PRESIDENT-ELECT Muhammadu Buhari’s order charging all security personnel attached to him, official escorts and convoys to obey traffic rules, has expectedly generated the kind of debate that all changes do.
One good thing is that some of these exchanges, especially ones that described Buhari’s directive as a security risk, have opened up new perspectives to evaluating security for public officers as well as the question of leadership by example.
Buhari, who stated that compliance with the law would be the guiding philosophy of his administration, hinged the necessity of obedience on the argument that, “without leadership by example, the ordinary citizens would become copycats of the lawlessness of their leaders.” In this regard, he also admonished security personnel in the military and police to abide by, and ensure that they bring the rule of law to bear on the conduct of leaders during their movements on public roads.
Whilst many Nigerians have lauded this directive as a gesture of exemplary leadership, some, who are more concerned about the security of the commander-in-chief, have construed it as an open invitation to homicide! On its surface, this directive, would seem an affront on security protocol, especially so for a former head of state, who a few months ago had a close shave with death when twin bombs, detonated in the Kaduna metropolis, exploded within dangerous distance around him and his convoy, and killed no fewer than 60.
Again, given the ethno-religious temper of Nigerians, any fatal mishap relating to security lapses that befalls the President-elect, would be a recipe for more blood-letting. A head of state attacked on the road is not only a monumental disgrace to state security but also a reflection of the vulnerability of that society. Thus to ensure maximum security for the head of state, it might make sense for outriders and other retinue of escorts to breach traffic rules.
However, in a country where power is not only wielded but has to be flaunted for maximum recognition and oppression of the people it is meant to serve, it is a superb tragedy of misplaced priorities to witness how the appurtenances of power are used with so much impunity.
In a country whose citizens live at the mercy of hoodlums and terrorists, some governors have been known to flaunt about 170 security personnel, while a legislator, a principal officer of the National Assembly is known to have about 60 security operatives as official adornments to their portfolios, breaching traffic rules with reckless abandon.
This is besides the caravan of security personnel that accompanies the President or First Lady. It is interesting to know that, in this wanton abuse of state privileges, with its terrible nuisance to environmental sanity and blatant waste of resources, the overall motive is to instill fear and intimidate. This, by any reading, is an assault on the people’s power that brought them to office.
Buhari is coming to power with the mantra of change and he has certainly been voted into power by the people yearning for change.
By his resolve to ensure his convoys obey traffic rules, he has committed himself to doing away with the extravagant display of power and privileges that is demonstrated by blatant abuse of traffic rules and disrespect for road users.
Such inordinate discrimination over the use of a public facility as common as the roads, is the clearest indication of a government against the people.
Buhari’s converse position to that of earlier governments is therefore a symbolic gesture of his affinity with the people. Viewed in this light, his directive of enforcing the rule of law is consistent with the expectations of a truly democratic government; and for this, he should be commended and emulated by other top functionaries with the proviso that this gesture would percolate to the lower rung of leadership.
Furthermore, being a soldier and former head of state, Buhari’s intelligence should not be underrated. His training, career and other administrative positions in the army furnish him with the competence and expertise about security issues, least of which is his own security.
As former head of state and even as President, the import of adequate security for the country and his office is not lost to any personal preference.
Notwithstanding, the loyalty of the President’s security should not be in doubt; because often, as history has shown, heads of state have been betrayed by their own men. It behoves Nigerians to defend Buhari having stated that he has come for the change they have for so long desired.
Rather than engage in needless debate over peripheral security protocol, authorities at the helm of security operations in Nigeria should realise that the security a nation plans for its president is a reflection of the dignity the country accords that office.
If Buhari is worthy of any security deserving of a president, the least the authorities should do is to, without flamboyant expression, commit themselves to providing well trained, well-organised and well-equipped personnel.
This requires the need to reform the security apparatuses. Covert pre-programmed technological devices could be used to provide easy road access for the president rather than the environmentally menacing, pollution-prone and the oppressive method of convoys and outriders.
Security is not instilling fear; it is planning. What this means is that planning for good governance as well as excellent execution of that plan for the people are the best forms of security. The Nigerian people should back Buhari to set a great template for change to begin.