38 heads of state arrive
Security operatives keep vigil at Eagle Square
Buhari turns down invitation
As Dr Goodluck Jonathan takes the oath of office as Nigeria’s fifth civilian president at the Eagle Square today, security agencies have put in place elaborate arrangements to forestall any breach of law and order.
Already, 38 heads of state and other representatives have arrived in Abuja to witness the inauguration.
Investigations by our correspondents revealed that most of the heads of state were accommodated at the Transcorp-Hilton together with Nigeria’s former leaders.
Foreign leaders that arrived yesterday include the vice-president of Zambia, George Kunda, representing President Rupiah Banda; the president of Central African Republic, Fracois Bozize, and the president of South Africa, Mr. Jacob Zuma.
A source close to the inauguration protocol told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that some of the heads of state failed to inform the Nigerian authorities that they would be coming, adding that this development hampered the coordination of protocol activities and was responsible for many impromptu arrangements. The source said, “As I am talking to you now, some of the heads of state are just arriving when they did not acknowledge that they were coming. So we are being stretched to accommodate them. As you can see, the roads leading to the airport were very busy. In fact, we are still expecting more and we can only know how many heads of state came at the banquet tonight (yesterday).”
A member of the sub-committee on protocol, who spoke with our correspondent at 5:17pm, said he had received 29 heads of state and that more were still coming. He added that it had been hectic to handle the flurry of activities at the airport and the hotels.
Most members of the inauguration sub-committee on publicity and protocol could not be reached because their phone numbers were not made available to the media. Those whose numbers were available due to former relationships switched off or were very busy to pick their calls. But, those who are close to the inauguration arrangements confirmed that the cooption of many ministries, departments and agencies in the arrangement resulted in duplication of duties, leaving no one particularly in charge.
Although the secretary to the government of the federation, Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, is the chairman of the 2011 Presidential Inauguration Committee, other members of some 14 sub-committees were drawn from government establishments, military, political parties and the private sector.
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and former head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari, has rejected Jonathan’s invitation to attend today’s presidential inauguration. The CPC candidate further claimed that he was convinced that there were abnormalities in the South-West, South-South and South-East in the course of the presidential election, and he rejected both national and international observers’ report that the poll was credible and sound.
In an interview he granted the BBC Hausa Service monitored in Kaduna, yesterday, Buhari said, “Yes, I was sent an invitation to attend via the office in charge of former heads of state, whether military or civilian. They sent me invitation to the events heralding the presidential inauguration and I instructed that they should reply that I would not attend the inauguration.”
On the observers’ reports that the elections were credible, he argued: “That is their opinion. Even when I addressed the press, I challenged observers to prove to the world how the election was conducted in the South-East, South-West and South-South, or was their monitoring only in the North? If they sincerely monitored the elections in the South, let us know the reality of what transpired.
“We have more supporters in the North than in the South, but even in the South we have teeming supporters. We are in court and have tabled evidence of our people that were chased away and barred from voting and those that were killed. I will not talk much since we are already in court.”
Meanwhile, security agencies have mounted surveillance at strategic places while some roads have been closed. Operatives drawn from the Nigeria Army, Police, SSS and Civil Defence Corps have, since Thursday, kept vigil at the Eagle Square, venue for the inauguration.
Nigerians who spoke to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY said they expected a hitch-free celebration especially as security operatives have left no stone unturned.
All entrances leading to the Eagle Square from Maitama, Area 10 and 11 were blocked. Men and special marshals of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) were on hand to control the heavy traffic build-up while the road leading to the Transcorp-Hilton Hotel was barricaded up until the time of filing this report.
At the Transcorp-Hilton hotel, there was heavy presence of the army and the police, including men of the police anti-bomb squad. The hotel was under tight security just as every car and person entering the hotel were subjected to serious screening.
Embassy officials of invited foreign diplomats were also seen at the hotel making necessary arrangements for the arrival of their heads of government. But security checks were more rigorous as bomb scanners were deployed to scan incoming vehicles, while some police officers and other security operatives kept the hotel under surveillance.
The general mood within the capital city remains calm. But some drivers, who spoke to our correspondents, frowned at the too many roadblocks on the grounds that it resulted in bad business for them.
“I understand that it is a very important day, but I have to work to put food on the table for my family. And if they block everywhere, it means I can’t drive around town. I hope this celebration comes and goes so that I can continue my work,” a taxi driver, Aremu Samuel, said.
Another resident, Ishiaku Yakubu, who claimed to have trekked from Area 8 to Wuse market, said he was unhappy that residents were subjected to such hardship because of the heavy security presence within the Abuja metropolis. “I had to trek from Area 8 to Wuse because no vehicle was coming through that route. They have blocked everywhere. Maybe we just want to impress the visiting foreigners, but we all know that security is very poor in this country. I don’t know why they have to make us suffer,” he said.
President Jonathan yesterday asked the leadership of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to keep an eye on the actions of all politicians elected into various offices under the party’s platform to check whether they would deliver on their campaign promises to Nigerians or not.
Jonathan, who said this while speaking at the foundation-laying ceremony of the party’s new national secretariat in Abuja as part of the activities to mark today’s ceremony, said Nigerians expect much from elected public officeholders and that the party could only remain relevant in power if its members met the yearnings of the people.
He dismissed rumours that the multi-billion-naira edifice was being financed from public coffers, stressing that it was a self-help project by dedicated members of the party.
Meanwhile, the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, has identified corruption and greed as the bane preventing Nigeria from taking its place in the comity of nations.
In his sermon at the inauguration service for Jonathan yesterday at the National Christian Centre, Abuja, the cleric tasked the president to address the twin evils headlong as he resumes office.