By Eric Elezuo
She hit national limelight after rescuing an armed robbery victim from imminent death. Not only did she paved his way to adequate medical attention, she also committed her resources to the tune of over a million naira to ensure that the young man was well taken care of. Ever since, Superintendent of Police Celestina Kalu, the Divisional Police Officer, Ogudu Police Station, and member, Rotary Club of Ikoyi, has been receiving accolades from all and sundry for that singular act of humanity. The Anambra State-born police officer told me her story in this brief chat. Excerpt:
I know you are popular and everybody knows you but please for the benefit of hindsight, kindly introduce yourself?
Well, I have a lot of titles. I am SP Celestina Kalu and at the same time I am Rotarian Celestina Kalu.
How does it feel to be the cynosure of all eyes at the moment for what you did for that young man?
I can’t express it in words. I am really overwhelmed, and again I am very surprised. In fact, I feel I am dreaming because since October 1 when the incident went public, I’ve not known rest. People from Nigeria, and indeed all over the world have been in contact with me, some praying for me, some sending me money, others sending messages. In fact, different organisations have been coming to my office to offer me awards. Honestly, I am really humbled and at the same time excited. I never knew doing good can pay this much.
Considering the negative narrative the public has of the Police, what was it that motivated you to attend to that young man?
Passion. I think passion is it; I have passion for human beings, and every human life is important to me. Again, the ethics of my occupation was a motivation. My main objective as a police officer is to protect life and property, coupled with my Rotary background where selfless services is a watchword. So being a passionate person, police officer and Rotarian all combined to motivate me.
So what message are you sending to the public who mainly think that Police as a profession and individual sometimes have their bad side?
My Message still remains that Police is your friend; you have no other friend than the police. Do you try calling a thug whenever you are in distress? No, it’s the police you will call, and anytime you call the police they will always be there to respond to your needs.
I don’t believe this is the first act of humanity you have done in your profession, can you take us down memory lane maybe to one or two incidents?
Sometimes ago as an upcoming officer, say 12 years ago, then I was attached to the traffic section with the Ebonyi State Command. There was an accident case where I had to take the victim to the hospital, and you know the bureaucracy of the hospital, which involves going to buy card and all the rest. I had to do all these, but two hours after the guy started receiving treatment, he passed on right in my presence. I will never forget that incident. I wept that day. He was a very young man. So, when this very incident happened, I called on God and said ‘God! please, don’t let this happen again. Don’t let all my efforts to be in vain again. I want to tell a story and I thank God He answered my prayers.
Does the two incidents tell any story about our society? About 12 years ago, you took someone to the hospital, he died and no one talked about it, then 12 years after you took another person there, he made it and it went public.
I think back then the social media was not as strong as it is now. The world is a global village now. You can be anywhere and hear about what is happening everywhere; 12 years ago wasn’t like that. I think that was why it wasn’t talked about then. However, people around me know what I am capable of.
So far, many organisations and individuals have been honouring you, what has your immediate constituency, the Police done for you?
Well, we have a group, the Women Right Group that work directly with the Commissioner of Police, and they have come to my office to honour me.
Can you say that belonging to the police and being a Rotarian has a lot to do in fashioning your passionate life?
As a police officer, during my training, we were taught humanitarian services, and we were trained to give first aid by the Red Cross International. We were taught a lot of things during the training, so it is part of my training. I joined Rotary in 2010, and got to know more about humanitarian services. As we all know, Police job is based on selfless and humanitarian service. Despite that, we must carry out our duties.
Kindly trace your growth in the Police force as regards positions and locations till date?
I started my career in Ebonyi State and I have served in different sections there including Traffic, Investigation and Administration. In 2010 when I was posted to Delta State, I was mobilized as a new commander in the mobile police force. There I commanded a unit of 62 men for three years.
Let’s break it down when you said men, does it have to do with masculine men because you know in the force, and men comprise male and female?
No, it is purely masculine men; they were under my supervision for the years and I never had any issues. Honestly, I had a good time in the mobile police force; it was a good experience. Every police officer should pass through the mobile training in his 35 years with the police. I was trained in Gwoza as well as Ila before I was mobilized into the mobile course for three years. For another three years, I was the spokesperson of the Delta State Police Command, that is the Police Public Relations Officer. In 2016, I got promoted to the rank of Superintendent and became the Asaba Area Crime Officer. I served for three years (2016-2018). In September 2018, I was posted to the Operation Department, of course I liked operation second to public relation. I functioned in that capacity till January 2019 when I was transferred to Lagos.
