By Ace Omozuwa
The recent invasion of restricted area and taxiway of the Sultan Abubakar III International Airport, Sokoto by supporters of the former governor of Sokoto State and a senator representing Sokoto North, Aliyu Wamakko, and the invasion of the National Assembly by the Department of State Security (DSS) demonstrate the fact that inherent in partisan politics is the capacity to normalize lawlessness. These two invasions speak volumes about the corrupting influence of political partisanship on security operatives. When the line between politics and professionalism becomes blurred, impunity will degrade everything noble about democracy, arbitrariness will impair the rule of law.
According to media reports of the regrettable invasion of the airport, supporters of Senator Wamakko“broke security rules and gained unauthorized access to the critical areas of the airport such as runway, taxiway and apron.” It is evident that the 30 security operatives from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Aviation Security (AVSEC) could have done better to control the neurotic crowd even though the airport had peculiar security challenges. The critical question is why did the security operatives allow the people to do the unimaginable? Is it possible that they were compromised?
The way this gross violation of the National Civil Aviation Security Programme (NCASP) 6.3.1, which states that “in accordance with the appropriate legislation, no person to whom the legislation applies, shall enter or remain in a Restricted Area, Enhanced Security Restricted Area, or tenant restricted area unless that person has in his or her possession a Restricted Area or Tenant Restricted Area Permit in respect of that restricted area or Tenant Restricted Area and complies with all conditions of issuance of the Permit” is handled will tell so much about our national disposition to lawlessness. If we do nothing decisive and allow time to bury the case, it will send the wrong signals to the international community and potential lawbreakers. But if the culprits are made to face the wrath of the law, it will deter future occurrence.
Security breaches of this nature have grave economic implications. They could slow down the development of the service economy. They could indirectly hinder the growth of the tourism sector. We cannot realistically hope to become a tourists’ haven when we compromise airport security or condone it. Secure airports are recipe for economic development. They have the capacity to attract investors. They encourage international and local trade.
Beyond the economic repercussions, the invasion of the Sokoto airport has political implications. The airport invasion suggests that a new episode of political barbarism has started. This chapter of barbarism, which profanes public spaces that are considered sacrosanct, is not pro-development. Sugarcoating the ugly development will not advance our national interest. We must be bold to call it what it is. It was a barbaric show of support as motorbike riders rode towards the airplane as it taxied towards the tarmac. The security and safety of aircraft that flew in Wamakkowas almost fatally compromised. If good judgment had not prevailed, if the pilot of the flight decided to land at the apron of the airport, tragedy would have befallen the nation.
In secular societies certain public spaces and institutions are “sacred”. Key among the known sacred institutions and places are seats of legislative authority, the National Assembly and state houses of assembly in our own case, airports, et cetera. Due to their sacredness they are well secured and invaders kept at bay. Violating their sacredness threatens national security. Sometimes, security agencies act as if they are unmindful of this fact, and become willing tools in the hands of unethical and desperate politicians.
How Mr. LawalDaura, a seasoned intelligence officer, without due authorization deployed “his officers and men who wore hoods and masks” to invade the National Assembly as if it was a crime scene is a classic example of perniciously unholy association between guardians of the law and politicians.
Although the principal actors and reason that instigated the invasion are still murky due to the clash of dominant narratives and the politicization of the issues, it is fair to stay within the limit of known facts. According to media account of the report the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, allegedly sent to the Acting President, Prof YemiOsinbajo, on the sacked Director-General of State Security Service, Daura conspired with undisclosed key politicians to lockdown the National Assembly. “It is crystal clear that the principal suspect LawalDaura may be acting the script of some highly placed politicians to achieve some selfish political goals hence his unilateral and unlawful decision to invade the National Assembly complex,” the police report stated. Nothing undermines national security like when law enforcement officers and some actors within the intelligence community become subservient to agents of democratic chaos.
During the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, we saw how security operatives in a bid to curry favor with the political class allowed the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, to become a theatre of sordid political activities. Its airside was turned to a locus for the contestation of supremacy between the present governor of Rivers State, NyesomWike, and his predecessor turned Minister of Transportation, RotimiAmaechi. Their armies of partisan supporters repeatedly breeched security and invaded the airside. Politics degrades professionalism. By now it is clear to many Nigerians that the expression of professional prudence and decorum are not assured when security operatives mix duty with politics.
The prompt response by the acting President is worthy of commendation. It is a fine tribute to proactive leadership. Beyond exculpating the Presidency, it reinforces the facts that when a leader acts prudently and speedily in times of crisis, it assuages fear, unifies people, and reduces possible damages. This speedy remedial action in an ironic way brings to mind a quote commonly attributed to late General SaniAbacha; “If insurgency lasts more than 24 hours, the government have a hand in it.” May be the incompetence of government and lack of genuinely ineffective leadership could be another reason.
If this becomes a model of governmental intervention in perilous political circumstances, the forces pushing Nigeria to the cesspit of anarchy would become ineffective and demobilized. The way the federal government acted restores faith in its ability to guarantee the security and safety of Nigerians and protect the integrity of democratic institutions. It is a clear message to all and sundry that no one is indispensible, and no one is above the law. Messages like this will strengthen our democratic enterprises. It is an apt reminder to security and intelligence agencies that arbitrariness is not consistent with the rule of law, and it has consequences.
It is needful to reinforce the healthy demarcation between security and politics. For, democracy in Nigeria will always be endangered if we fail to insulate our gallant security operatives from the debasing influences of partisan politics. It is pertinent to re-orientate security operatives so that they will see themselves as guardians of democracy, and not as executors of the whims and caprices of politicians contesting for supremacy.