OBASANJO bashers should not celebrate Monday’s attack on former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the presidential wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. It does not matter how much they love to hate the man.
This was not a mere attack on an individual but a security breach that has vast implications for security at our airports and other public places, especially during visits of high profile persons.
The concerns should be more with security at prime areas like our airports. If Obasanjo with all the security around him can be attacked, then there is more danger lurking around than our security agencies care to consider.
Vanguard had a graphic account of how the middle-aged man had attempted to enter the presidential wing of the airport before Obasanjo arrived. Watchful Air Force personnel turned him back as he could not convince them of his mission.
The man did not leave. Unknown to the Air Force personnel and some mobile policemen, who were at the airport because President Goodluck Jonathan was in Lagos, the man had laid ambush behind the fence of the car park by the presidential lounge.
Obasanjo arrived in a chartered jet got into a waiting jeep, sandwiched between two escort vehicles with his security aides not knowing that danger awaited him.
The assailant emerged from hiding as the convoy of three vehicles tried to negotiate into Airport Road, towards the local wing of the airport and executed his plan. He opened the door of the jeep and started kicking and raining blows on Obasanjo.
Air Force personnel and some mobile policemen dragged the man out of the car, beating him mercilessly. A shaken Obasanjo drove off immediately.
The presidential wing of the airport is not new to bizarre incidents. Two years ago, hundreds of supporters of factions of the Lagos chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, broke into a fight while welcoming Chief Olabode George, one of their chieftains, at the same venue. The police watched helplessly as they amassed and maintained the same stance during the fight that littered the area.
While the latest incident may raise questions about security at the airport, it creates worries about the security appreciation of certain areas, even if they are accessible to the public.
The quick tightening of security around the airport after the incident is the usual reaction from our security agencies. There is never a proper review of incidents to understand the complications of manning an area like the airport.
Do our security personnel not know the entire airport, more so the presidential wing, is a high security zone? Why do they allow loitering there?
Was this an isolated incident of a man picking out his target and striking? How did this man get to this area? How was the man able to obtain information on Obasanjo’s arrival? Was he acting alone? Who are his collaborators? What would be his motive for an attack in such a highly secured area?
How could he find a hiding place near the presidential wing of the airport?
Are our security men so well trained that they do not know they should lock car doors of their watch? How much protection did they offer Obasanjo during the attack? We can only imagine what could have happened if the man was armed.
It is a shame how unsafe some of the most guided places in our country are.
The attack took place metres away from where the presidential jet that brought President Jonathan to Lagos was parked. Since the President was in Lagos and his jet was parked there, security was expected to be reasonably high to ward off this type of intrusion.
In theory, it is a high security zone. The reality is different. Security personnel hardly manage the level of alertness that such places should command. They do not have equipment too.
Obviously, functional security gadgets are unavailable at this critically high security zone otherwise they would have picked out the man from his hiding place and the attack would have been forestalled. If the man could find a hiding place at the presidential wing in day time (the attack took place in the morning), what would have happened if it was at night?
It is an indication of the laxity of security personnel even when they are on duty. The presidential wing is inside the Air Force facility with scores of planes belonging to the Air Force parked there. It always has Air Force personnel on duty, to secure it.
Outside the entrance that is open to the public, again only to those who have good reason to be around the place, the other gates are solely used by Air Force personnel.
The location of the presidential wing inside the Air Force side of the airport is a deliberate security decision to restrict access to the presidential wing and make it more secure. How secure is this facility?
Interests in this incident should extend beyond beating up the man and grilling him about his collaborators. There could be at least one — whoever told him about the schedule of his victim. He may also have come to the airport hoping to attack anyone, that could have included the President.
Security is more than scores of men bearing arms and threatening people. The inability to secure the presidential wing of our airport, when it was about to be used by the President, speaks volumes about our seriousness.