Soyinka: What I told Tinubu about Buhari, some APC leaders
In the second part of his interview, Professor Wole Soyinka speaks on his meeting with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu ahead of the 2019 elections and what he told him about President Muhammadu Buhari and some All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders. The Nobel laureate also speaks on what he told former VP Atiku Abubakar and former President Goodluck Jonathan when they separately approached him to support their presidential bids. He opens up on the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike which has led to the shutdown of public universities for over five months and his problem with former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Excerpts:
Going back to the history of the nexus between literacy and development, the universities have all but collapsed. They are standing simply because of their physical structures, that is, what in most people’s mind constitutes universities has left. On the other hand, we have the advent of the social media which has taken away the discipline required. Those twin happenings have also had their impacts…and then the closure of public universities for over five months. This also has effects on graduates’ performance.
I am not going to say much about our universities for the simple reason that, many years ago, I offered a solution and that solution now has even become more urgent.
I proposed that “universities, close yourselves down, come together for a massive congregation. Close yourselves down for a year and have a congregation made up of faculty, student representatives, workers, stakeholders and others in which we define what we understand by university. We define our vision of what university should be given the present circumstances. Then we agree on a set of university laws which will be generated from within the university, not dictated from outside, so that it becomes our own thing. We create a new adaptive culture, university collegial spirit”.
What did I get? They said Oh! I was speaking for government. I said, “Listen, I didn’t say government should close down the universities, you already have the autonomy, you have the power to come together and say what you want”.
That was during the time of IBB. If that proposition had been accepted, we wouldn’t have been where we are now. Add together the number of months universities have closed down since then and see how many years they total. I said during that period, students would go and do their National Youth Service, whether 1st year, 2nd year, 3rd or final while the universities convene national university congregation, meet and decide their future. What you have now is piece meal, agitations here and there, going all over again. If it is not allowances today, it is payment tomorrow…and the students, the young generation lose a very valuable part of their lives.
They keep coming, starting all over again. So, it’s only a holistic approach for me to universities. The crisis will not be solved by meetings between ASUU and Ngige (Labour Minister) or the Education Minister. The cure will take place when the universities say, “Wait a minute, we an autonomous entity and will discuss even how to generate funds and be less dependent on government”.
Now, that monster called social media, I am very glad you raised it. I don’t know what we are going to do about it, but I have said it many times that maybe the 3rd World War will be started by the social media. It is the most devastating distortion of a beautiful technology. It is the mild conversion of the human genius because it is genius and has proven the positive aspects. It is responsible, for instance, for the Arab Spring but those who dominate that social media…my sons succeeded in closing down at least 30 fake Wole Soyinka’s platforms. I don’t (have) Facebook (account), I don’t blog or tweet.
I keep away from these and yet, time and time again, a new Wole Soyinka platform appears. We closed them down; it had to be physical threat after we tracked their location. We tracked that all the way to Bosnia, next to a petrol station. That was the address of the owner of this ‘Wole Soyinka’.
They put words in your mouth, they create friction, enmity; instead of using them (social media) as instruments of learning and genuine communication, improvement, suggestions, all they think is that it is a play thing, insulting, concocting, manufacturing, they have celebrated my obituary. Each time I read them I said “let me take my bottle of drink before it becomes true”. It is a serious problem and I am glad the government of the US is tackling the originators, instructing them to do something before serious damages are done to communities.
But the point that it is driving illiteracy to the heights is incontestable. The new generation takes it as the easy way out for self-expression. But our learning of self-expression itself is a discipline, something which you practice, perfect and use positively and which can even become lucrative. Some of them have succeeded in that. So, who is going to teach or cure them?
Recently, I was in London on my way from Canada and I stayed a couple of days. I went for my morning coffee. As I was taking my coffee, I heard someone speaking Yoruba. That was a week ago at Chelsea in London.
Then I looked up, was I hallucinating? It was a half cast performing ‘419’ with his laptop. So, it was he alone, with his laptop on one side and phone on the other. I think he suspected that I understood what he was saying because of the way I looked up sharply.
And he didn’t know you?
No, he didn’t because of the way I dressed. I enjoy my anonymity whenever I am outside the country. But he suspected that I must have understood what he was saying. He never spoke another word.
