By Magnus Onyibe
About two weeks ago, l wrote an article titled “Siege On NASS, Nigerian Security Agencies Machinations And The Notion of Useful Idiots” which was published on several mainstream and online media platforms.
The despicable art of laying siege on the residences of the Senate President and his deputy by the Nigeria police force, NPF and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on the 24/7/2018 inspired the article.
As evidenced by the title , l was alarmed by the fact that Nigerian security agencies were brazenly lending themselves to politicians as tools for the abuse of Nigeria’s constitution and nascent democracy. As such l was compelled to compare them to ‘Useful Idiots’ which is a fitting description that political historians in advanced democracies tag those who have acted in the manner that the NPF and EFCC have been carrying on lately in Nigeria.
To drive my point home, permit me to reproduce a copious excerpt of that article.
“The astronomical rate of violence in our country and the recent siege on the principal officers of the Senate are justifications for the outrage by Nigerian public and foreigners alike who are holding our men and women in uniform in contempt on account of their apparent dereliction of duty.
That’s not surprising because while the security agencies are failing in their constitutional duty of protecting lives and properties of every Nigerian, as evidenced by the rising tide of the precious lives lost to violence, they seem to be very effective in being pawns in the hands of politicians who are using them to execute their selfish political agendas as opposed to the duty of protecting and securing all Nigerians.
Arising from the above, the notion of our men and women in the security community as ‘useful idiots’ which is derived from the priority being accorded political elites over their primary duties of securing the lives and properties of all Nigerians as evidenced by the overwhelming presence of the security agencies during the Ekiti State Governorship elections on July 14, and the blockage of the residences of the senate president and his deputy on July 24, appears to ring true.
Put succinctly, while security agencies are abdicating from their primary duty of providing security for all Nigerians irrespective of their location within Nigerian territory, they tend to be doing the bidding of the high and mighty in the political circuit .
As such they seem to be lending themselves to the “notion of useful idiots” as the patrons that they are currently serving zealously would sooner than later dump them in the manner that a used toilet paper is discarded when the elections are over.
Before proceeding further , allow me explain the term ‘useful idiot’ which is used as a pejorative jargon to describe anyone who is seen to be unwittingly supporting a malignant cause through their ‘naive’ attempts to be a force for good.
According to reliable historical reference sources, the term ‘useful idiots’ was first used in the Western world in 1948 in an article published in the Social-Democrat news media in Italy.
Subsequently, the term has been used to refer to Soviet sympathizers in Western countries. The implication was that, although the people in question naïvely thought of themselves as an ally of the Soviet Union, they were actually held in contempt and were being cynically used.
The Nigerians who hold the view that Nigerian security forces are acting in ways that tend to portray them in a manner described above, reference the 30,000 strong security forces deployed to Ekiti State for the purpose of conducting the governorship election and the blockade of the residences of the senate president and his deputy to prevent them from engaging in their lawful duty of presiding over plenary sessions simply because the ruling party senators were scheduled to defect to the opposition party .
They wonder why winning Ekiti election for the ruling party and preventing principal officers of parliament from engaging in their lawful duties were considered more of a priority than the safety of hundreds of people in vulnerable villages in Sokoto, Taraba, Benue and Plateau states that were being slaughtered by herdsmen terrorists due to the absence of security in those communities”
Is it not curious that barely seven days after the publication of that article in which l made a prediction of what could happen to leaders and operatives in security agencies that place loyalty to political office holders over and above Nigerian constitution by becoming their personal goons/enforcers , the DSS that was not carried along in the NPF and EFCC show of shame the previous week, had to display its own shambolic conduct on August 7, 2018 at the National Assembly, NASS which is the symbol of Nigeria’s democracy?”
To be candid, when l wrote the article reproduced above, l never expected that the consequences of security agencies fawning at the feet of politicians would manifest so soon as evidenced by the summary dismissal of Mr Lawal Daura as the Director General of DSS by acting President, Yemi Osinbajo.
Rather, l had reminded Nigerian security agency operatives that there would be repercussions in the future for the abuse of human rights and the constitution of Nigeria, if they continue to take sides with those in authority to perpetuate tyranny on the populace.
Below is another incisive excerpt of the ominous warning in same article :
“Our security agencies ought to have by now learnt that their duty is to Nigerians not just to the government in power and as such they have to be more objective and fair in the dispatch of their duty.
That’s the oath that they swore to and must uphold.
What members of the security agencies seem to have been taking fore granted is that most of the heinous crimes against humanity and atrocities being perpetrated without well defined counter actions would in the future hunt those responsible for guarantying the security and safety of Nigerians, but failed to do so.
