Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: The Synthetic of Aso Rock

LET'S take a close look at the seat of government in France, Great Britain and United States of America, in comparison to our own- the Presidential Villa which we refer to often as Aso Rock in Abuja.

Downing Street is the seat of the British Government. It was named after Sir George Downing (1623-1684). It is a street in the West End of London- West Minister, in short in central London.

Along the street, the British Foreign Ministry is located, the official residence and office of the British Prime Minister is also located there. It has been so since the time of Sir Robert Walpole (1721-1742).

Tourists go there often. It belongs to the British people. Prime ministers often test their popularity or the acceptability of their policies, through the mood of those who gather often along that street.

The ElyseePalace in Paris has been the official residence of the president of France since 1873. The palace is on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore. It was built in 1718 and was once property of Mme de Pampadour. The Landlord of the Palace is France and the first tenant was Louis XVIII brother of King Louis XVI.

General Charles De Gaulle (1890-1970) once said that ElyseePalace is the only barometer through which he feels the heat of France. ElyseePalace is a pride to every Frenchman. Pictures of the Palace form part of the architecture of France. If you get to Paris and you want to get to the Palace, just to view the place or photograph it, you will be welcome.

When the United States government moved to the largely unfinished new capital at Washington, DC, in 1800, President John Adams and his wife Abigail entered with some trepidation into the executive mansion.

After the design competition had been won by Hoban, construction began in1792 and the original structure was built by 1800 at an estimated cost of $400,000.

When President Thomas Jefferson (who had submitted a lasting design) moved into the White House in 1801, he began energetically planning additions, but these were not finished until after the mansion was partly burnt by the British during the War of 1812. It was painted white for the first time under James Madison, filled with elegant French furniture by James Monroe and graced with indoor plumbing by Andrew Jackson and given the official designation 'White House' by Theodore Roosevelt.

The White House contains 54 major rooms, including porticos; measures 168 feet in length by 152 feet in width. It is surrounded by more than 18 acres of landscaped lawns and gardens.

The White House is normally open from 10 a.m. to 12.00 noon Tuesday to Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in summer. Only the public rooms on the ground floor and state floor may be visited. As everyone knows, it is the residence of the President of the United States.

On August 27, 1985, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, IBB (72) toppled General Muhammadu Buhari (71) and was proclaimed President of Nigeria by the then General Officer Commanding Second Infantry Division of the Nigerian Army based in Ibadan, Major General Sani Abacha.

On December 20, 1986, the then Minister of Defence, Major General Domkat Bali (73) announced that the government had uncovered a plot to overthrow the government of General Babangida.

Major General Ajiya Mamman Vatsa (1940-1986) and others were implicated in the coup attempt and those found guilty, including Major General Vatsa were executed on March 5,1986 following a trial headed by the Delta State born Major General Charles Ndioumu.

Other members of the tribunal were Major Akin Kejawa, Brigadier Yohanna Kure, Commodore Murtala Nyako, Colonel Rufus Kupolati, Group Captain Tony Ikazohbo, Lt. Col. Dansogo Muhammed and Police Commissioner Mamman Nassarawa.

On April 20, 1990, another coup attempt was made on General Babangida's government in Lagos by Major Gideon Gwaza Orkar and others.

After a military trial headed by the then General Officer Commanding the First Infantry Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Ike Omar Sanda Nwachukwu (72), forty-two of the coup plotters, including Major Orkar, Captains Nimibowei, Harley Empere and Perebo Aboela Dakolo, Lts. Awokoya, Akogun, Cyril Okusor Ozoalor and Nicholas Odey and second Lieutenants Arthur Badenyinte Nmukoro, E.J. Esuku and Emmanuel Alade were executed on July 27, 1990 in Lagos.

In a recent television interview, IBB disclosed that but for Captain Bade Omowa from Oka, Akoko area of OndoState who smuggled him out of Dodan Barracks in an Old Volkswagen car, anything could have happened to him. His then A.D.C., Lt. Col. Usman K. Bello was not that lucky, for he died in the failed coup.

So, to prevent another coup in Lagos and obsessed with insecurity in Lagos, General Babangida on December 12, 1991 moved the presidency from Dodan Barracks to the Presidential Villa in Abuja, ignoring gradual movement, as it is being done in Brazil, as recommended by Dr. AkinolaAguda's committee which was inaugurated on August 5,1975 by the former Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed.

By the time IBB landed in the Presidential Villa in Abuja on that sunny day, there was no accommodation for his top aides, including his then deputy, Admiral Augustus Akhabue Aikhomu ( now late). So they slept in hotels.

Between 1991 till he handed over power to his appointed successor, Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan (77) on August 26,1993, General Babangida was literally in charge of his personal safety. In short he went to hide in the Presidential Villa in Abuja and not to govern, hence the terrible mistakes he made in the last months of his regime, including the annulment of the presidential election, which is still his affecting his destiny.

He moved to Abuja to hide. He glued himself to the villa, constructing structures in the villa and other parts of Abuja while the rest of the country got poorer.

IBB and his other successors made Abuja an El Dorado while the rest of the country wallowed in poverty and neglect.

You need to see the villa; it was designed purely to cut off the people. It is anti-people. It occupies one-tenth of the whole Central District of Abuja and it is one of the biggest Presidential Villas in the world with a large undeveloped space. If you enter the villa, it is as if you are in a golden palace.

The tragedy in our presidential system of government is that the people really have no role.Once they vote, they are completely ignored until the next four years.

It is only the executive and legislature that profit from our democracy.

We have a system of government that slights the people and a Presidential Villa that has completely fenced them.

Double punishment

Worse still, they are now constructing an express lane from the villa to the NnamdiAzikiweAirport in Abuja, which will make our leaders to be completely invincible to the people. Pity.

Mr. ERIC TENILOA a former director in the Presidency, wrote from Lagos.

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