I bought another coffee, hoping he would continue so I could locate his home but he didn’t. That was a Yoruba man performing ‘419’. Many of them think ‘419’ was invented for them. That’s part of our problem today: Illiteracy and crookedness.
I read an article where the writer said they nearly lost you to journalism; that you went for an interview and you were asked to write and that, long after others had finished and left, you were still writing until the invigilator asked you to submit whatever you were writing. So, you wanted to be a journalist?
Yes, I went for an interview virtually straight from school. The question that somebody had done something somewhere, go there and cover it. I didn’t mean to cover more than a page but I was enjoying it (laughs) with twists and turns until I saw the figure looming over my head and the invigilator came and asked, “What is this? Did I ask you to write a book?” Anyway, that was how I failed that journalism test. He didn’t give me back my script; if he did, maybe I would have done something with it.
Another story; you wrote your PhD thesis and decided that you were not going to submit it as academic work and then turned it into a book.
Don’t mind them. It is a mythology. What happened was that I decided not to do a PhD and I told my professors; they wanted me to do it. One Prof said at least I should do something; he then instituted the MA in one year, rather than two years. I was impatient to go and start my writing.
He organized a group of us to do long essays and tests. Tony Harrison, the poet, was among us, though I don’t think he completed the program. At a point, I asked myself, why am I wasting my time? I left. Later on, I decided to do a research because I wanted to set up my own company and also generally wanted to reform the traditional form of theatre. I was able to get the fellowship because they assumed I would write a PhD, the other one I walked away from. I call myself a doctor of dropout.
But you went on to get the professorship? Very few people are able to do that. You don’t have a PhD and went ahead to get professorship.
Well, I am not just a creative person; there is (also) this intellectual aspect into my make-up. I kept that alive through essays and lecturing and eventually wrote a book…all of which generally go into consideration for professorship depending on what kind of university it is.
Some universities won’t touch you if you don’t have a PhD. On the other hand, one of my Profs never even got 1st degree and he got a professorship right away on the basis of his works on William Shakespeare. It is all a question of scholarship and how you want to do it. But, there was no way I would ever write a book with all those long footnotes that are longer than the materials. Everything is footnotes.
There was a difference. When you started writing, most of what you wrote was incomprehensible to most people; you said that is what it should be.
No. I didn’t say that is how it should be, maybe other people did. I was argued and I said no, it is comprehensible. You can read it carefully. I try to tell people, not all works are ingested at the same seating.
I am a student of literature. I know books which I would leave for a while and then return later. Don’t misunderstand me; I didn’t set out to write that kind of book (that is incomprehensible). I wrote the way I felt internally and used the kind of expressions which are my armory.
After you wrote books like ‘The man died’ and then you wrote ‘The Lion and the Jewel’ which was more interesting to read, and even ‘The trials of Brother Jero’, it was like you mellowed when you wrote ‘Ake’. That was a book I saw many people hugging even though there are some phrases in it that required the use of a dictionary to interpret but it was more interesting to read.
It is interesting in the sense that I said I had to wait a long time to write ‘Ake’ because I wanted to enter into the mind of the child as that child was at the time I was writing and so I had to be patient.
I think one day something happened and I found I could enter, I entered that period and I began work on it. So, creative works operate very often in that manner. Mind you, some people make up their mind from the beginning and decide when and what they are going to write. They wake up in the morning in those days of typewriter; they put up a sheet and don’t get up from there until they have covered a few pages, making corrections. They won’t do more than those pages.
There are also those who things built up inside for a long time, sometime for even years and then they write in a white sheet. It is the only way they can write…they wait until the critical mass had built up and the materials can no longer be contained inside. I partially belong to that group.
It is already formulating, gestating. So, when people ask me how long it took me to write a book, I say it took me years, but, in actual fact, it took, maybe weeks. But it’s been building up, inside I have been writing, and listening to it, meeting the characters and then they are ready to burst out. It is a very remarkable and varied process and that’s what makes creative writing so fascinating to some of us.
In October 1986, you were put on the stage, most unwillingly, dragged, kicking and screaming there, but you were also held up as a beacon because you would be the first African to win the Nobel Prize. It appears people made more of it than you did. So many people thought so much of that and how much you were deserving of it, even before the award. Yet, the way you came across it was like it was another day in the office.
