I have risen above what I saw as challenge at the beginning -Nwashindi
Omosetemi Agbede Nwashindi is a superintendent of police and the commanding officer of Delta State Special Protection Unit Base 25, Asaba. Her voice could sing a baby to sleep and, at the same time, can put fear into a criminal. She brings finesse into her police duties, and even at social functions. The vibrant super female cop is known for her high sense of fashion. In her capacity as the commanding officer of dragon base 25, she has brought some sanity to the force. In this interview with ADA NWANAGUM, she talks about her life as a police officer, among other salient issues.
Congratulations on your recent elevation. Could you tell us about your new designation?
It’s a great task for me, because, men have been occupying the position for long. But I say to myself, one day, I will be a commander and I will be the first female Inspector General of Police; and that dream has come to pass. Today, I am a commander of a unit. Someday, I will be the first female Inspector General of Police, by God’s grace. As long as my Lord lives, words of the mouth cannot stop me, because, I know where I am going to. It’s an indication that I am being noticed. The force finds me worthy to head my unit, especially at this moment that it seems I am hardworking. I bless God. For me, it is not a burden, because, I have always had passion for police work. Presently, I am on higher ground and I am enjoying it; even though it is a tough work. I still enjoy it because of the passion I have for it. I see my work as a responsibility and not necessarily as a task or major challenge. I see it as an added assignment, and I have been having a good run. Thanks to my AIG and my other bosses, who have been supportive.
Which of the offices you have held posed the biggest challenge for you?
Well, as a commander of a unit, you have much on your hand to battle with, because, you have no one else to push it to than to take up your responsibility. It is like being moved to the position of a manager in a large institution. You are at that point not just managing people, but also designating people to duties and responsibilities. So, I create tasks, delegate people to handle them and get the results. It is a higher responsibility for me, but with power of delegation.
Before now, do we have Special Protection Unit in Delta state?
Delta state was without Special Protection Unit until the assumption of office by the incumbent IGP, who saw the need to reposition the operational capacity of the Nigeria police force for effective service delivery; leading to the establishment of the base in the state. The establishment of the unit in Delta state is a move by the police to bring the police service delivery closer to the people. I want to appreciate Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for donating and renovating the three-storey building housing the SPU formation as well as providing logistics support for a smooth takeoff of the formation. My undiluted appreciation goes to the IGP for supporting the developed role of national mechanism for promoting gender equality and empowerment of women in the force and finding me worthy of being the first female commander in charge of a base in the history of the Nigeria police force. The establishment of the unit has further improved tremendously the security of lives and properties in the area as the community has now become a no-go area for any kind of criminal activity.
What does being a policewoman mean to you?
Right now, I am looking inward. Policing is a profession. It is angelic, because, you could be sleeping late in the night and someone calls you that he is being attacked and you stand up and mobilise people to the scene. With that, lives are saved and properties recovered or protected. I don’t think anyone can just be called upon to do that. And again, I do not think that it is everyone that will stand up like that to go and rescue anyone. So, I see police work as being angelic and I am grateful to God that I am doing such job. It is an uncommon profession, when you are a police officer. I am glad to be a police officer and if I returned to this world, I would still be proud to be a police officer.
How do you combine your work with family life?
I am definitely not going to say that it is an easy task, because, the home needs my attention and the office needs my attention too. But I think I have been lucky to have a supportive family. God bless my heaven-sent mother. My children have come to understand that they see mummy when they see mummy. They are independent. And when they do not see mummy, it means they do not see mummy. What I have also been doing is that the little time I have with the children, I use it to bond with them. I dedicate such times to them. And when it is time for work, there I go. It has been God, who has taught me how to cope, especially when you have this image of the police force being almost everything to you.
What informs your decision to join the force that scares majority of women?
I had this dream as a child seeing myself wearing the police uniform. I felt so much in love with that uniform. I said to myself, one day, I will become the police I.G; but how I will get there, I don’t know. But that journey is what has led me to where I am today. Truly, with all modesty, I have seen a lot of young people, who said to me that I have made them to like and admire the police force. And they tell me that it makes them to take a second look at joining the police force or taking a shot at a career in the force. Yes, that has been a thing of joy to me because, whatever you are doing, you should be showing example. That will be the indication that you are doing it right.
