I was enjoying consolatory lyrics from the songs of John Denver when I scrolled through some Web pages and my eyes fell on a report that there had been a breach of the security at Aso Villa with a robbery attempt on the official residence of the Chief of Staff to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari. I read through the report and mistook it for a fake report. My ‘judgment’ was confirmed to be erroneous when I went over to the bird app and read a tweet by the presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, who confirmed that, indeed, there was a security breach at the villa. But I was further confused when Bashir Ahmad, who tweets some untruths for President Muhammadu Buhari as his Twitter aide, came flashing strongly with a comment that the report of robbery in the villa was “fake news.”
That got me worried. First, I was not worried that Shehu confirmed the robbery incident or security breach, whichever one that suits best. I was worried that some aide of the President would be so quick to dismiss an ‘exclusive report’ as fake without minding that he was simply communicating ignorance of what happened around him. He would have been safe if he had imbibed the wise man’s counsel where he said that it is better to keep quiet and be thought to be ignorant than to open your mouth and remove every doubt.
Secondly, I was worried that Shehu, in the second installment of his tweet confirming the security breach, said that Prof. Gambari’s “house is on a street next to the Villa”. Implication of this is that the robbers, armed or unarmed, got very close to the Presidential Villa. The streetwise argument is, if they got that close to Aso Villa, where some bourgeois live, breaching the Presidential Villa itself wouldn’t be as difficult. This is because the part of the Villa vicinity where the incident took place is considered a maximum security environment with strong security watch and patrols. So, how did the robbers get so close? That Shehu said the attempt was unsuccessful is immaterial to the fact that security was breached.
Thirdly, Shehu further made an update to his tweet and stated thus: “The police, in a related development is searching for a suspected burglar who, as captured by CCTV, unsuccessfully attempted to break into the house of Maikano Abdullahi on Thursday, last week. Maikano lives on the same street with the Chief of Staff, close to the Villa.”
I read this and screamed, oh my God! In other words, the robbers had a field day attempting to burgle the homes of Prof. Gambari and Maikano on the same street in the same vicinity, probably at the same “3:00am in the morning”. Again, my reading of this updated tweet was that, if the robbers/burglars could attempt two homes in the same Villa area, it indicates that the area is less secured than other parts of Nigeria. Meaning, that security in the area is hyped and not founded on reality. This, to my mind, is the direct consequence of building on propaganda. It has to come to full exposure someday and blow on everyone’s face.
In my recent article titled “The Federal Republic of Unknown Gunmen”, I had made a conclusive argument to the effect that “gradually, Nigerians may have to go seeking out the unknown gunman so as to pay ‘tithe’ to him for protection. It could be a matter of time.” That conclusion stems from the reality of the understanding that “…while those with the resources to sail through have fixed themselves with private security guards, armed and unarmed, the proletariat is left to the protection of a police that has become weakened by lack of equipment and very low morale. That police are now over-powered by the unknown gunman. And, in a republic where the unknown gunman rules, the game is of survival.”
And, with the breach at the Villa, the survival game will now be enhanced. Not many will rely on state-provided security in the Villa vicinity much more because, as it is said, fish rots from the head. The Nigerian security apparatus has collapsed and very badly too. No one seems to know exactly what the problem is. While many of us point at lack of equipment and low morale as listed above, those within the security system, suggest something much more deeper than equipment and morale. Recently, Nigerians were made to know that the Federal Government spent over N1 trillion on defence and security issues in one fiscal year. Yet, the impact of this spend is not felt by Nigerians. Nigerians have become more insecure than they have ever been. It is such that citizens are now forced, by existential realities, to negotiate with criminals for their safety. Those who don’t have the resources to negotiate with, survive at the pity of the gunman.
Like I said earlier, fish rots from the head. And, like Prof. Chinua Achebe wrote, when the centre cannot hold, things fall apart. Things have really fallen apart in Nigeria that in many cities, nightlife is gone. There is practically no Nigerian state where criminals do no operate freely. Previously, this was thought to be a North-East reality. It is no longer. And while we are it, the chief security officers of the states in Nigeria are asking citizens to intensify prayers against insecurity, while they manage the security votes behind barricaded doors of high-wall buildings. But the breach at the Villa ought to knock some thoughts into the heads that run the federation. They must begin to think outside the box in giving life to the constitutional requirement on them on security as a primary function of government.
I am forced to agree to argument that it is the failure of Nigeria’s political leaders to appreciate, and activate provisions of Chapter 2 of the Constitution described as the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy, where it specifically at Section 14(2) (C) stated that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. Subsection C of that section reads: the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provision of this constitution. These two provisions have been progressively observed in total breach in spite of the provision at Section 13 which states that “it shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government, and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this chapter of this constitution”.
These sections of the Constitution have been suspended as far as government is concerned. The beneficiaries of these section, the people of Nigeria, feel neither secured nor have they seen their welfare improve. Those, to whom Section 13 is addressed, do not feel obligated, for any reason, to observe and activate that section in their dealings with the people. They instead create the impression that the people ought to serve them.
But one fact is this: when you ostracize and alienate humans from life and make it difficult for them to live their lives and also participate in their governance through improved social and stomach infrastructure, they begin to see those high walls as encasing what rightly belongs to them and, somehow, they force themselves to go for them. The COVID palliatives warehouse looting was a pointer that we have glossed over because we have a government that does not care. It is a government where those closest to the President will ‘mistakenly’ release a picture of the President digging his dentition after a meal, suggesting that he does not care even if the collapse becomes irreversible.