Let’s put it this way, I think prizes are good things, they are good for the occupation, they encourage not just the recipient but also others, it boosts. It takes what you are doing out of the ghetto and places it in the public place at a very different level. It’s not that I am against that. It is not that I am displeased about the prize, but I think prizes are good as long as you don’t think they set you apart as a (human) being.
For me, my entire struggle has not been about Nobel Prize. It has been to make sure I retain as much of what I know I am. I don’t allow people to turn me into something else or a Nobel Prize winner rather than Wole Soyinka, and that has been the real problem.
It’s not a light burden at all because you lose such a large portion of your anonymity. We were talking of disguises just now. It is not that it is bad to be noticed or admired but it is also a nuisance sometimes. You want to enter into a sharp corner and eat amala without being noticed, this stopped and I resent it.
Why should one deny it (Nobel)? For me, it shouldn’t set one apart. One should not now be treated as a guru. I have continued to do what I was doing before I won the Nobel Prize. Only that I am (now) more conscious. You have to reassure some people that you haven’t suddenly grown horns and a tail.
Some say we have been a bit too hard on our country in the sense that a lot of the things happening in the country are positive. Do you think that democracy has deepened from the administration of former President Obasanjo to the current one?
This is one of the reasons why one ends up staying put. There are the positives; one cannot go on looking at the negatives. Nigeria has the highest percentage of capable, intelligent and creative people, anywhere in the world. I am talking about power population, the proportion. We are into space; we have Nigerians who have contributed to the components of some of those rockets you see flying who work with NASA. Many Nigerians have carried out experiments in space.
During my period of exile, when I was moving around, lecturing, I met Nigerians whose works I have attempted bringing to the attention of the academia. I remember one Nigerian who claimed he found cure for HIV/AIDS and I asked what could be done with his work. Eventually when we talked they found out it wasn’t quite the cure. I have had so many encounters. I was invited to address the American Society of Surgeons when it was headed by a Nigerian doctor.
He didn’t have to ask me twice. I was on the plane, going. So, I have encounters like that in various fields. Look at our achievements in the music industry. I am not a pop music fan but I recognize talents. So, we shouldn’t dwell too much on the negatives. But, if the system of governance is such that all it does is lead to brain drain, this negates all their attainments of these people because these are the kinds of talents that we need to build the nation.
When we started the Union of Writers of the African People in Senegal, we created a sister organization which was the Union of African Researchers and Scientists and when you talk about my ding-dong about with my aspiring partners, it is an opportunity also for giving credit. So, let the whole world hear that I am about to give credit. When I returned from Dakar, I saw then President Obasanjo and told him that we needed to make the association very strong for the future of this nation, it is technology and science and he gave his support.
He sent me to the head of the Institute of International Affairs. I remember travelling to Latin America to the black section trying to recruit for this nation scientists and technologists. I know what efforts were really made to build a strong, scientific, technological unit here. I was involved in the nuclear program which ended up in my disgusting leaving that particular endeavor over geographical balancing.
What sort of nonsense is that? We are talking about science and technology… But, this is Nigeria for you and that was the setback we had. I remember being assailed by some of our respected friends here on hearing that I was involved in the program. I asked, is nuclear technology only for destruction? Isn’t it also for peace and energy? So, why should I not be involved in it? At that time, they thought we were trying to build up nuclear bomb to counter apartheid. I said to them “I am not for bombing people”.
But, why should we not develop atomic energy as long as we can do it cleanly and even supply power?” I collaborated at many several levels with many governments without blinking. Once you are on the right track, I don’t hesitate in contributing in that direction. Each person has to some extent, in their own way, contributed to the building of democracy. At the same time, virtually all, including the late President Yar’ Adua, who led for a short while, contributed to the deterioration of democracy. I have given example of the closure of a state House of Assembly that took our voices away, cheated us and turned us into mutes. I find that kind of action really unforgivable.
