Why Buhari Must Remember Samoza
Let me state from the onset that this is not a death wish. I am also not trying to take over the jobs of all those hardworking Nigerians who's duty it was to protect the president-elect, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, (GMB for the remainder of this discuss and up till May 29, 2015 at least) all through the presidential campaign trail, and are, in fact, still doing a marvellous job of it up till this particular moment.
What follows, therefore, is my humble appraisal of the personal security endeavours of GMB from the perspective of a detached patriot. To those with the bigger picture of the totality of the General's security infrastructure, it may, or not even make sense. And in any case, the Muslim faith has encouraged many adherents to embrace destiny as a reality they can hardly change.
Even so, there is equally an admonition for the faithful to do everything they can to keep themselves safe from hazards at all times, beyond the critical invocation of prayers. It will be foolhardy for any Muslim to walk into a blazing inferno for instance and conclude that that it was destined by Allah. It is precisely from that perspective that I consider the recent directive credited to GMB that his motorcade must perpetually traffic regulations including traffic lights to be deeply troubling.
On face value, it all seemed part of the General's avowed simplicity. It is not for nothing that he is by far the most popular politician on the African continent at the moment. The directive may also be another gesture or bold statement intended to prove to the ever suspicious Nigerians that he intended to live the change he preached all through his laborious campaign for the presidency
His subsequent appearance in a shuttle bus at the Nnamdi Azikiwe international airport soon after appeared to be in furtherance of the same objective - a major departure from the past and present behaviour of our leaders who often revelled in obscene opulence. In a nation where millions can hardly tell where their next meals would come from, the presidential fleet which is reputed to be bigger than three domestic airlines combined!
Clearly, whether it is the fight against corruption, insecurity, or social indiscipline, it is obvious that Buhari intends to lead the battle against most of our chronic vices from the front. And he intends to do so through his personal example. In that context, both the directive to his motorcade on the observance of traffic rules, added to his preference for the airport shuttle buses, were indicative of what we should all expect under his leadership.
But that is also precisely where the problem is likely to begin. Make no mistake about it; there are probably more Nigerians who have had enough of the decayed order and can hardly wait for the positive changes promised by Buhari and his party. Unfortunately, for such changes to be fully manifested the greater majority will have to buy wholeheartedly into them and that will be the tricky part.
For all his efforts and honest intentions, Buhari must be warned that nothing can be as difficult as getting people to accept or embrace change especially when they have become accustomed to doing things their peculiar ways. Whether in the dynamics of corporate board rooms or business enterprises, change will always be resisted by people used to doing things in their peculiar ways, particularly the operators in the public sector.
Put in the context of Nigeria's ethno-religious diversity, and the gaping wounds inflicted on our socio-economic firmament over the past several decades, the delicate task of enforcing the sort of fundamental changes it will take to correct our broken system to arrest the rot in polity can be herculean and increasingly complicated. It could breed both passive and active resistance.
Active resistance occurs when the few freaks undermined by positive change react violently to protect their turf like the late General Murtala Muhammad unfortunately discovered in 1976. Buhari must not make the same mistake. He must never mistake his overwhelming popularity for general acceptance. For the sort of changes contemplated by his party to be meaningful, they must be comprehensive. They will need to step on the toes of vested interests that have the nation in their stranggle-hold. They would rather the promised change is delayed or is truncated altogether.
The last time I checked, the list of such heavy investors in the debilitating order and who are now clearly headed for a heavy collision course with Buhari are legion. They will undoubtedly celebrate if the General were to drop dead today.
Nigeria is crawling with serial felons. We don't need another dead hero like Murtala Muhammad.
The last time I checked, the number of interest groups that will struggle to contain their happiness if GMB fails to make his appointment on the 29th of May, includes the kleptomaniacs who contrived to effect the world record heist of $20 billion in the petroleum sector; the subsidy scam cabal; as well as those who stole from the dead, while also pretending to be managing pension funds. They are still on the prowl.
There are also those who looted billions of dollars in the fraudulent reform of the power sector who also had the audacity of selling off its prime assets to fronts and cronies. Next are those who fear an inquest of the dubious rehabilitation of our railways with its reverse 'improvement' with stone-age wagons and locomotives. Buhari must also contend with the powerful importers of electricity generator sets who are sustained by the broken system he is desperate to fix.
What about the beneficiaries of dubious import waivers; the oil thieves in the creeks to whom a reversal of the status-quo amounts to a death sentence? And what about Tompolo and the rest obscenely appointed to ensure the oil thieves escaped with their cargos at all times? And, last but by no means the least; what about Boko Haram who risked being exposed for the fraudulent group they have always been?
These, no doubt, are formidable adversaries we can only underrate at our own risk. They have the capacity and resources to truncate our quest for change. Collectively, they are capable of anything. They can hire professional assassins to whom stationary motorcades like GMBs will be like sitting ducks!
Now, unless we are all wrong, and the same interest groups are innocent of their alleged crimes against Nigeria, their natural course of action will be self-preservation of the type that is not possible under GMB. These vested interests can literally see a fast moving train headed in their direction and are not likely to remain stationary and wait until it hits them. That is why the president-elect, and his security detail, cannot afford to be too modest in their security structure.
They must realize that the General is the very symbolism of the change the nation urgently desires. Whatever might have been the motivation behind the directive, the General must know that even armoured vehicles have their inherent limitations like the late Anastasio "Tachito" Samoza DeBayle who was twice the Nicaraguan President in the 1970s.
By the time his assassins got to him, Samoza had already fled into exile in Paraguay having led a repressive regime. Samoza was renowned for his frequent use of custom-made armoured and bullet proof limousines but by the time they got him he was not even using one but his assassins did not even know it. It wasn't necessary.
The Sandinistas (as the leftist guerrillas that overthrew him were known) assault team of seven comprising three women and four men studied his daily routine for over six months. The operation was codenamed "Reptile". On the 17th of September 1980, the assault team wasted Samoza as his motorcade emerged from the gate of his foreign exile home. The Sandinistas had in their armoury two Soviet-made machine guns, two AK-47 assault rifles, two automatic pistols, as well as an RPG-7 rocket launcher with four anti-tank grenades. Two rockets completed their arsenal.
Unless GMB, and his security detail, know something Nigerian's don't know, it is difficult to imagine how his motorcade can survive a similar assault using the same arsenal waiting at any of Abuja's numerous road intersections.
May God help us!