The Head of Media Relations, Federal Road Safety Corps, Mr. Bisi Kazeem, talks about his humanitarian aspirations
How did you join the Federal Road Safety Corps?
I joined the Federal Road Safety Corps on August 7, 1989 and started out in Lagos as a patrol man until 1990. Prior to 1989, while I was serving (as a National Youth Service Corps member) in Sokoto State, I made an attempt to join the FRSC. After then, I enlisted and was interviewed. My passion for the job stemmed from my belief in helping humanity.
What moment in your life serves as a reference point in your decision to join the FRSC?
Prior to that, I had heard a lot about road traffic crashes, especially leading to Ibadan-Ife Road, where we usually witnessed a lot of cases involving students of the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). I was privileged to have witnessed the establishment of the FRSC state chapter in Ibadan, Oyo State, by the late Chief Bola Ige, who was then the Executive Governor of the state, comprising Oyo and Osun then. Also, I had a sort of role model in Professor Wole Soyinka, who I’ve always admired. Soyinka, being the first Chairman of the FRSC, was a reason why I decided to join, coupled with the fact that I also knew Dr. Olu Agunloye, who was the first Director and Chief Executive of the FRSC. These were factors that I could say motivated me to join the FRSC then.
Before you joined, were you ever booked by an FRSC official for anything?
Not at all. I never had any encounter with them. I had been seeing them on patrol shortly before I joined. In fact, the mode of patrols was a source of inspiration to me because they were always in control. Once they lead you, nobody can overtake your vehicle and they were very neat. Most times, they would use the public address system. I liked that. When you are leaving Lagos for Ibadan, they would lead you and every other person behind them. And as you queue behind them, at intervals, they would release the vehicles and as they do so, they would be talking: “Please drive at 100 km per hour. Drive to stay alive.” Such public enlightenment was appealing to me.
What has challenged your desire to want to serve under the FRSC?
There was an incident in 1990 when I was the Operations Commander in the state, I remember it was on October 1. I was not supposed to go out for patrols but somebody called in sick. The route was Ibadan-Oyo-Ogbomosho. We would break a highway into route and someone would be in each area. As a committed staffer, I would want the patrol staff to go on patrol, so I jumped into a patrol vehicle. On such occasions, I don’t go on patrol; I only go on special patrol. That day, I joined the patrol, only to be overtaken by two vehicles. In those days, it was very rare for anyone to overtake an FRSC vehicle.
To cut a long story short, we didn’t know they were armed robbers. We pursued them to the extent that they did not have any other choice but to stop. When they stopped at a town called Fiditi, which was between Ibadan and Oyo. We had a mode of patrol operation whereby any FRSC officer could not stop an offender. As the leader of the team, one would approach the offender. The (FRSC) driver would not, under any circumstance, come out of the vehicle. Two other people would control traffic, right and left, to avoid accidents. So, I followed them and they told me they were officers like me.
I said, “If you’re officers, identify yourselves.” All of a sudden, they brought out rifles to identify themselves. As I wanted to retreat saying, “I now recognise you are officers,” one of the leaders said, “Too late, kill him.” And they made an attempt to kill me, but I was lucky to have escaped. That (incident) gave me a scare and I thought I couldn’t continue. But I was encouraged when the then director of the organisation and chief executive left his base to come and talk to us in Ibadan. He said, “That is one of the hazards of the job and you have to continue.”
Another reason I tried to leave was that before then, two or three other people had been killed by armed robbers — one on the old Lagos-Abeokuta Road. In fact, my parents persuaded me to leave. But glory be to God, I didn’t.
What measures have been put in place to protect FRSC officers ever since?
We have been trying to make sure that we are armed. Even armed robbers respect us so much that sometimes they ask us to leave the road when they want to pass because they were afraid, knowing that we did not compromise in doing our jobs. They have never seen us as a threat. But at the same time, a lot of us underwent arms training. I was trained in 82 D in Enugu sometime between 1992 and 1993. About four officers were sent abroad (for firearms training), including the current Corps Marshal. We were on the verge of getting the arms when there was a change of government. But continually, we have been making efforts to make sure that we are armed, maybe it would happen in the nearest future. Recently, so many of us were trained again.
How many times were you shot at?
I was not shot at. One strange thing they found hard to believe was that when the armed robbers tried to shoot me, I jumped into a ditch on instinct. I think what saved me was that one of them was trying to prevent me from escaping by pulling me back.
The other found it difficult to shoot because he would end up shooting one of his own. In the process of trying to escape, I allowed my lanyard to get torn. Two of my men also escaped. The strangest thing was that the driver of our vehicle was shot at and he claimed that he was fortified and the bullet didn’t penetrate his body.
I don’t know if this could be scientifically proven but we saw the bullet. To be entirely factual, when I came out of the ditch, I saw people of the town jubilating with him, they carried him high above their shoulders, and chanted, “He’s a man! He’s a man!”
He has retired and is a king in his village now. Incidentally, the attack had happened in front of a NITEL (Nigerian Telecommunications, now defunct) office. A telephone was used to contact Oyo, and Oyo contacted Ogbomosho and before we knew it, they were caught. The same man (driver) had the courage to go and identify them and they were eventually killed after they were found guilty.
What was the most interesting experience you had while learning how to drive?
The most interesting experience was the day I was trying to use a patrol vehicle to learn. At the end of an operation, I just called one of my drivers to take me to a lonely road to teach me. That was actually before I went to driving school. In the process, I hit the vehicle. Back then, if you (as a learner) were caught driving a patrol car, it meant outright dismissal. So, we had to take the vehicle to the panel beater at night.
The vehicle was panel beaten and painted at our own expense and returned during the day because if one was caught trying to use a patrol car to learn, not to mention damaging it, the repercussions were dire. It was quite interesting because there was enough fuel to drive the vehicle. I had to use my salary to offset it and I made sure it was returned. Only I and the driver were aware.