This was under Jonathan. I have great respect for him especially the way he contributed by conceding defeat to Buhari. This is one of his most glorious moments. They wanted to recruit (bring him back as President) him and I said, “What is it? Leave the man alone. He has wiped off a large portion of his deficit by quitting the way he did. Why are you bringing him back? If you bring him back that means you are bringing me out”. This man cannot come back and of course I became an issue, not the person we were talking about. Not after what he did when he was in power. Look at how he stopped (former governor) Oshiomhole’s plane mid-air because he was going to campaign for somebody. I don’t forget things like that. Buhari didn’t win any election, Jonathan lost it but that doesn’t sink, they don’t understand what that means.
One of the current candidates for President is very close to you and you referenced it when you mentioned NADECO and General Abacha’s administration. He is more like your son, so to speak.
Yes, you are quite right. There is a personal aspect but he will tell you, for instance, that, before, I made the statement. Midway into Buhari’s first tenure, it was clear that he was a disaster. And I went and met him and said, “Elections are coming, please find somebody else. Don’t let Buhari get back in office. Not just him, a number of leaders in the APC. This man is a disaster. Get somebody, we will work with you. Get somebody from APC because I wasn’t going to touch anybody from PDP for anything, especially the PDP of that time”.
You know politicians, I said, “let’s have some new blood in his place. Let this country have a genuine change”.
That is how close we are. I cannot forget. He is a very good man but some over eager characters keep putting words of praise in my mouth regarding him. On the social media they will say “Wole Soyinka pays Tinubu tribute”. I have not said anything to Tinubu since that our meeting which took place shortly before the 2019 general elections. We haven’t even met and yet, on the social media, people keep turning me into a praise singer, not knowing that they are doing him a disservice because I am obliged to denounce it and say, “This is a lie, I never said this”.
One thing I would like to say in addition is that he is my friend, we are close, we worked together against Abacha government, ate together, drank together, clothed together.
He moved from NADECO to NALICON. He also has a very good brain. But when it comes to political issues and choices, my position is still the same as I said to Atiku when he came to me. I told him, “Look, you people, it’s time your generation left this stage. So, that’s my position. I am sorry”. And we chatted and that was it. The same thing I told Jonathan, “It’s time you left the stage because you did this, did this. So there is no difference”. I still respect Jonathan, I consider him…I have not forgotten our first chat when we met at Eko Hotels, I won’t tell you (laughs), ask him.
Tell us about the Iyan Conferences that you had with General Obasanjo. Do you still have those conferences after the death of Prof Aboyade?
We talked about Nigeria, the positives and the negatives. When people talk about me, I am sure the negatives will be heavy but the positives will also be there. My problem with Obasanjo has been very straight forward; he likes to put people down to boost himself up and, in the process, sometimes utters, deliberately, untruth words. We talked about history; I am a respecter of history. Where there are impacts of history, I cannot sit down and be silent when part of the history is distorted.
That would be the most irresponsible of me as a creative person, public intellectual and as an activist. I cannot really say more than that. We used to fight, his wife, late Stella, called me uncle until she died. Obasanjo used to ‘steal’ my aparo (bird) when I went hunting and I took the ‘aparo’ back. When somebody ‘steals’ your aparo, it means you are friends. Nobody can ‘steal’ my aparo and get away with it. Let me tell you this compliment. I am 88 years old, it is not a question of mellowing, it is a question of truth when the opportunity comes to say it; he (Obasanjo) is actually a very bright person, a likeable person.
He is a clown also, but then he is a very cunning clown and uses his cunning ways to cover some devilishness. These are some of the characteristics that fascinate me about Obasanjo. And, he comes up with some good ideas, even outside office; he wants to pull down his predecessors…like his intervention on this security issues which should be the concern of everybody. And when I got his invitation, I accepted, right away. I could not attend but I sent a memo about what I think should be done.
He replied and thanked me. This should be the kind of relationship between people. Some of my best friends, I don’t speak to them for about a year. There is one of them I have not spoken with for one and a half years because he did something which I found not right. That was it. But, eventually, we came back again. Isn’t that how human beings should be? It can’t all be smooth all the time.
There must be a time you cross each other out, thoroughly and if the event which caused it is public, the crossing out has to be public and if it is a private thing, you can handle it on a private level. That is all I am guilty of. If you want to crucify me for that, I am ready.
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I’ve forgiven Tinubu —Bode George
A former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Bode George, yesterday, said he has forgiven President-elect Bola Tinubu.
