The new Lagos Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mrs Ngozi Conchita Braide, might look gentle and unassuming, but behind that outward look is a tough character, a woman who is guided by the need to do the right thing at the right time.
Those were the qualities her mother saw in her and young Ngozi had to abandon university education and joined the police cadet. Since then, the woman, who later studied English Language at the Lagos State University has not disappointed her mother for all the confidence the old woman has in her.
Articulate and young Ngozi did not mince words as she revealed her private life to us in this exclusive interview in her office last week.
We will like you to tell us how and when you joined the police
I joined the force in 1996 as a Cadet Inspector and I was trained at theNigerianPoliceAcademyinKano. We have only one academy inNigeria.
Why did you actually join the force and how did your parents react to it
It was my parents, who encourage me to be an officer; I never wanted to join the police force. So, it was my mother’s making, then I was in the university studying English Language, and my mother called me that she would like me to join the force as a Cadet Inspector. But, my father was saying that even if I should join, I should be allowed to finish my first degree, but my mother was saying they were the same thing. The aim of the cadet programme is to catch them young, the requirements is six credits in your O’level results, including English and Mathematics, and you will spend two years at the academy.
It was a big argument at home, but at the end of the day, my father was convinced by my mother. Later, I went for the interview. I am fromImoState, but I was inAbiaStateUniversity then. I went for the interview and I was chosen, they were impressed with my school certificate results, I had a very good result at a sitting, so they were impressed. Then, I was 19, I got admission at 17. I was 19 years, when I joined the police force. I came out of the academy, but I couldn’t go back to the university again. I was told that, when you graduate from the academy, you would be posted back to your zone, my zone happened to be Calabar as that time, but I was not posted there, I was posted to Ekiti State and I was on attachment.
During the attachment, it’s like you are learning the job, you move from one department to another; administration, investigation, traffic and one other, which I cannot recollect now, they are four in all. You will spend three months in each department. So, I lost the university admission. After the one year attachment in Ekiti, I was posted to Interpol.
Why did your mother encourage you to join the police force
As a parent, you must have noticed some things in your children. My father noticed that I had a strong character, while growing up as a kid. My father kept saying I had a leadership quality because I was very firm and all that. May be these were the things my mother saw in me and she felt I would do well in the force. Like I said, I wasn’t happy, I never liked it, but I think I am the happiest person inNigeriaright now or even on earth.
Despite that, don’t you see the police job as being tough for a woman
Not at all, considering where I am coming from,CadetSchool, the curriculum is so tedious, we went through a lot in the academy. You are taken away from your family; we went to Wudil inKanoState, somewhere that is out of the town, from the eastern part of the country to the far north. You are there for almost two years; you don’t go out, just training, book and physical activities. It made me stronger, it added to the qualities I was born with. We did everything together with the men; it was the same school, same training, no discrimination, nothing like a woman or man. If we wanted to jog in the morning, it was the same thing with the men, academics and others, everything is the same. We went toMaidugurifor mobile training, it was the same training. We went to Jos, Plateau State again, Sherry Hill for leadership training, there you have a lot of psychologists, they monitor you, watch you, study you and at the end of the day, write their reports, and whatever they write about you is what you are. My report was fantastic, when I saw my reports, I knew it was me.
Don’t you still feel intimidated by men; there are so many men around in the force
I don’t feel intimidated because I know what I am doing. I can only feel intimidated if I don’t have anything upstairs, if I am weak, lazy and if I don’t have passion for this job. I don’t feel intimidated because they can’t do it better than me.
You are no doubt a beautiful lady, so have you ever been sexually harassed by senior male police officers
Issues of sexual harassment can only be patronized by very weak minds, dullards, and unintelligent women. They are the ones who see it as a problem, I would never see it, I won’t patronize it, I don’t know whether it exists in the force, but I know it’s everywhere. It is not something to talk about or glorify, if a man sees you and discovers that you don’t have anything to offer, he can harass you. I don’t think anybody can harass me sexually.
How does your husband feel having a police officer as wife and how do you cope with the job and family at the same time
This is a different work terrain, before I came here, I was in investigation, so moving away from what I am used to is a different thing. Police job is one that gives you opportunity to know it all. You should be able to fit in anywhere as a police officer. I headed a Finance unit and you see me dealing with accounting and I was never an accountant, which is what the police force does for you. In this office now, I see my private life being invaded. In the past, I didn’t pick unknown calls, but these days, one of the challenges is you need to pick all your calls.
You are a public servant, Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), somebody might be in distress, somebody might need an urgent attention, so I pick all calls, and weekends are also like that, midnight, early in the morning. My family understands that I am a career woman and I have to do my job.
Let me say I don’t envy you because to be a PPRO, I can imagine what you go through in projecting the image of the force to the people
You don’t have to envy me at all. I find it easy because I love the job, if you have anything against the force; it is my duty to tell you it’s not like that.
(…Cuts in) what of if it is like that
It can’t be like that, we have to educate the people, there is no organization or society where you don’t have good eggs and bad eggs. There would always be some bad eggs in every organization. You know, because we enforce the law, people don’t really like that, so they don’t like the police. When you talk of corruption, it takes two to tango. You are driving now; you don’t have your vehicle license and a policeman stops you, and then you says ‘officer, take this,’ and you offer him money. These are the issues, and I have to tell you, don’t do that, get your vehicle licenses, get your vehicle papers, and if you have all these, tell me who would stop you, but they ask you for money when your papers are not complete. So, if everything is intact, you can now call the office of the PPRO or any DPO and it would be taken care of. But when you initiate bribery, you are equally guilty, we are part of the society, we sprang up from the society. I didn’t just wake up to become a police officer; I was a civilian like you before I got here.
What are your guiding principles as an officer
My training, my upbringing, they both taught me to always behave well and do the right thing. I like being thorough, I like to be sincere in all things. Some people like to pervert justice, you know you are wrong and you want to prove you are right. I have been at the Force Headquarters all through, I worked in Interpol, which is under Force CID, I was in Intelligence Bureau and some other departments at the headquarters. When you are at the headquarters, you tour all parts of the country, you can go anywhere, take a case file from any state, you are sent anywhere, no matter the location.
But you have some people, may be a case is reported at Lagos State Command and the suspect knows someone in the Police Headquarters inAbuja, and he now goes there, write another petition and the office takes over the case, the suspect becomes the complainant. Such cases, many of them have happened to me and when I look at the case and I see that you are wrong, you just want to mess the whole thing up, I turn around the case to what it should be. I have done it, not once, not twice, but sometimes you see them running toAbuja. They won’t even tell them the case has been reported somewhere before, so I always try to ensure justice is done and it has kept me going. I now discovered that most people that come back to me to request for advice or something are the people I investigated as my suspects. They would say we have this problem, though I investigated them, they have confidence in me. You see them coming back with their lawyers to report one thing or the other. So, sincerity and truthfulness have been my watchword, I believe in being very clean.
What can make you leave the police force
That is when I retire, nothing can make me leave the force. I am ready to work anywhere I am posted to, even if you think the place is dead, when I get there, it would wake up. I don’t think anything could make me to leave. It’s only when I retire or if I die.