before the end of that ten years they became my greatest fans.
You seem to have so many educational qualifications including one from the Nigeria Institute of Journalism…
I joined police with my first degree in English and because of my passion for education I continued to improve myself by studying further. I like to play with words, not figures. In the course of this job, I was posted to be in charge of the pay office and I pleaded with them that I don’t want to end up in prison because of a mistake because I hate numbers. When I was writing my books, my wife will fight me to come and eat. I guess that is why till date, I do not have a social life.
Some of my books are: Principles of English Language, 1005 objective questions and answers in English and Price of Indiscipline, which are still used in schools. My experience in education will be resurrected after my retirement since academic life is 70 years. This means that I still have the opportunity to go back to school as a lecturer. I have done my masters in Public Administration, Post graduate Diploma in Security Management, Advanced Diploma in Law Enforcement administration , Higher Diploma in Terrorism studies, PGD in Public Relations and Marketing. I was also at the Nigeria Institute of Journalism and also studied Law at the National Open University (NOUN). I was doing all these along with my job and was still efficient.
Can you recall any of your most challenging cases in the past 30 years?
One of the most challenging experiences was the aftermath of annulment of June 12 presidential election. I was posted to Ketu to be in-charge of operation weeks before that incident. It was between the Mile 12 axis mostly populated with Nigerians from northern part and Ogudu Ojota axis. For five months , I was sleeping under the Ojota bridge because of the problem. In one of the instances, my second in command collapsed when he saw the crowd advancing from Ojota. It was not easy to appear to be seen to be neutral because it was turning into a tribal war. We are police officers and we were enlisted to serve all Nigerians and we did our best. It was tough one. A lot of people were slaughtered, the shock of picking up corpses is still very fresh in my memory.
Next was the era of Shina Rambo, a former armed robbery kingpin who terrorized the Southwest in the 1990s. There were only 10 patrol vehicles and those vehicles were Peugeot 504. He will come with about 20 men and each of them will move with an exotic car. Every policeman on the road was his target. From Ketu division, I was posted to Satellite police station and that night I was assigned to patrol Orile axis. One night, he attacked and rained bullets on our patrol vehicle. We had to crawl under the vehicle and call for backup. I was lucky because they rendered the patrol vehicle useless with bullets. Unfortunately, one of my boys on duty that day was hit by the bullet. It could have been me and I thank God for saving me that day.
Did you at any point think of leaving the police?
I never thought of leaving the force at any point even if I was posted to an area that others see as bad. I used to ask people to show the form they filled where it was listed where you are going to serve. We are to serve anywhere, within and outside the country. This is why some of us go on foreign missions. Our job is a general duty, which means all assignments. I am not in the medical field, tailoring or band . All those ones are known as specialists. I have gone through all the sections in Nigeria police. Just open your mind if you want to make a career from it. In everything in life, there are ups and downs, it is left for us to learn a lesson and move on.
How do you strike a balance between being a dad and a policeman?
As a policeman, you have to realize that you are a father, a son and a husband. The home front must be good if not you will not be psychologically stable to function in the office. When I am home, I am a father; when I am in the office I am a policeman. I try not to allow my work schedule to disturb my family. I will not get home by 3am and expect my wife to wake up and attend to me. I am aware that she will wake up by 6am to attend to the children. If I do that I will end up destroying her health. My wife is doing a great job in raising our children. She is the pillar of the success of the job. I am successful because at home I have peace.
How has it been policing Lagos as the Commissioner of Police?
The advantage I have is that I know Lagos inside and out. I had the unique opportunity to be the chairman of the state taskforce for five years under Bola Ahmed Tinubu. After that, I was transferred to so many other parts of the country till former Governor Raji Fashola brought me back to serve as Rapid Response Squad (RRS) commander for eight years. As the taskforce commander, my major assignment was on environmental offences, demolition of illegal structures, illegal street trading , activities of touts and giving security to all government agencies. The taskforce was seen as the teeth of the state government. Anything enforcement was us. As at that time, there was no LASTMA, KAI , LASEPA and all these agencies that were created recently. Everything was done by the taskforce that gave me the geographical knowledge of the state.
By the time I came back as commander RRS, we were dealing on violent crimes. Bank robberies or major crisis that the capacity of the commissioner police cannot handle , we were called to move in. We help to put it under control and we go back to our regular patrol.
When you resumed as the CP Lagos, you promised to tackle the terrible traffic situation at that time, do you think that you have achieved that?
Lagos is a mega city and the business nerve centre of the country. What compounded that issue then was because of the borders that were closed and construction of roads. The first thing I did was to reduce the work strength in the divisions and mobilized appropriately to areas with high traffic gridlock. I mobilized about 1000 policemen for that purpose. The state government also tried by giving us motorbikes that we used to maneuver and catch traffic robbers.
During the COVID-19 total lockdown, there was so much panic in the state over the activities of suspected criminals popularly known as one million boys. Then, the state command insisted that it was fake news, what really happened?
There is nothing like one million boys, it is just a group of criminals that chose that name to intimidate people. It was the panic being created when they started writing anonymous letters throughout that period.
To put the mind of people at rest, I mobilized the military and went on confidence building patrol and each area we visited , we will gather people and talk with them. So many out of reasons known to them started bringing out clips of old crisis in order to further create panic.
There was this video clip of jungle justice that happened in Rivers State and they posted it that it was happening in Bariga. We were in Aguda with military convoy including helicopter of the air force addressing the people when they posted another one that Aguda was burning. The GOC in Abuja sent a message to the brigade commander who was with us demanding that he should go to the same Aguda where we were doing show of force. We took time and patrolled the entire Aguda and confirmed it was just false alarm.
It is because of such activities of miscreants that made me to establish Lagos Taskforce on social miscreants. Their job is just to tackle the activities of miscreants.
As the police continue to enforce COVID-19 restrictions, what is expected of Lagosians?
We have been using the persuasive enforcement not combative method. We started assisting government through advocacy. Many people don’t believe that it is real. Some call it a big man’s disease. Some will say when they don’t have money to enter plane , how will they get it. They forgot that the big man has a driver that lives in Ajegunle. He will take it to Ajegunle and spread it. My appeal is that they should continue to follow religiously all the directives given by the health officials and state government. I want to appeal to the transporters, now that we have started a gradual release of the lockdown, we discovered that some drivers out of ignorance will buy face mask and keep in their vehicle. They give to every passenger without a face mask that board their vehicle. My appeal is to their conscience, everyone should do his or her own bit so that COVID-19 will be a thing of the past.
We are not out to be punitive. We are out to make you to be responsible and take care of your health. We will continue to appeal to people’s conscience and luckily there is gradual compliance. We are no longer enforcing seat belt because people voluntarily wear their seat belt. I hope that in the next two weeks people will voluntarily comply.