Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga reports on the controversy trailing President-elect’s directive to his convoy to obey traffic rules at all times.
The directive by the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, that his convoy should obey traffic rules, May 6, particularly traffic lights was as harmless as it was simple. But the intention was more than a symbolic gesture reminiscent of his days as Head of State when the famous War Against Indiscipline, WAI, was designed to public discipline in the citizenry.
Buhari, according to the press release on the issue, wants to lead by example and lead in the much needed drive towards the re-orientation of Nigerians on civic duties. But sooner had the message became public than prominent Nigerians began to take positions for and against and draw Buhari’s attention to the security implications of the directive, especially against the backdrop of the continued though subsiding insurgency in the country.
Apart from former Minister of External Affairs, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi who reacted immediately by writing a four paragraph ‘do not do it’ missile, many other prominent Nigerians and groups from across the geo-political zones are taking their positions and drawing comparison with similar practices in developed countries in which elected and appointed public officials patronize public services with the intention to either scale down on spending or bond with the common people.
However, it would be recalled that Prof. Bola Akinyemi had expressed concern about the security risk of exposing the president-elect to danger at any traffic light that stops the free movement of his convoy, which could be capitalized upon by any unforeseen enemy. Akinyemi who holds a contrary view on Buhari’s order advised him to change his decision about obeying traffic rules in the interest of the nation’s security, as it could easily expose the President-elect to danger.
This could be viewed from the persistent skirmishes of security in the North-east where Boko Haram is still wrecking pockets of havoc in recent times, despite their commendable dislodgment from their so called captured territory by the skillful Nigerian Army. Akinyemi however picked holes in the President- elect’s directive by pointing out that, “there is no country in the world where the motorcade of a President, or Prime Minister or Head of State is subject to traffic regulations.”
Akinyemi sees the order as a direct exposure of Buhari’s live to danger by recalling the events of 1975/76 which led to the death of the Military Head of State, Murtala Muhammed, then, who was murdered at a road junction while waiting for the traffic light to pass him.
However, other notable personalities such as Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), Itsay Sagay and Sabastine Hon, vis-avis the former Chief of Logistics, the Nigerian Army, General Ahmed Ishaku Dikko, at have also expressed divergent views on the matter in a recent interaction with the media.
Dikko and Sagay are of the opinion that Buhari should rescind the decision, while Hon avers that though the life of the President-elect is paramount too he is at liberty to act in a civil manner in line with the spirit of democracy. Sagay said :“I agree with Akinyemi entirely. I think that Buhari means well, but Nigeria cannot afford that kind of obedience.
“We know how Murtala Muhammed was killed. He was obeying traffic light in Obalende. He stopped to wait for traffic to pass him, and they just descended on him. So, we can’t afford that.
The tragedy that could result would be too much. “I think once the President is passing by, he should have escorts, which should allow him to go. Irrespective of the traffic, his entourage should not be stopped. But I agree with the spirit of what he is saying,” Sagay emphasized.
While not unmindful of the security risk involved in such decision, Dikko posits “the traffic situation in Nigeria and the laws may endanger the life of the President if he decides to obey traffic, the situation is even more problematic if we should put the behaviour of Nigerian drivers in perspective.
“Even in the developed world, I have not seen where the president of a country will conform to traffic regulations at the expense of his security. Buhari should be guarded by the security challenges in the country, as he asks his escort to obey traffic rules. “He is the President of Nigeria and we all love him. He should not subject himself to such security risk by trying to obey traffic; it will be a great risk.
“The President-elect should listen to the voice of all Nigerians. We love him for his patriotism, leadership by e but, on this issue, he must not expose himself to danger.” Nonetheless, as a saying goes that different strokes for different folks, so also Hon hold a different opinion, opposed to Sagay’s and Dikko’s. Hon sees no problem with Buhari’s decision to obey traffic rules. He draws on what obtains in far away United Kingdom, which many may consider too far fetched considering the level of state of the art infrastructural and institutional development and neighbouring Ghana, a West African country, closer home and less politically sophsitaicated than Nigeria.
He said: “There is no problem if the President insists on obeying traffic rules. In fact, there is no law compelling him to do otherwise. In Ghana, you can walk to the President’s house and there is no serious security beef up. A couple of other presidents live the same way. If you see the United Kingdom (U.K) Prime Minister, David Cameron, he enters train with members of the public without being harmed.
At times he flies on Britsih Airways like ordinary Britons. It has to do with everybody’s style, not necessarily the situation in the country. “If the President-elect says that is his style, we have to respect that. If you were in sync with the people and delivering the goodies of democracy, nobody would go out of his way to harm you.
It is only those who have skeleton in their cupboard and those who have been misruling us that can insist on using convoys and intimidating ordinary Nigerians.” Another respondent who also support Hon’s opinion is Pastor Site Felix, the General Overseer of Project Action Ministry, Lagos. He said: “Why should we always be living in fear that someone is after our life? It is when you are not doing well or victimising people, that is when some who have no spirit of forgiveness may play to harm you. “Even, a good example is the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who has not been blowing siren whenever his convoy drives along the raod for the past eight years of his tenure.
It is only other states’ governors that visit Lagos and disturbs the peace of our roads with blaring sirens.” Looking at the security situation in the country, many will not encourage the President-elect to expose his live to danger, even though he might be keen on showing a good example to other road users.
Nigerians are a people who could be easily led to follow the right direction, others contend, only if the leaders at the top conform to laws without seeing himself or herself as God. It is high time many so -called leaders in our society showed us the right way to follow by exemplary actions than paying lip service always.
When our leaders start doing things the right way, the citizens would follow in queue and the world can also learn from us to do things the right way. In fact the recent decision by the outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan to concede defeat in the just concluded general elections is a Nigeria first in the Continent, a gesture that has impacted the country and the citizenry in unquantifiable terms. It is this light that the just Buhari should be seen, but the citizens are taking their stand in ways that may show that the directive has hit raw nerves.