George, who analyzed the outgoing administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, declared that he failed to live up to expectations.
The PDP leader, in a chat with journalists at his Ikoyi office, added that the Buhari administration did not impact the lives of Nigerians positively, saying he failed to provide security which was his core responsibility.
His words: “My personal assessment is that he failed, not completely in every sector, but if you do an examination and say you must have a minimum of 33 per cent, then you can go to the next class, but they did not attain that 33 per cent. I can give them maybe about five per cent, even the five per cent requires a lot of retrospection. The most important thing you must guarantee to your people, as a government, is security of lives and property, who is safe now?
“So it is very very disheartening and heartbreaking that he failed in his number one job, which is to guarantee security of lives and property. You know when he was coming in, oga (Buhari) was telling us, I would fight corruption, I will secure the lives and properties of the people, I will do this, I will do that, all kinds of promises.
“So let’s put those promises now into his departure, because that’s what will be written on the pages of history. Whatever a leader does during his time, it is on the pages of history.”
Asked whether he would work with Tinubu if called upon, George said: “There is nothing personal, this country trained me and I have to give back.”
On his reluctance to endorse Tinubu, he said: “I have forgiven him, but you cannot forget.”
Tinubu makes first appointments
In line with tradition, President-elect Bola Tinubu is expected to make his first appointments after being sworn in as President tomorrow by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.
There are at least three appointments that ordinarily should be made by the new President to keep the wheel of government moving pending when other appointments that must have the seal of the National Assembly will follow.
The three appointments are the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief of Staff and presidential spokesperson.
There has been a jostle for appointments, including ministerial, under the Tinubu administration since the president-elect emerged after the February 25 presidential election.
Names have been mentioned as those being considered by Tinubu including those of very close associates but Sunday Vanguard was made to understand by sources close to the president-elect at the weekend that nothing was certain on appointments under the incoming administration including those that announced must, as a matter of tradition and necessity, be made tomorrow or Tuesday.
The president-elect, it was learnt from multiple sources close to him, yesterday, has kept allies and close associates, among others, guessing over those that will form his cabinet.
Sunday Vanguard was reliably informed that Tinubu has refused to disclose the list of potential appointees at any level be it personal aides, Presidential Villa officials and ministers.
This, it was understood, is a source of intense anxiety among those lobbying to be appointed to the next government.
Meanwhile, there were insinuations that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola; Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and Mr James Faleke, a federal lawmaker from Lagos, are likely to play some roles in the Tinubu cabinet.
It has been reported that el-Rufai alongside two other outgoing governors – Aminu Masari of Katsina State and Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State – are in the race for the SGF office.
Former Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State is also, according to reports, in the jostle for ministerial appointment. He is said to be highly favoured for the External Affairs portfolio.
Traditionally, top members of the ruling party who lost governorship election in their states are usually compensated with ministerial appointments and this may also play out in the unfolding Tinubu government.
Multiple sources, however, said Gbajabimila was facing huge opposition to the possibility of emerging as Chief of Staff to the President.
There has been no word on who will emerge as a presidential spokesperson but there are high-profile professionals around the president-elect who fit the bill.
Some of them served in the Tinubu Presidential Campaign and they include Mr Bayo Onanuga and Mr Dele Alake.
Tinubu keeping list secret – Source
A source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, disclosed that all the names being peddled for appointments in the Tinubu administration remained in the realm of speculation.
The source said: “President Tinubu is likely to make his first appointments on Monday or Tuesday because he wants to hit the ground running.
“But all the conjectures about who is in and who is out in the cabinet and other appointments are in the realm of speculations.
”Everyone has continued to speculate but from what I know, the list is with the president-elect. “He is keeping it close to his chest. All those who go to him, he promises them but he won’t say anything.
“You know that Tinubu is also a politician but no one knows those on the list. Even the speculation about Femi Gbajabiamila being considered as Chief of Staff is dicey and not something anyone can confirm and, as you know, Gbajabiamila is going with him all over the place. I’m not sure if Gbajabiamila will get the Chief of Staff slot.
“We have also heard the names of Mr Babatunde Fashola who is speculated as being considered as the Attorney-General of the Federation as well as Mr James Faleke and Mallam Nasir El-Rufai who may be among those to be appointed”.
