I have a phobia for the police. To be clear, I have a phobia for the Nigerian police who station themselves on roads with not-easy-to-read expressions and carry rugged, deadly-looking rifles. It fills me with dread, upon seeing them, so much so that I always have to delicately step away from where they are to avoid being seen. And that’s why Rugged Man’s Is The Police Your Friend? feels like a haunting, a dread tangibly physicalised.
“You are only permitted when there’s reason to investigate,” the song begins ominously with a cryptic voice and ropes in the kind of atmosphere I have always associated with old-era Nollywood horror movies. This execution only amps up my police-induced fear, but the steady drumbeat is an injection that sustains my interest. Interpreted with individual voice narration, each verse of Is The Police Your Friend? addresses the too-familiar accounts of police cruelty to car users, and the airtight, impenetrable containment of their brazen, civilian-unfriendly actions. You know you are above the minimum age to drive, you know you possess all the required documents and papers to prove this. And yet the Nigerian police would force-wear on you an uncomfortable cloak of inadequacy.
The song straddles a seriousness and a fun poking at the police; it’s a recognition of their work and their revered public status, but also a useful critique of their mindless behaviour. However, Rugged Man on Is The Police Your Friend? isn’t peak, blistering, sharp-toothed Rugged Man. And the song requires him not to be, understandably. The voice narrations interspersing verses are like too much fillers, buffing up the song for length. Still, Is The Police Your Friend? is a faux-rap song that carries enough social resonance that will stay with you, even as you drive to work on a Monday morning.