Wellcome to Abuja
As the nation marks the 14th year anniversary of its return to democracy, now dubbed Democracy Day, Senator Iroegbu writes that the metropolitan city of Abuja may still be under security watch, though with a relaxed atmosphere
Abuja has a love-hate relationship with its residents. There are so many factors adduced for that; the expensive nature of the city, its insecurity problem and its cosmopolitan look, all combined to produce ambivalent relationship Abuja has with its residents.
And with the October 1, 2010, bombings that exploded near the Eagle Square venue of the 50th independence anniversary celebrations, killing many and injuring several others, Abuja has never been in its best elements.
Indeed, the Federal Government had scaled down greatly the celebration of the National Day since that sad event, claiming that the nation needed to save money on ceremonies to enable it attend to some other pressing needs. Analysts however argued that the government was avoiding attack by the Boko Haram insurgents who might take advantage of such occasions to unleash attack on the populace.
To be clear, the tragic incident of October 1, 2010 which saw the mastermind Mr. Gideon Okah prosecuted and convicted in a South African court ushered in a flurry of bombings that would later cause fear into the heart of many residents of the FCT.
Consequently, the government’s celebration of national days such as May 29 which has always been marked with so much fanfare was reduced and fear and apprehension took over the atmosphere of the capital city with government and security agents taking more precautionary measures since 2010.
The sombre mood continued till May last year when Democracy Day celebration was confined to the Presidential Villa and a more secure International Conference Centre (ICC) with most residents staying at home with their families rather than going out to public and leisure centres as was the popular practise during public holidays.
However, things may have taken a turn for the best and residents of the FCT are once again taken back their city.
And today, offices in the metropolitan city of Abuja will remain closed as residents troop out to celebrate the Democracy Day in a city that was once a security fortress of the nation.
“We now have some signs of peace and stability and I think the state of emergency declared by the president has kept the Boko Haram militants in checks. So Abuja residents are out without fear, although amidst tight security since this is the seat of power,” said Aminu Farouk, a resident who witnessed the Independence Day bombings at Eagle Square.
No doubt, residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have never felt more secure since 2010.
Accordingly, the Federal Government in partnership with the FCT Administration (FCTA) is planning a big celebration for this year’s democracy day.
Yes, with the special Juma’ah prayer held at the Abuja National Mosque last Friday, signs of good omen are gradually returning to the city.
At the prayers were the Vice President Namadi Sambo, FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, Minister of State for Works, Bashir Yuguda, former Head of Service, Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, former Yobe State governor, Bukar Abba, Prof. Ango Abdullahi and several others.
Mohammed has said that this year's event is tagged ‘Centenary Democracy Day’ to highlights the progress the country has made so far in the last 100 years of natiohood.
He disclosed that the organising committee worked hard to details in the entire arrangement to ensure a hitch-free and momentous special Juma’at prayer, and inter-denominational church service held last Sunday at National Mosque and National Ecumenical Centre respectively.
According to him this edition of the celebration is tagged ‘Centenary Democracy Day’ as it will usher in the 100 years of the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates that gave birth to the entity known as Nigeria.
The Minister reiterated that the celebration would afford the government of President Goodluck Jonathan the opportunity to showcase some of the transformational achievements.
Also, while speaking during the Democracy Day special juma’ah service held at the National Mosque in Abuja, Vice President Sambo advised Nigerians to shun violence and be their brothers’ keepers.
Sambo who said he was grateful to God for making it possible for him to witness the second year of the Jonathan administration, added that the federal government had fared well in delivering democracy dividends to Nigerians within the period.
He further appealed to Nigerians to create a peaceful environment for rapid socio-economic growth.
Furthermore, Chief Imam of the Mosque, Ustaz Musa Muhammad, in his special sermon tasked Muslims on tolerance, humility and gratitude as virtues, saying "every good Muslim should aspire to imbibe these qualities of character so that the society would be a better place.”
Muhammad prayed to God to take charge of the affairs of the country by redirecting the youths and the leaders to the path of peace and happiness at all times.
He also urged Nigerians to support President Jonathan’s transformation agenda as it has proved to be a viable way for accelerated development in Nigeria.
“I ask Nigerians to continue supporting this administration’s transformation agenda regardless of your faith as this will ensure accelerated development in our dear country, and we ask Nigerians to continue praying for the country as God fearing people,” he said.
In the same vein, President Jonathan also called for peace and unity towards good democratic governance and development of the country during the Christian prayers. He promised to use the Democracy Day to present 'Mid-Term Assessment' of his administration.
Therefore, from all indications both the Federal Government, FCTA, and FCT residents are well prepared to mark this year's Democracy Day, scheduled to hold at the International Conference Centre(ICC) in a more relaxed atmosphere compared to the last two years.
But while the renewed vigour and offensive against terrorists and all acts of insecurity seemed to be yielding results as members of the public heave a sigh of relief, it will be apt to note that the growing security consciousness amongst Nigerians, especially residents of the FCT have played crucial role in this landmark achievement.
There is no doubt that the secret to the growing sense of security consciousness in the FCT lies with the close cooperation among the citizens, organisations, religious centres and government agencies.
Accordingly, churches and mosques have taken the lead in security alertness with ever presence of well armed and eagle eyed security personnel manning strategic entrance and exits of these religious centres.
In addition, churches have also taken it upon themselves to build security barriers, just as they have hired well-trained security personnel that would work closely with state security agents including the Military, Police, Civil Defence and Road Safety officials.
Also rigid security checks and strategies have been adopted by most worship centres such that any church or mosques without these necessary measures are frowned at these days in the FCT.
Similarly, major economic and commercial institutions like banks, hotels, shopping centres and Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have all adopted stringent security measures to secure their assets.
For example MDAs like Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNP) have followed the lead of security agencies like the Defence Headquarters and Military Services, the State Security Service and Nigeria Police Force Headquarters to cordon-off whole section of the road leading to their premises from the public.
In the same vein, this attitudinal change amongst major institutions in the FCT has also rubbed off on individuals who have also adopted various forms of measures to secure their homes, estates, businesses and property.
This was confirmed recently by a security expert and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Acti Tech Limited, Engr. Peter Madu who told THISDAY in an interview that Nigerians and particularly FCT residents are becoming much more sophisticated and demanding in the use of security gadgets.
Madu said that this new found security consciousness amongst the members of the public has boosted sales of security gadgets across the country.
He was not alone in this assessment as all the security chiefs including the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim and Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Azubuike Ihejiraka had earlier said security situation in Abuja has improved tremendously.
So far, violence in Abuja remained below what was experience in the past year and may definitely be a reason for people to celebrate.