Foreign guests, other dignitaries arrive Abuja for Tinubu’s inauguration
AHEAD of the inauguration of the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who takes over as Nigeria’s President on Monday, foreign guests and other dignitaries have started arriving at the Federal Capital Territory for the ceremony.
Officials at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria confirmed on Saturday that the authority received a memo from the Federal Government on the expected arrival of presidents and other VIPs, who had started arriving at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
It was also gathered that though foreign nationals had started arriving at Abuja since Monday, the number of visitors coming through the international and presidential wings of the airport increased significantly on Saturday.
A senior Canadian official told Sunday PUNCH that the country’s (Canada) delegation would enter Abuja Saturday night.
It was gathered that the Canadian Government would be represented by the Minister of Housing, Diversity and Inclusion, Ahmed Hussen.
Though the time of arrival of the United Kingdom delegation could not be ascertained, our correspondent learnt that the delegation might come in on Sunday. The UK delegation will be headed by the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for the inauguration.
The delegation includes Minister of State for Development and Africa at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Andrew Mitchell; the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Nigeria and Special Envoy on Girls’ Education, Helen Grant, and the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr Richard Montgomery.
From the United States, those on the delegation include; Chargé d’Affaires, US Embassy Abuja, David Greene; United States Representative, California, Sydney Kamlager-Dove, Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade, US Department of Commerce; Marisa Lago; Commander of US Africa Command, General Michael Langley, and Director, US Trade and Development Agency, Enoh Ebong.
Others are Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, US Department of State, Mary Phee; Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs, National Security Council, Judd Devermont, and Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Africa, US Agency for International Development, Monde Muyangwa.
Speaking on the arrival of VIPs for the inauguration of Nigeria’s 16th President, FAAN’s Head of Corporate Affairs, NAIA, Oluwakayode Adeyeoluwa, told one of our correspondents that a memo was sent to the authority about the high influx of VIPs into Abuja beginning from Saturday.
Adeyeoluwa said, “Of course, we should expect that. Dignitaries and possibly Presidents have started coming, because by the memo that came to my table, it shows that they’ve started arriving.
“They started coming into the country since last week, but it peaked today (Saturday) based on the influx at the international and Presidential wings of the Abuja airport.”
When asked if he had an idea on the Presidents that had already arrived, Adeyeoluwa replied, “No, I didn’t follow-up with that, because those categories of dignitaries will come through the Presidential wing of the airport, and that is not under our jurisdiction.”
India sends delegation
In a related development, the Indian government has sent its Defence Minister, Mr Rajnath Singh, as a Special Envoy of the Prime Minister to attend the inauguration of Nigeria’s President-elect.
The Indian Embassy in Nigeria disclosed in a statement on Saturday that Singh will arrive in Abuja on Sunday for the occasion.
“Mr. Singh is accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising senior officials from the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of External Affairs of India,” the statement partly read.
Heavy security at Eagle Square
Meanwhile, operatives of the Nigeria Police, the Armed Forces, the Department of State Services, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Federal Road Safety Corps, among others, have taken over Eagle Square, venue of the inauguration.
Military personnel, police officers and other security agents deployed for the match past parade continued their dress rehearsals at the venue.
During a tour of the city centre by one of our correspondents, it was observed that major roads leading to the Central Area of the Federal Capital Territory were partially cordoned off by security operatives.
The Central Business District began to look like a ghost town due to the presence of heavy security operatives. Several helicopters were also seen hovering over the city for aerial surveillance on Friday and Saturday.
Similarly, vehicles belonging to the Presidential Guards Brigade and the Nigeria Police Force were seen moving around the city centre, blaring sirens.
Sunday PUNCH also observed that Eagle Square had been deserted by traders, as the usual business activities on the premises had disappeared.
The surroundings of the federal secretariat were also quiet, as civil servants were asked to stay off work from Friday until Tuesday.
Security at five-star hotels
At the Fraser Suites Hotel, one our correspondents observed the presence of four armed police officers stationed at the entrance and an NSCDC squad car in the parking lot and a couple of military officers in the hotel lobby on Saturday.
