It was an act of good that ended in tragedy. The speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had stopped his convoy for a cheering knot of Nigerians and was doling out money through his aides. Love became death.
One security detail responded to a throng by putting his finger in the wrong place: the trigger. And he also moved the trigger in the wrong direction and at the wrong time. The result was a shot and the nozzle had not faced the sky before release. It was facing a newspaper vendor, Ifeanyi Okereke, and he did not survive it.
The story from the point of view of the aide, Abdullahi Hassan, was that he had wanted to push the nozzle to the sky before shooting so as to disperse the unruly crowd. The finger, however, outpaced his thought to the trigger and a bullet lodged in Okereke’s body leading to his death.
Hassan may not be a police officer but as a staff of the Department of State Services (DSS), his act of perishing recklessness underlines why anyone who receives a gun or any form of firearms from the state must understand not only the sanctity of human life but must be in a state of mind to preserve it. Hassan did not pick the gun at random. He was supposed to understand his weapon enough to master its silences and menaces.
Therefore, before anybody is assigned to guard a senior appointee or elected officer, they must have undergone thorough mental and psychological certification. They must also undergo routine checks to ascertain they have not dropped into danger zones.
As a well-known presence in the ambience of the National Assembly even before he rose to helmsman as speaker, Gbajabiamilla knew some of the habitués personally, including Okereke. As he himself had noted, “I am personally distraught about this incident and my deepest sympathies go to the victim, his family and Abuja vendors.” He said his value of human life endeared him to the vendors hence “I stop my convoy quite often to connect with them,” describing the act of his security detail as “horrific.”
We have witnessed the overzealous behaviour of aides and security details for decades in this country when they accompany big names on highways, narrow streets, and even around offices and events. They tend to show loyalty to the detriment of their bosses and the citizens.
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the police force that was scrapped was one of the manifestations of the vicious spirit of security officers. The speaker did nothing to hide the fellow or even defend him in the public eye. He named him and promptly handed him over to the officers of the law. This is against the attitude of some well-placed persons who try to twist the facts, and cover the guilt in contemptuous logic and folly. Peter Afunnaya, the spokesman for the DSS, confirmed that Hassan has been placed in detention and an investigation has also commenced into the matter.
When such tragedies occur, we blame the officer as we should. But we cannot forget that the culprit is a symptom of a national malaise. So, that incident should spur the National Assembly to insist that the budget should incorporate their sanity.
The speaker met with the family at Kwata village, Madalla-Suleja to pay a condolence visit, and has instructed his lawyers to set up a trust fund to care for all his children till adulthood, saying, “Those children have now become my own.”