The highs and lows of the presidential inauguration

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Adelani Adepegba

The presidential inauguration has come and gone, but the people that got the special invitation to the event would not forget the tight security blanket that hallmarked the ceremony.

Apart from the hordes of security personnel that took over all the entrance and exit points of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the access road to the Eagle Square venue of the inauguration was sealed off by stern-looking soldiers and policemen assisted by their colleagues in other security services.

The top of the Federal Secretariat buildings was taken over by snipers as other security agents kept away uninvited visitors. No fewer than four security points checked guests’ invitation and identification cards while another one undertook body searches. Some journalists that were accredited for the programme got a rough treatment as they were delayed for some time before they got clearance to the arena. For all the guests, getting into the main bowl of the square was not an easy task.

In spite of the various security checks, many Nigerians who preferred to watch the event live went to ridiculous levels to achieve their aim. A woman that was stopped by security agents at one of the points explained that she was invited by a friend of the First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.

“I was invited by a friend of the first lady; she said I should come and that I should mention her name if stopped by security agents,” the fair lady said. But she could not convince the men as they asked her to step aside.

A young man, who had no invitation tried to pull a fast one on the security agents, but failed as he was spotted and ordered out of the grounds. The young man whose name could not be ascertained had joined a bus that was provided to take guests to the square from the Ministry of Finance building, a designated take-off point.

He had earlier told the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps officers and other officials that he was with his ‘uncle,’ a guest, clutching an invitation card. The officials were convinced and allowed him to board the bus. At the entrance to the square, a clever official saw him and demanded his invitation card, but he could not provide any. He told the official that he was with his ‘uncle,’ but the guest he referred to as his uncle simply ignored him. The guy was asked out of the square grounds immediately.

While many were engrossed in the march past and callisthenics displays, a dark man wearing a black jacket and brown chinos trousers was more concerned with how to make money.

He was armed with a slip of paper purporting to raise money for the education of deaf and dumb Nigerians. He passed the paper to a man in white a Agbada, but the man immediately returned it on seeing what was expected of him.

He looked over his shoulder and saw three prosperous-looking women and made a beeline for them. He struck gold. The women signed his paper and doled out N900, which he accepted with a smile.

The long list of names and figures on his paper indicated that the representative of the deaf and dumb had made some good money.

The military men and children that participated in the displays were fantastic and they did impress the dignitaries and other guests. They got rounds of applause for their scintillating performance; even President Goodluck Jonathan clapped.

A low point of the event was the refusal of security agencies to restore telecommunications service, which they had jammed to prevent detonation of bombs and explosives by criminals. Though the jamming of the GSM frequency was done in the national security interest, not allowing Nigerians to enjoy telecommunications services hours after the ceremony ended was an insensitive act, according to Nigerians that spoke to PUNCH METRO.


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