I didn’t hear you talking about going up North so far, any intention to?
I have not been posted to the north yet but I will definitely go to the north because I was born there, that is my root.
You were born in the North? Apart from being born in the north and being a Nigerian, what is your state of origin?
I am from Anambra State. I was born in Maiduguri, Borno State. I had all my education there – from nursery to university.
Okay, Maiduguri explains your ability to speak more than the Igbo language?
Can you speak the Igbo Language
Yes I can speak Igbo language.
Question: Which other language do you speak?
I speak a little of Yoruba.
That means you speak Hausa and Igbo at the same time?
Was the young man able to speak when you met him in pains? What exactly did he say to you that moved you?
He talk all through till he was wheeled to the theatre by 5am
What did he tell you?
I actually did not take him to the hospital: my men did, and I kept in touch. He was first taken to Gbagada General Hospital where he was given first aid, they confessed that they don’t have the capacity to treat him as he would require surgery because he was shot in the stomach. So they referred him to Federal Medical Centre. He was rejected at FMC as management complained of lack of space. The young man was bleeding profusely so I suggested he be moved to the Ikeja General Hospital. Funny enough, we were also told that that there was no space. That was when I said ‘it’s a lie’. I ordered them to wait for me there while I drove all the way to the hospital. The time was past 12 midnight.
To my greatest surprise, the man was still sitting right inside the patrol vehicle, bleeding and hanging on a drip, when I got there. The humanity in me got angry, and I confronted the hospital saying ‘what a hell! What do you people think you are doing here; people say police is not good, now police have done their duty, why can’t you people in the hospital do yours; this young man has been bleeding since God knows when’. We actually picked him up around after 9pm and it was already way past midnight and he was still in my vehicle. I asked them if they want him to die in my vehicle or die in my custody or what.
They again complained about space, but I said it was a lie, and asked my men to bring him inside the hospital because that was where he belongs not the police van or custody. They did. I therefore, approached the doctor on duty and gave him my number and N5000 with an instruction to ensure he gets treatment, no matter what while promising to locate his family by morning.
But as I was about leaving, the young man held me and said ‘Mummy, please I don’t want to die, please don’t leave me, please help me.’ I was transfixed. I just stood there knowing very well I couldn’t leave him alone. He was already turning white from head down. I was scared and had to go back to the doctor and asked him what he wants us to do. I know it was a matter of money so I immediately promised I will pay. That was when he told me that his condition required surgery. I said I was ready, then he started making calls and within 2 hours every doctor, surgeon and the rest were present. They told me what they needed and I started buying everything, to the last item. But getting blood became a problem; he had lost a lot of blood already, and was turning white. When they checked his blood group, it was O positive, but there was no blood in the blood bank when they checked. Incidentally, I was O positive.
You donated your own blood?
I didn’t. I volunteered to but they told me they can’t bleed in the night as there was no staff to do it. At that instant, I remembered I’ve seen in movies where they do direct transfer from a donor to a patient, so I asked them to try the method, but they declined, saying it doesn’t work that way. They said there is a place where blood is sold. I took the number and called, and before I knew it, four to five bags of blood were delivered. In fact, by 5am, they wheeled him to the theatre for the operation.
Can you tell us the total amount you spent there?
I won’t know exactly, but towards the end of everything, I realised I had spent over a million naira, You will be shocked to know how the money came by
Today you are SP, are you expecting any promotion soon?
Definitely, I have to move from this position to a higher position at most in the next four years.
I mean in the shortest distance, based on this singular achievement
If promotion comes I would take it.
So what advice do you have for those who usually abandon sick people or people with bullet wounds on the road. I can see that you made progress because of your status as a ranking police officer
What happened that day has brought lots of changes, and I’m glad. I was speaking to the CMD at the hospital when I went there to recount my experience, he promised me that he has changed the rule of ‘don’t bleed in the night or no bleeding by weekend’. The rule has been changed. Again, when Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was honouring me, he told me that I have inspired him to go and check the hospitals at random times, to make sure that certain things are put in place in case of emergencies. The incident has brought those changes, so something good came out of it.
We join all Nigerians to appreciate your effort. Congratulations ma!
Thank you very much. Nigeria is a great country, I never knew that Nigeria could appreciate a public servant this way, honestly I really appreciate. Doing good really pays.
Is it a clarion call for people to do good in order to attract national accolades
Yes it’s good to be good.
I see you getting a national honour soon. Congratulations once again!
(Laughs) Thanks…looking forward to it.