Hotel security officers conducted car bomb checks upon entry and also directed guests to go through the metal detectors, as well as put their luggage through the detectors.
Some foreign nationals, believed to be delegates of European and Asian countries were spotted moving in and out of major Abuja hotels. The front desk officer confirmed that the hotel was fully booked and would only be available after the inauguration.
At the Transcorp Hilton, several vehicles both of the Nigeria Police Force and the NSCDC were stationed at the junction of Aguiyi Ironsi Street where the hotel is located.
Four officers of both security agencies manned the street and took turns in patrol. While two armed officers were spotted at the exit and entry points of the hotel.
A hotel employee confirmed that the hotel was fully booked, adding that some of the clients included top officials of the Nigerian government as well as foreign dignitaries.
“Yes, we have quite a number of VIP guests, including delegates of foreign governments, but that is the most I can say,” the employee, who pleaded anonymity, stated.
Meanwhile, the police deployed personnel to be on guard for the protection of Aso Rock Presidential Villa and provide security around the Eagle Square.
The personnel are to man all borders, seaports and airports for the purpose of achieving a hitch-free ceremony on Monday.
Sunday PUNCH reports that the Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, earlier disclosed this in a statement on Thursday.
Personnel for the inauguration were drawn from Special Forces namely, the Police Mobile Force, Counter-Terrorism Unit, Special Protection Unit, Anti-Bomb Squad, FIB-Intelligence Response Team, and the Special Tactical Squad, among others.
Also deployed by the police were helicopters and drones for aerial surveillance in Abuja and its environs, as well as water cannons and armoured personnel carriers.
The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, said police officers and other security operatives were currently located along routes to-and-from the inauguration ground.
However, bands of merrymakers have also besieged the nation’s capital to add colour and melody to the inauguration.
The video of a band entertaining people at the Abuja airport on Saturday was shared on social media.
The drummers were seen at the airport welcoming guests with songs and dances as they disembarked from their aircraft.
Fight corruption, unite Nigerians, Buhari, ex-Kenyan president tell Tinubu
In another development, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and former Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, on Saturday tasked the President-elect to work towards uniting Nigerians irrespective of ethnic and political affiliation.
Both leaders gave the charge during the Inauguration Lecture at the International Conference Centre in Abuja.
This was contained in the statement issued on Saturday by Tinubu’s media officer, Tunde Rahman.
In his keynote address, Kenyatta pleaded with the incoming president to unite the country irrespective of ethnic, political and religious cleavages that might exist.
“The contest is now over and the hard work of building a prosperous and unified Nigeria now begins. Upon assuming the office of President, you will be wise to transcend from tactical politics of an election and assume your role as Nigeria’s vision bearer,” Kenyatta said.
The President also re-echoed Kenyatta’s appeal, stressing that the inauguration lecture highlighted the imperatives of democratic governance, nation-building and various challenges confronting the socio-political fabrics of Nigeria.
He spoke extensively on the significance of democracy in driving Nigeria’s sustainable development.
Tinubu, who was represented by Shettima, used the opportunity to call on Nigerians to stand together with the incoming administration to birth a better country.
Meanwhile, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, has told the President-elect not to occupy his mind with the thought of winning the next election, but on how to develop the country and the next generation.
The Sultan spoke at an event where the former Kenyan President delivered an inaugural lecture titled, ‘Deepening Democracy for Integration and Development’.
Atiku, Obi shun inauguration
In another development, the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, is not expected at the inauguration.
This was disclosed to Sunday PUNCH by the Media Adviser to the former Vice President, Mr Paul Ibe.
Giving reasons why his principal will be absent from the event, Ibe denied knowledge of Atiku’s invitation to the event.
The former Vice President, he said, would be in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, on Monday for the commencement ceremony of the American University of Nigeria, a school he founded in 2003.
In the same vein, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, has turned down the prospect of attending the May 29 inauguration of Tinubu.
Obi, who spoke through his media aide, Emeka Obasi, told one of our correspondents that it would be absurd for him to be seen attending the inauguration of the same person he believed didn’t win the 2023 presidential election.
The development is coming in the wake of Obi and his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed’s, visit to Kaduna on Saturday for the fathia (wedding ceremony) of his deputy campaign director, Alhaji Augie Mohammed’s daughter.
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