The reported attempt to burgle the residence of the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Agboola Gambari and another Presidential Administration Officer, Abubakar Maikano is a pointer to the grave security situation in Nigeria.
Worse still, is the reaction of the presidency to that clear and present danger. While confirming the incident, Gambari was reported to have described it as “a foolish attempt” and that there was “nothing to worry about” from the incident.
An online newspaper, Peoples Gazette, had first reported that armed men suspected to be robbers invaded the residences of two senior aides to the President, Muhammadu Buhari, inside the precinct of the Presidential Villa. The medium reported that the incident forced Gambari and the administrative officer, Abubakar Maikano, to abandon their residences.
“Their houses were robbed and the robbers packed money and other valuable assets from both houses,” the medium had quoted a source as saying. It is alarming, to say the least, that armed robbers could have gained access into the well-fortified Presidential Villa manned by a combined team of policemen, officials of the Department of State Services and men of the Presidential Guards Brigade of the Nigeria Army.
Certainly there is a lot to worry about when houses situated near the Presidential Villa are being attacked and presidential aides are forced to abandon their official residences. It is symptomatic of the general sense of insecurity all over the country and the brazenness and impunity of the perpetrators who obviously are only taking advantage of huge security lapse on the part of government. For a long time, the high level of seriousness with which the security challenges of the nation should be handled has been lacking. As stated in the Nigerian constitution, the security and welfare of the people ought to be the primary purpose of government. If government can no longer guarantee the security of its top personnel, then what is the hope of the common man?
The general atmosphere of insecurity in the nation has a long history that is fuelled by neglect, corruption, decayed infrastructure and impunity. Large swathes of territory that should be used for agriculture, irrigation, power plants and other developmental projects have been left as ungoverned spaces now used by terrorists, bandits and sundry criminals. Neglect of the education and wellbeing of the youth has provided a ready recruitment ground for the criminals.
But the daredevilry with which criminals now operate is fuelled by the seeming helplessness of the security forces. Annually, billions of Naira budgeted for security does not have the intended impact owing largely to corruption in the system.
But at a time like this, the country needs a strong leadership that is alive to the reality confronting it. This is not a time for a taciturn leadership. The people need to be mobilised for the goals of society; they need to know and be assured that their security and welfare are taken seriously. Government need not only to be more alive to their responsibilities but be seen to be thus. A situation where serious security breaches are dismissed as nothing to worry about is not acceptable.
In the present instance of robbery at the Presidential Villa, the public is not aware of arrests and prosecution of suspects. There is no serious briefing on steps being taken to arrest the situation and to prevent further breaches. Instead, the impression created is that of Nero playing the fiddle while the country burns.
It all boils down to the structural defects inherent in the present federal arrangement. The over centralisation of power at the centre to the detriment of the federating units will ultimately have to be addressed. Governors at the state level have complained about their helplessness on security situation even when they are supposed to be chief security officers at that level. The strident calls for state police have been ignored. Ultimately, the country will have no choice but to restructure the polity. But before then, those who hold the levers of power can still do more even within the present arrangement. Priority should be given to the security and welfare of the people and serious breaches of security should be handled with prompt and decisive actions.
Specifically, for those in government, it is in their enlightened self-interest to do things right at all times. The chicken of failure in tackling security issues at the local level is coming to their fortresses to roost. At a broader level, there is need to overhaul the security arrangement to give more priority to gathering, analysing and sharing of intelligence among security forces to nip some of these breaches at the bud.
In tackling specific cases of breaches, the body language and action of government should be seen as serious and reassuring. Efforts to belittle these serious security breaches are annoying, insincere, can no longer be tolerated, and stand to be condemned. There is a lot to worry about the way those leading Nigerians are handling the security and welfare of the people they represent at governmental levels.