•PDP, Civil Society Groups urge president to speak out, demand probe of shooting in the villa
•Police set up investigation
Omololu Ogunmade and Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Alarming details have emerged on how the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, her children and Aide-de-Camp (ADC), Usman Shugaba, breached security in the Presidential Villa while attempting to force President Muhammadu Buhari’s nephew and personal assistant, Sabiu Yusuf, to go into self-isolation for traveling out of Abuja recently.
The altercation led to at least two gunshots being fired within the sacred precincts of the presidential seat of power, a dangerous escalation of the crisis of confidence between the First Lady and the president’s other relatives in the struggle for control of access to the president. Yusuf was said to have managed to flee the scene with blood stain injuries sustained during the attack.
Although Shugaba, and other security aides had since been detained after the ensuing melee, by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said it was alarmed at such a development and enjoined the president to speak out.
Also reacting to the shooting, a former Chairman of the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu who called for a thorough investigation into the alleged shooting incident at the Aso Rock presidential villa, saying the action could be treasonable.
The Police High Command have set up investigation panel made up DIGs and AIGs to get to the root of what happened and why shots were fired in the State House.
However, THISDAY findings reveal that trouble started on Thursday night, when the first lady and three of her children: Zahra, Halima and Yusuf, accompanied by some of her security aides, led by Shugaba, stormed the residence of Yusuf, House 8 and one of the president’s guests houses, by the Pilot Gate of the Presidential Villa, insisting that Yusuf should proceed on self-isolation for 14 days, to save the president’s family from the danger of Covid-19.
Yusuf had four days earlier returned from Lagos after visiting his wife, who was recently delivered of a baby.
The situation, however, went out of control, when the First Lady’s ADC, in his attempt to apprehend Yusuf, popularly known as Tunde (having been named after Buhari’s former Chief of Staff, Supreme Military Headquarters, Tunde Idiagbon, when he was head of state in the 1980s), discharged his weapon in the premises.
The gunshots, which were described as ‘security breach,’ in the Presidential Villa, forced Yusuf to scamper to safety and eventually taking cover in the nearby house of his uncle, Mamman Daura, also Buhari’s nephew.
What snowballed into that terrifying moment in the Presidential Villa that night, it was learnt, was the fallout of four days of insistence by Aisha that Yusuf should self-isolate after returning from his Lagos trip.
The encounter was said to have degenerated into a heated argument as Sabiu insisted that he was not the only aide of the president, who had travelled to Lagos, citing the case of the new Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, whom he claimed has been going to Lagos every weekend, without anybody pressuring him to self-isolate.
He was also said to have made reference to the trip embarked upon by Aisha’s daughters, Zahra and Halima, when they visited their in-laws following Halima’s husband uncle, who passed on recently without proceeding on self-isolation.
Sabiu, it was alleged, was resisting pressure to go on isolation because the president had asked him to continue with his duties and described the attempt to force him into self-isolation by the president’s wife as double standard.
He later returned home after the arguments on the night of the incident, believing the conflict had been resolved. But he was wrong.
Shortly after getting home that fateful Thursday, the first lady along with her children, stormed his premises, allegedly raining abuses on him, then, followed by gunshots fired by Shugaba, which forced him to beat a retreat and ran to Daura’s place, where he spent the night.
THISDAY gathered that IGP Adamu, after receiving security report on the incident on Friday that gunshots were fired in the precincts of the Presidential Villa, ordered the arrest of the ADC to the first lady and all the security aides, who accompanied her to Sabiu’s residence.
Their arrest, THISDAY learnt, was premised on the fact that firing gunshots, no matter the degree of provocation in the Villa and environs, amounted to a major ‘security breach’.
Whereas the news of the incident had filtered into town Thursday night, details were still sketchy until Friday night, when the first lady, in her first tweet on her Twitter handle, insisted on the inevitability of self-isolation after returning from a trip while the inter-state lockdown lasts and called on Adamu to release her aides from detention.
However, followed by a series of tweets on Friday from her verified twitter handle @aishambuhari, the first lady wrote: “That Covid-19 is real and still very much around in our nation is not in doubt. Consequently, I call on all relevant Government Agencies to enforce the Quarantine Act signed by Mr. President and ensure no one is found violating this law and the NCDC guidelines especially on interstate travel without the necessary exemptions for movement of essentials.
“Anyone who does that should at the very least be made to under go a 14-day mandatory isolation no matter who the person is. No one should be above the law and the Police command will do well to remember that.
“Finally, I call on the IGP to release my assigned Staff, who are still in the custody of the Police in order to avoid putting their lives in danger or exposure to Covid-19 while in their custody.”
She, however, did not disclose the identities of her aides that are being detained neither did she say when or why they were detained.
But sources in the State House told THISDAY that following the death of Mallam Abba Kyari, the President’s former Chief of Staff, who died as a result of COVID-19 complications on April 17, the first lady had been moving to expand her influence within the State House but believed that some of her husband’s relatives, including Sabiu, were blocking her from achieving that objective.
She was consequently said to have seized the opportunity provided by Sabiu’s visit to Lagos to launch the move to clip his wings by vehemently demanding that he should self-isolate so as not to endanger the first family.
PDP Alarmed, Charges President to Speak Out
Meanwhile, the PDP, Saturday said, it was alarmed by the reported shooting and security breaches within the precincts of the Presidential villa, following a squabble that reportedly degenerated among family members and officials of the Buhari Presidency.
The PDP said it was deeply worried that the protracted spat between the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, and aides of President Buhari could degenerate into violent combats, raids and free use of firearms within the Presidential villa.
In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party described the shooting within the Presidential Villa as distressing, more so that members of the president’s family were at the scene of the assault against one of President Buhari’s aides, during which the First Lady’s security details were alleged to have resorted to the use of firearms.
“Our party is disturbed by such ugly situation in the Buhari Presidency, which has already heightened apprehensions in the public space over the apparent failure of security architecture and central command system in the presidency, leading to such reckless and irresponsible breaches.
“The chaotic situation in the Presidential villa only points to the failure by President Buhari to provide a leadership that can guarantee orderliness in governance and effectively ensure the security of our nation,” the statement said.
The PDP noted that such leadership failure at the highest level has further exposed why the nation has been bedeviled by myriads of security and economic problems under President Buhari’s watch in the last five years.
More worrisome, the PDP added, was the fact that the Buhari Presidency has failed to speak out on the frightening situation so as to reassure Nigerians and douse the tension in the polity, especially at this critical time when the nation is facing serious security challenges.
The PDP, therefore, called on President Buhari to take immediate steps to restore order in his Presidency and shield the security system from the division and power tussle among persons close to him.
“Our party also demands for an immediate inquest into the security breaches as well as the alleged violation of Covid-19 ban on inter-state travels by officials and relations of Mr. President, which was reported to be part of the immediate causes of latest disturbances in the Presidential villa,” PDP stated.
Furthermore, the PDP urged the National Assembly to save the nation by wading into the persistent infighting in the Buhari Presidency especially, as those in charge of the Presidential villa have not demonstrated the required capacity to engender the needed orderliness for productive governance.