If I should, by my work and physical appearance, convince people to the extent that they want to join the police force, then, as a commander, I am certainly on the right track. So, to answer your question on whether I foresaw myself being a police officer before I joined the force, I will say a very big yes. I can say that when I was growing up, my father used to tell me that what is worth doing, is worth doing well. I wished to be a police officer. I worked towards it; and today, I am in it.
Looking back now, do you have any regret about that decision?
Looking back, I have no regret because, while I was growing up, I believed that I would be a lady on uniform, Today, I bless God. Then, I figured that I wanted to save lives. I have always had passion to save people or save lives. Also, I recall that when I was in primary school, my mates used to come to call me whenever they were bullied or oppressed by same sex or the opposite sex, and I would champion their cause and ward off the oppressors. Indeed, maybe, in a way, God prepared me for this. So, gradually, I was doing it even without realising it.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered so far in this job?
Well, the only challenge I have faced so far is equal opportunity that is not given to the female and male on the job. The male folks have more opportunities than the females. I bless God for my life today, because, I have risen above what I saw as a challenge at the beginning of my career. Where women do not tread on the job, I now tread there; because, it has been my determination to tread where men tread.
Who would you say has been your mentor or source of inspiration?
I will say my mom has been my mentor. She has a strong character. She doesn’t give up on anything. She believes that with a strong, hard push, a mountain can shift. She brought us up that way. That is why when I come across any challenge in my work as a police officer, I do not bulge or give up to the challenge. Secondly, I get inspired by my late husband. He tells you to be focused, no matter what you are going through, because, the end justifies the means. These two people have really inspired me in life. I am grateful to God.
What more can you say about your husband?
He is the best husband any woman can think of. He is the best friend I know. He is a fantastic guy, cool and focused. The husband of my youth. So peaceful, easy going. A man that believes in giving his wife the best. If there is a new car in the house, my husband hands the key over to me. He believes in his wife having the best of all. He has told me that I should keep him away from my work. He is the one I run to if I am having challenges at work or with anything. We met as friends and he was my best friend until he passed away. I remember opening his Bible when I returned from my course abroad. I saw what he wrote as prayer request for the family before he passed on. He wrote that God should make his wife the commander of Special Protection Unit, Base 25, Asaba, and God should help his children pass their WAEC examinations. No prayer point for himself. My husband lives his life for others. Today, God has answered his prayers. I am the commander. That is to show how passionate his heart was towards his wife and family. He goes as far as paying school fees for others, not minding that his children school fees have not been paid. I can’t stop talking about him. His heart is made of gold and mere words cannot express how I feel living without him. And I love him endlessly because, we will meet to part to more. I miss him so much.
What has been the turning point in your life and career?
People have had pre-conceived notion about the police. Some see the police as an agent of oppression, and treat them as such. But I know and hope that all such impressions will change. We are trying our best in that regard so that the police and members of the public could remain good friends.
Had there been any moment when you thought of giving up your career?
That moment was definitely when I was at the police academy. My first experience of grounding in the academy was horrible. As a fresh graduate, straight from the national youth service corps programme, I was drilled. I mean rigorous training, but I came prepared, so, I overcome it. Though, initially, it was not easy. The parade, which took place every day too was not encouraging; the blowing of the bugle that woke us up in the dark at 5am was very disturbing. In the morning, we were forced to run, and do all sorts of exercises. Then, also, we were taught to lift up our legs in a left and right manner; all that were overwhelming for me. All that really took some time to sink into my head. And you know what, I thought the one we encountered during the NYSC period was tedious. But when I got to the police academy, I realised that what we did at the NYSC camp was a big joke. At the end of the day, that training toughened us, because, we are not meant to be the usual regular persons, when we go to the road. We are trained tough so that we can weather tough moments on the job.
Also, we were trained to be civil so that no matter what condition we find ourselves, we could still remain civil. It was tough. And from there, we moved to the mobile police training, where we were woken in the morning and you stand up and start jogging. Everything with mobile police training is force. Even when we were to eat, we were told that we could only know when we start eating our meal, but do not know when we will stop; which means that you could just be taking your first two spoons of food, when the bugle is blown and you must drop your food and move.
It is assumed that police officers, who wear uniforms at work do not have time for building fashionable wardrobes. Do you really have regular clothes?
