Being a valedictory speech by AIG Dorothy Dongna’an Gimba on the occasion of her Retirement and Pulling-Out Parade on January 4th, 2019, at the Police Staff College, Jos
Posted by: J Chagu
It is said in the Holy book that better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof (Ecclesiastes 7 vs 8). Today is symbolic in my life and career, having been trained and commissioned on this same ground into the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), 35 years ago, in December 1984. I am so blessed that I attained my retirement, as there are many others, who have left before it was their time. Today marks an epoch in my life and career because it is the last as a serving Police officer.
I want to address my parting words to four particular groups of stakeholders: Firstly, to the general public we serve the Press, who observe and report, the Politicians, who govern and, finally, the Police Officers and Staff whom I have worked alongside for thirty-five years.
THE GENERAL PUBLIC
The public had it right from the very beginning: You are us and we are you. You are the reason why we do what we do. Ask most Police officers why they joined the Force, and they will simply tell you that they wanted to make a difference – for communities, for families, for victims, for the vulnerable.
It was hardly about power or fame; it was for the service. I want you to know that, in spite of our evident imperfections, the majority of the men and women I have been privileged to work with over the years are just about as extraordinary as people can be: people of courage and compassion, of heroism and humanity, of bravery and brilliance, of determination and that precious, old-fashioned thing, “the call of duty.”
These are the most challenging times for us as a nation. The rate of crime is rising – certainly crimes of the most heinous nature. There is a rising demand for services, as people are falling through the gaps with regards to service delivery.
The complexities of our challenges are increasing – as crime crosses international borders and digital frontiers. But, at the same time, Police officers are daily in danger. I have seen police personnel working under significantly more strain than at any previous point of my career; all of which means that the Police needs your assistance, insight and empathy more than ever before.
You need to be demanding of us – because you deserve the best from us. But you need to understand the incredible pressures we are under. The truth is that, we will always do our job better when we do it side-by-side with you. I was never just a Police Officer; I am a Nigerian; a wife; a mother. I am one of you, and your sister.
The Press is entitled to expect higher standards from Police Officers than they do of anyone else. The promises we make and the powers we are given mean that we occupy a unique position in the society. And, if you cannot trust the police, who can you trust? I want the Press to hold us to those standards: robustly and relentlessly, too.
Because the experience of recent history tells us that when policing gets it wrong – individually or institutionally – the consequences can be devastating. I want journalists to question and challenge, be brutally blunt when circumstances demand.
However, two other things I want from the Press are, balance and better discernment. The prevailing media narrative about policing in this country has a tendency to be astonishingly hostile – as headlines clamor with the accusations that the police are corrupt; that the police are incompetent. Well, some of us might have failed in service delivery, as there should be no hiding place from these truths. But, in the vast majority of cases, the reality could be more different.
For every negative tale told about this job and its personnel, I could tell you a hundred and one that are astonishing. I will never grow tired of talking about the everyday heroism of the Police officers, who stand on guard, under the sun, in darkness and the wind, so that we can all sleep. Theirs are untold stories that demand to be told.
The second appeal to the Press is for far greater understanding of the difference between mistakes and misconducts. Those, who are not professional in their conduct, should be brought to book; thankfully, there are internal mechanisms within the Nigeria Police Force to address such gaps.
There are thousands of good officers doing sometimes impossible tasks in frequently impossible circumstances – making life-and-death decisions in fractions of seconds. We need to remember that sometimes people make mistakes, honest, entirely human mistakes.
Policing and Politics can be uneasy bedfellows – perhaps best kept at a respectful distance from one another. As I look back over my years in the service, it is hard to escape the conclusion that, with some honorable exceptions, politics and certain politicians have tended to make working life harder, rather than easier.
Back in 1984, when I joined the Nigeria Police Force, we held strongly to the idea of operational independence and control. The promise I made to serve, without fear or favor; but, over time, lines became blurred, whilst struggling to extricate itself out of politics; politics has, increasingly, got intertwined into policing.
It is important to be really clear here. I have no problem whatsoever with accountability. Policing must always be held up for scrutiny, but it needs to be accountability, which is free from agendas.
Furthermore, the need for training, and better equipment and adequate funding for the Nigeria Police is the panacea for improved service delivery and, therefore, cannot be overemphasized. This fact is buttressed by the obvious excellent performances of the Nigeria Police personnel, who excel in international engagements but do not meet up to that mark at home.
TO THE POLICE OFFICERS
You are last in the line but not the least. A message first for the bosses, who are in positions of leadership in the Force – I was one of them; we need to remember two things: Policing is all about people; it is the people whose lives need to be protected, they are the ones, who need a lost child to be found, and they are the vulnerable ones, who require protection – a sine-qua-non for community policing.
Therefore, they must constantly be our referral point. To our junior colleagues, the men and women, who sometimes, pay the supreme price of all. Our job is to guide them – to look after them and to enable them carry on with their daily mandate without any fear.
Furthermore, a message for all of you Police Officers, Inspectors, Rank and File; you are the unsung heroes. My constant insistence on due process and professionalism is all in a bid for you to become fine gallant officers.
I want to say I love you. I love the time I spent with you (aside from my immediate family, I would choose your company ahead of almost any other). I love the fact that you have been there despite the very long hours of work, under very difficult conditions and that, instinctively, you bear it all with silent mien.
I love the stories you tell. I love your sense of humor. I love your unique capacity to see both the clouds in a sky full of sun and the light in a sky full of rain. I love the fact that what you do matters. Most of all, I love your endless courage and humanity.
You are not perfect, but when you are at your best, you present the very best that human beings can be. It has been the greatest privilege of my professional life to count myself amongst you. Whatever the future may bring, I will always be able to say that I was one of you.
I am going to miss you all. Please, keep healthy, keep fit, keep smiling and pray for better times. We all want to reach the end-lap of our service in this wonderful job; so, we need to look after ourselves so you are able to get to where I am today, by God’s grace, of course
As I take a bow out of the NPF. I am passing the baton to younger women and men officers in the nation to come forward and take up the mantle of the fight against crime. I am retired but not tired. Feel free to come to me anytime for advice or counsel, especially as regards to our professional challenges.
To my family: my beautiful children; loving you has been the greatest joy of my life.
Finally, to all guest, family and friends, who have come from far and near to honor me on this auspicious occasion, I extend my profound gratitude and appreciation for your labor of love. May God grant you journey mercies back to your various destinations.