It was a drama within a drama. The setting was the main auditorium of the University of Lagos, UNILAG, Akoka, Yaba, Lagos. The Centre for Social Research and Advocacy of the institution had invited Attahiru Jega, professor and chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC for a lecture.
As part of the programme, the institution’s drama troupe was also at hand to perform one of its plays. Midway into the performance, something not envisaged in the scripts occurred. There was a power outage. At first, it looked like one of those things and the power generating set would soon come in handy. But seconds soon turned into minutes and the lights remained off, much to the discomfort of the dignitaries gathered including Jega and Adetokunbo Sofoluwe, vice chancellor of the institution.
Soon catcalls and shouts of disappointment rend the air while the atmosphere became charged. At this stage, another drama began unfolding on the high table. And police orderlies attached to the dignitaries on the elevated table were the main actors. Soon after the lights went out, the policemen sprang on their foots while flashing the lights on their mobile phones to create some form of illumination in the dark.
Suddenly, flashes of mobile phones flooded the auditorium including those from the resident electoral commissioners, who by the time light was restored 15 minutes later, were barely seated on the edge of their seats. The electoral officers were however not the only ones already on edge. Other guests including journalists were already on the verge of fleeing the hall. It was that bad.
And the reason for the apprehension cannot be far-fetched. With the recent bombing of the police headquarters, Abuja and several other explosions rocking government officials and security establishments across the country, situations like this prolonged power outage in UNILAG immediately alerted not a few to the antics of Boko Haram, the radical Islamic group responsible for the spate of bombings.
The fear of Boko Haram was further heightened at the UNILAG event because much earlier, a middle-aged man had breached security when he made for the podium where the dignitaries including the guest lecturer, and Rilwan Akiolu, the Oba of Lagos were seated.
To make matters worse, the man was carrying a nylon bag, which again is associated with Boko Haram and its bombing escapades. He caused quite a scare when he bolted and went straight to the high table where he distributed some papers to Jega and the other dignitaries before being whisked out of the hall.
Given this background, it was therefore not surprising that invited guests were quite on the edge when there was a power outage that lasted over 15 minutes. But as it turned out their fears were unfounded, Boko Haram was not part of the drama.