President of the National Union of Adamawa State Students, David Garba, who was seen moving with police escorts in a viral video, talks to HINDI LIVINUS about the incident
You recently won an election as the president of the National Union of Adamawa State Students. What does the association represent?
My name is David Garba. I am a 400-level student at Modibbo Adama University, Yola, studying Business Administration. The National Union of Adamawa State Students is a body of students from Adamawa State that represents and advocates for the rights of its members. It also fights for the welfare of Adamawa State students within and outside the country when the need arises.
What were the risks you faced while preparing for your election?
Student politics can make you miss classes and other activities on campus. This could distract you from your primary aim of study as a student.
Aside from that, were there any worries that your life could be in danger?
To some extent yes, but when it comes to cultism it is not pronounced here in the North. However, we do get threats from opponents at times.
Can you explain the types of threats you received?
I would say after I was declared the winner of the student body election as president, some yet-to-be-identified thugs invaded the venue to stop the electoral process but it was too late for them because I had already been declared president of the union. Things like that are unforeseen circumstances one could encounter in student unionism.
Was that why you were seen recently in a viral video being escorted by policemen?
It was never my choice but for my security and the safety of my people (students) who came for my inauguration that day. We needed the presence of security agents because of what happened on election day. We were lucky that the violence only occurred after my declaration.
Do you move with police escorts as a student union leader?
I don’t move with police escorts. The policemen seen in the viral video were there purposely for the inauguration.
They were seen guarding your vehicle and escorting you. Was that part of their brief?
No. They were there to protect the students of Adamawa State. The unrecognised thugs who stormed the venue of our election have yet to be apprehended. So, we don’t know who they are and their reason for storming the venue. So, to some extent, I will say my life is in danger since I don’t know those people and why they did that.
Did you report that incident to the police?
Yes. It was because we reported the incident to the police that they detailed security agents for the inauguration.
How were the policemen seen in the viral video assigned to you?
We wrote to the Commissioner of Police requesting security for the inauguration, though, before the convention, we wrote to all the security agencies, including the police, Department of State Services, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, telling them about our election. So the security agencies were already aware of our programmes. Notwithstanding that, after the election, we wrote a letter to the Jimeta Divisional Police officer to request security for our inauguration and they gave us those policemen.
Were they instructed to guard you as seen in the video?
Not actually to be with me but to provide security for the event. It was purposely for the inauguration. The event (in the video) was my inauguration as the national president of Adamawa State students and after the event, they left and we also went our way.
How many policemen were provided by the police?
There were four policemen detailed purposely for that event because, after the outcome of our election which I talked about, some thugs invaded the venue. So, there was a need to secure the event this time around. That was why we wrote to request security for the inauguration.
Are you aware of the shortfall in the number of police personnel in the country?
With the security situation in this country, I will say that the police are not enough and we need more.
Knowing this, why didn’t you decline the offer to have police escorts so they could be deployed to areas in need of police presence?
I am a student in Nigeria, and I am entitled to enjoy all the privileges of a citizen. I think the police also exist for me, so I don’t see any wrongdoing in our request for police protection, not just for me but the entire students attending that event. The presence of the police at that event played a vital role because it was a successful event with no threats. In my view, I think the police did a wonderful job by providing adequate security for the students during that event.
In the viral video, you were portrayed as a very important person who requires police protection. Is that how you see yourself?
I must say this; it is the way social media portrayed it that didn’t go right because after the event, I didn’t see anything wrong with the presence of those security men there. I will say it is the way social media portrayed it that triggered the uproar.
Do you feel you did anything that was not proper or appropriate?
The essence of the police in that event was to provide security for Adamawa State students which they did. I, therefore, did not see anything bad or untoward. They (police) did their job by providing security. My reaction to all these personally is that if there’s a need then I see no reason why it must not be done because student union leaders like me are in grave danger; they always face threats. A lot of student leaders have at various times been beaten and molested. Except there is a need for that, I see no reason why a student leader should walk with escorts. However, the purpose of the policemen at the inauguration was to provide protection for the students. If there was no threat beforehand, there would have been no need for security.
Do you think Nigerians who expressed disapproval over the video were wrong?
They are wrong, and I will blame the media for this because of the caption given to that video that went viral. The caption ascribed to the video is not what the video portrayed. The police were not guiding the car. They were guarding Adamawa State Students. I don’t work with escorts to school. We only got security men for the purpose of securing Adamawa State students who were making themselves available for the inauguration. I see no reason why ambassadors and other governors should be protected by security men or if they do the right things for the citizens.
Are you aware that the policemen seen in the viral video were summoned by police authorities to Abuja?
Yes, they were summoned by the police. I understand they are in Abuja, on the orders of the Inspector General of Police. The Divisional Police Officer of Jimeta Division whom I spoke with informed me of the development. Our union is considering doing a press release to clarify the issues so that those men are not unjustly victimised because of the portrayal of the incident by bloggers. So, as I am talking to you, they are in Abuja.
Did the police authorities also invite you for questioning?
The police have not invited me. That is the reason why I am not there (in Abuja) in person. My worry now is those policemen; I don’t want what happened to lead to their dismissal. I have promised the DPO to go to Abuja to try to explain what exactly transpired. There was why they were present at our programme but social media gave it a twist that could result in their victimisation. I don’t want that to happen. I am trying my best to disregard those comments on social media.