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Aso Villa crises mirror Nigeria’s broken state

For the past one week tongues had been wagging within the country and beyond, over the ugly development whereby an unauthorized shooting incident occurred   in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

In the course of a faceoff between aides and loyalists of the First Lady Aisha Buhari as well as others on the side of her husband and President of the country Muhamadu Buhari, over matters of protocol and privilege, there was a shooting incident during which the security details of the First Lady reportedly fired shots at one of the President’s aides.

The gravity of this Presidential family war by proxy, became more acute when the President reportedly ordered the removal from the Villa, of all officials from both sides who were implicated in the charade. When the incident occurred, the Presidential image laundering mill tried to conceal it – given its unquestionable odiousness, but was later compelled to let the Nigerian public into the situation.

Ever since the incident occurred, there has been a deluge of reactions in both the media and other opinion circles across the country, with virtually every commentary condemning the development as a sacrilege.

For those who are familiar with the security architecture of the Three Arms Zone in Abuja where the Presidential Villa, the National Assembly Complex and the Supreme Court are collocated, the incidence of any gunshot implies many factors that are beyond the intent of this article.

However, this author recalls an incident when a boa constrictor measuring about five metres in length, appeared near the first gate of the National Assembly also referred to as ‘Mopol Gate’ in the wee hours of the night, and the Police officers on duty had to contact soldiers in the presidential guard, who came and ‘arrested’ the beast. The story that the serpent was roasted and feasted upon by its arresting party, is yet to be denied at press time!

However, just as the Aso Villa shooting incident rankles the minds of well-meaning Nigerians, it comes along as just one episode in a long-drawn drama of the absurd, with respect to the flip-flop sequence of impunity-driven developments which serve as faces of the culture of mis-governance in Nigeria, at least in the most recent times.

If nothing else, the Aso Villa saga serves as one of the faces of the broken condition of the Nigerian state. And that is where the rest of the country need to revisit it, beyond whatever the government’s face saving measures being pushed into the public domain, are intended to achieve.

At least as is now clear, the threshold of impunity and indiscretion in exercising official power in the country’s public space spares nobody, including the President. Only in a broken state or failed state, can such a situation be witnessed. Lamentably for Nigeria, such a tendency is becoming normal.

To accentuate the play-out of the broken state of the country is the daily build-up of a string of incongruities in respect of which there have always been stringent outcries by the Nigerian public, and which usually went unheeded by the government.

Some of these include the ongoing spate of horrendous security breaches whereby several states in the country especially from the North East to the North West are under siege by bandits and insurgents, with body counts rising on a daily basis. It is no small matter that even the usually reserved and reverred Sultan of Sokoto – His Eminence Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar IV, has come out in wonder over whether the President and his team actually have “sleepless nights” in respect of the on-going carnage in the North and other parts of the country.

The state of insecurity across the country has even attracted stringent queries from foreign governments like the US and UK, with each calling on the Nigerian government to change the narrative for better. Just as well Nigerians have also been calling on the President to rejig his team – especially the security service chiefs, and are hoping that his response to such laments, will not be like waiting for Godot.

Beyond the security front are grave instances of outrightly indefensible infractions of extant statutory processes, which are breached by government officials with impunity. One of the most disturbing of such tendencies is with respect to government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. As at present there is an on-going investigation by the National Assembly into the questionable administration of palliatives to distressed Nigerians which features several bogus claims including that by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Sadiya Umar Faruk, in respect of feeding millions of Nigerian school children in a matter of days with the sum of N494 billion, and at a time they are supposedly all at home, courtesy of the nationwide stay-at-home order.

Many Nigerians are interested in that enterprise as they wonder over the modalities for its execution, even if such was through proxies as the minister claims. Some other witty commentators have put it that the feat was achieved through “remote and online processes”; whatever such means. Meanwhile this is happening even as the country’s health facilities which should have been the primary target of anti-pandemic responses, await a critically needed, across the board up-grade.

The expansive threshold of infractions in government has been the subject of series of commentaries and is growing daily following the reluctance of the powers that be to accommodate public-take on the affairs of the nation. And from the trend of events, the glaring dis-connect of the government from the governed is growing, leading to a diminished sense of worth of statutory authority, by the general public. This is the emergent state of affairs which the Aso Villa charade is introducing. The more significant danger now is whether the country has not crossed the Rubicon of recovery.

The way forward which has always been unutilized, is a new leadership template that is driven by a closer collaboration between the executive and the legislature with the latter playing a more assertive role, as the representatives of the people who are directly elected by the latter. Observers who blame the legislature for the broken state of the federation have a point. Until the legislature defines for the executive what their constituents want, so long shall the country wallow in this journey to perdition where nobody is spared a raw deal, including the President.

As for the extreme instance of the Aso shooting charade, the National Assembly owes itself and the country the duty of intervening, even if it is only to read the riot act in the context of scrutinising and maintaining more than a passing interest, in the security of the nerve-centre of the present government – the Presidential Villa. For if such can occur in the Presidential Villa which is next door, what guarantee is there that its precincts is insulated from such a future, wild-cat outcome?

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