From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) said the Federal Government committed a serious error of judgement by cancelling the traditional parade and shifting activities marking the nation’s 51st independence anniversary from the Eagle Square to the relatively-secure presidential villa, apparently following threats posed by MEND and Boko Haram.

In a statement issued in Lagos yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the government missed a rare opportunity to show Nigerians that it could not be intimidated by such threats from the groups and that it was capable of tackling the security challenges facing the nation.

It said by scurrying away from the Eagle Square, ostensibly to cut costs in celebrating the independence anniversary, the government had wittingly or otherwise given moral victory of sorts to the groups that threatened to sabotage the anniversary, while leaving Nigerians in no doubt that even for their government, the fear of Boko Haram or MEND was the beginning of wisdom.

“If the Federal Government, which controls all the instruments of state force, can allow itself to be so openly intimidated, then what happens to ordinary Nigerians who depend on the same government to protect them from these rampaging groups?
“In other climes, the government would have seized on such a rare chance to convince the people that it is not only capable of protecting them but that it would not give in to terror groups.

“One can only wonder what this Federal Government would do if Boko Haram were to threaten its weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting inside the presidential villa safe haven. Will the meeting be shifted to Dodan Barracks in Lagos under the pretext of saving costs?” ACN queried.

It said the government’s excuse that it wanted a low-key anniversary to save costs rang hollow, especially coming just as the administration announced it would spend N30 billion on the national identity card project which had been carried out previously, without finding out what happened to all the billions expended on the first project.

“Even if the concern was cost-saving, it could not have trumped the fact that moving the activities away from the Eagle Square would send a wrong message: first to those threatening the celebrations that they have indeed succeeded in cowing the government and then to the citizenry that indeed, the same government they rely on for their security is itself succumbing to fear!

“The symbolism of going ahead with the celebration at the Eagle Square would have been worth every naira spent, would not have been lost on the people and would have shown that the government’s continuing assurances that it is capable of tackling the security challenges facing the nation are not mere posturing,” the party said.
ACN advised the government to always weigh its actions carefully so as not to send a wrong message to the already frazzled citizenry.

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