Well, if I must say, the best attire I can ever have as a police officer is my police uniform. As a policewoman, the earlier one has that at the back of one’s mind, the better. My uniform remains my best attire. If you invite me to a wedding or any other social function on a work day, I will be there in my uniform. That is because, I can be there at your social function and duty calls. But outside police work, I love beautiful gowns. I also love to wear good quality tops and expensive dresses. I love to look good. I also like my jeans because, it enables me to be on the go. Except, of course, I am lucky not to be on duty, and it is an event where one is reminded to wear our traditional attire. But I must tell you that I am more fashionable in my police uniform than in any other clothing. I have won my uniform long enough to keep me warm and comfortable.
Could we share your childhood experiences?
I was well cared for when I was growing up. I am what people call daddy’s girl. I was not a mommy’s girl, because, my mummy was a disciplinarian! So, I was a daddy’s girl. My dad taught me to be open and plain and not to play pranks. I didn’t play pranks, because, there were no opportunities for that.
How do you handle being beautiful and having a huge height that intimidate people?
I think you should rephrase the question because, with my 6.4 feet height, men should not be intimidated by me. My height has opened doors for me. I am not regretting it. I have been carrying this height for over 3 decades. Since I was young. I remember, while growing up, I was tall. As a junior student of J.S.S.3, I was 1.8 meters. I have always had this height; I mean tall above my agemates. It wasn’t so easy, because, everybody taught I was too old for my age. And I converted it to an advantage because, when people see me, the first thing that comes on their mind is, looking at my feet, to know if I am wearing heels. I am used to people telling me you are so tall and I would reply yes, I know. Some will look at me from head to toe. I am already used to it and I have a prepared answer for everybody. My mother used to tell me that I am beautiful, that I have lovely eye balls. My mates then used to talk about my heights and when I got home, I will report them to my mom. Instead, my mom will look at me alarmed that I had the best child in the whole world anyone can have. My dad made me to grow up knowing that I am a beautiful woman. This is not a joke, but during those early days, while I was at the police academy, and during our parades, the men among us used to miss their steps because, they were usually looking at me (she laughs at the memory). I always get admirers because of my height.
When men tell you that you are beautiful, how do you react?
Some people just say it as a compliment and nothing attached. When I see such people, I figure them out because, I can sense sincerity when I see it. ‘Oh thank you’, is always my answer. But when I sense that there is more to the simple compliment, I easily ward off the person. I don’t fight anyone for having interest in me. I manage the situation. For some of them, I will immediately start calling them my uncle, which tells them exactly what they are to me. When I am not in a police uniform and someone is overdoing a compliment, sometimes, I just scare them by asking, ‘Can you handle a police officer?’ And the next question they usually ask me is, ‘Are you a police officer for real?’ And then, I will reply, ‘Yes, I am.’ And then, the change of discussion. But some will tell you they don’t mind. It is you that I see, I am not seeing a police officer.’ Then, I will say, ‘Sorry, I am married,’ to put them away. Some men are stubborn, so, the best thing is to cut off from them.
Have you had any close-to-death experience so far in your career?
Yes, I’ve had. I am a very inquisitive person. I always want to learn. When I was at Kano state command, I was the most senior person in my division then. I was (D.C.O) and the commissioner of police, then, AIG Idris, called on the radio that the most senior officer should led the team and go to the place where robbery incident was taking place. I mobilised with my team and we moved to the scene. I went there, not minding am a woman, and we faced the robbers and recovered, 5 AK 47, 10 Magazine, a huge sum of money and so many things. We took the loot to the CP and he was happy with me. He said, so, you are the woman that led the team for the robbery. You will go far. I was so excited. Though before the incident, I was brave. But I had already signed for a pistol. That was how I was part of the team; we ran into a shootout. I held unto my pistol as there was firing and cross-firing. It was no joke. It was a heavy exchange of fire. At a point, I had to summon courage and the men ran away after the exchange of fire was raging on. The CP of Kano state then, the former IGP Idris, was surprised. I remember he told me that I am a focused woman, that was a near-death experience for me. I will not say that it scared me, but I would rather say that it made me to realise the thin line between life and death. That happened about seven years ago.
Do you have any message for the young ladies, who may presently consider joining the police force?
I am happy to be a role model to many youths. I desire to continue to mentor some of them. One thing that I will always tell them is to get value for themselves. Success is not contagious. You cannot be successful just because you are attaching yourself. I urge young girls to pursue success by themselves. They should also try to add value to their lives. When you are successful, you can stand. All young ladies should know that success is not contagious. They have to work for success by themselves.