Reports of the recent experience of Senator Chris Anyanwu, representing Owerri Senatorial District, in the
hands of security aides of Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, almost brought tears to my eyes. As the story
goes, Mrs. Anyanwu’s convoy was travelling on the Owerri–Umuahia Road when they were come upon by a motorcade of the state governor. One thing led to another and soon heavily armed men from the governor’s team reportedly jumped down from their trucks and used some of the senator’s aides for a kick-boxing session while the governor watched with glee.
As a man with wife, sisters and daughters, I can only imagine the horror the poor woman could have felt looking
helplessly as her assistants were allegedly brutally assaulted. The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Navy
must have felt more pain than her physically abused aides; because each blow on the hapless men was laced with
insult and humiliation for Oga Madam. She must have screamed and cringed in powerless rage. It is the kind of
experience that poisons the souls of men with bitterness.
Strangely, my tears were not of sympathy. Not for Chris Anyanwu. And not for her bruised courtiers. It is an experience that nearly every Nigerian has grown accustomed to in the hands of those we ostensibly elected and pay to look after our affairs. If we ordinary folk manage to survive, the journalist-turned-politician should do just fine.
In all of this, one thought refuses to leave my mind: Who knows how many lesser mortals the senator and her entourage had run off the road in the past before they themselves got run over by a bigger bully?
Nigeria is one endless jungle of cocky convoys, mad motorcades and screaming sirens. When the President, the
Vice-President, their family members or any of the countless Presidency officials takes to the air, we the people must be grounded so as not to cluster the airspace for them. In the aviation industry, this is called “Presidential Movement” and it can cost you anything between one and several hours at the airports. It doesn’t matter if someone critically ill is being flown for surgery.
On the roads, things get a little more complicated. To the presidential entourage, you must add the nuisance of
36 emperors (sorry, governors), scores of ministers, over a hundred senators, nearly 400 members of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the top echelons of the Judiciary, plus the Service Chiefs
of both the armed and unarmed forces… And that’s only at the federal level. You must replicate this scenario in
each of the states, local government areas and traditional institutions all over the country. When these hordes
and their aides condescend to go by road, we the people must run for cover into nearby bushes or get roasted like
Chris Anyanwu. What a country!
I have not even mentioned the millions of ex-servicemen who keep and display aspects of their former paraphernalia of office such as stickers, belts, hats and horsewhips as instruments for intimidating other road users. Nor have I mentioned the large army of civilians whose only claim to right of way is the dubious courage
to walk into shops and buy blinking lights and sirens to be used when situations demand. As it often does on our
We are a nation steeped in impunity where everyone seeks to outdo the other, not with good works or the quality
of our contributions to humanity but by the size of our egos and the paraphernalia of office we manage to corner.
Humility is not a virtue in these parts.
They call it security. I call it megalomania. A few years ago, after witnessing one such shameful display, I began
to think of the real security implications of the road practices of our public officials. It did not take long to
come to the conclusion that the only people that blaring sirens, speeding motorcades and drunken security men
can protect from are stone-throwing protesters, amateur thieves and pick pockets — not genuinely disgruntled
citizens or professional hit men.
When will our public office holders and their “security” chiefs learn that their egotist anti-social behaviour on
the roads makes them more of enemies and therefore negates the very concept of security? And, wherein lies
the security in the unruly convoys that regularly crash with multiple casualties, sometimes including the VIPs
It would be interesting to know what Governor Idris Wada of Kogi State, the latest such executive casualty, now feels on the subject. Great men are not heralded by sirens. True leaders do not alienate their people. Only tyrants do. If the Lord does not watch over a city, the watchmen keep awake in vain, the Holy Book admonishes. True security comes from being at one with the people. Their love and goodwill are the ultimate
For those who want a model of responsible security for travelling public officials, they should come to Lagos and
see how Governor Babatunde Fashola does it. He goes around in unmarked cars and with minimal fanfare. And Lagos is better for it, I think. Indeed, the noisiest convoys on Lagos streets do not belong to the host governor but to visiting officials from other states. Empty barrels, indeed, the old Primary school saying goes, make the most noise.
To Senator Anyanwu, I say take heart. For every “big man”, there is a bigger man. If your experience would lead
to the emergence of better laws and conventions for the enthronement of decorum and humility in governance,
then it would not have been in vain.
For Governor Okorocha, I have a parable: Once upon a time, in a far away
kingdom called Omi, there was a king whose name was Okedi Ihakeem. His word was law and those who did not do
him obeisance were crushed. When he went out to the streets, he drove away both plebeians and priests from his
presence. One day, King Ihakeem woke up to find that his staff of office, the fulcrum of his power, was gone. He
searched everywhere but could not find it. Then he consulted the high priest who told him that the gods had taken back their staff. Powerless, in shame and unable to face the people whom he had oppressed, he ran away into the evil forest where he lives alone and in misery to this day. Those who have ears, let them hear.
•Victor Anazonwu, a marketing and communications strategist based in Lagos, wrote in via email@example.com