If in doubt they should search the archives for what befell the men and women in the security community who supervised the Nazi holocaust against the Jews in Germany ; the enforcers of apartheid in South Africa and the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Baltic region.
How about the consequences that Charles Taylor, ex president of Liberia suffered for brutalizing his people, after he left office ?
It should not surprise members of our security agencies that the international court of justice at the Hague has jurisdiction over crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.
And quite a good number of victim communities in Nigeria and relevant human/civil rights agencies have been reporting the systematic killings in Nigeria to the UN agencies”
In what seems like a good case of poetic justice, judgement has very quickly been meted out to an operator of one of the security agencies that has been abusing its power by abridging the freedom of fellow humans and breaching our constitution,sooner than l had thought.
In other words, the arrest and detention of erstwhile DG of DSS, who about two weeks ago was the jailer of Ahmed Dasuki, ex NSA and the fiery cleric , El Zarzarky ,his wife and numerous other prisoners of conscience, is significant and should be instructive to the heads of other pliant security agencies who must learn a lesson of two from Daura’s sudden fall from grace.
When l noted in the earlier referenced article that security agents could be used and discarded like toilet roll, some critics thought l was too harsh . In the light of the disgraceful fate that befell the former spy master , they would wish my admonition did not fall on their deaf ears.
Now, since the ugly incident of desecration of NASS by the gun-toting, hood wearing, secret service agents who locked down the parliament on the 7th of August , l have read several analyses of the treasonous incident and l disagree with some ideologues who have been spinning yarns ranging from the absurd notion that the blockade was stage-managed by the leadership of the senate and main opposition party, PDP, to the wild claim that the presidency was behind the plot, but had to sacrifice the ex DSS head huncho when the plot collapsed owing to the massive public outcry and the bravery of the likes of House of Representatives member, Boma Goodhead who dared the masked men to shoot them.
I also don’t share the widely held belief that the ruling party, APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and his deputy in charge of south-West, Niyi Adebayo were behind the sinister plot.
On the contrary, l would argue that the invasion of NASS by the DSS was a manifestation of the bitter rivalry between the security agencies -EFCC, NIA, NPF and the DSS which report directly to Mr president and therefore have been fiercely competing against each other to impress their principal as courtiers do in traditional palaces.
There are tell tale signs that underscore the above assertion.
And I would like to dwell further on that thought process by reminding us that it was barely seven days after a similar disgraceful conduct by the NPF and EFCC at the residences of Nigerian senate’s no 1 and 2 men for the same alleged purpose of perpetuating the ruling party, (rather shoddily ) that the DSS decided to outdo the NPF and EFCC, perhaps in a bid to demonstrate to president Buhari that it could do better, what the other two rival security agencies failed to accomplish.
Unfortunately,the spy agency failed spectacularly in its selfish motivation to intimidate law makers in order to impress president Buhari through what could at best be described as blind loyalty or ‘eye service’ in Nigerian parlance.
At this juncture, allow me further buttress my point once more by referencing another relevant article (in which l denounced the lack of inter agency cooperation amongst security agencies) that l wrote and published widely including on the back page of Thisday Newspaper on 8th December last year and on other online media platforms.
In the piece which is titled “Is Nigeria’s Security Architecture Degenerating Into A House of Cards?”, I condemned the reduction of Nigerian security architecture into a sort of militia akin to the type prevalent in a failed country like Libya and South Sudan which l had foreseen.
Below is the 8 months old article, which l’ve reproduced to further strengthen my hypothesis:
“Director General of the Directorate of State Security, DSS, Lawal Daura accused the acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, lbrahim Magu of corruption and makes it official by sending his report to both president Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly (NASS).
On account of that damning report, the EFCC boss failed to secure the Senate’s confirmation of his appointment.
Perhaps hurting from the inability of its acting chairman to secure parliamentary confirmation of his appointment, the agency accused the now sacked Director General of Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA), Wole Oke of corruption and stormed a safe house where a total of N13b in assortment of foreign currencies were discovered.
Thereafter, the EFCC went on a counter offensive against the DSS by attempting to arrest the immediate past DG of the agency, Ita Ekpenyong for his complicity in the alleged misappropriation of $2.1b funds set aside for arms purchase by the ousted regime to combat the terrorist sect Boko haram. The former NSA Ahmed Dasuki, warehoused the funds believed to have been applied as campaign funds by the immediate past administration .
Reportedly on the order of Daura, the current DG of the DSS, Ekpeyong was ring fenced by the agency’s operatives and protected from arrest.
The plot then thickens as a former Assistant Inspector General, (AIG), Isa Misau, now a serving senator accused the Inspector General of Police, Idris Abubakar of corruption for allegedly demanding bribe from officers in exchange for lucrative postings and abuse of office such as dating a female police officer etc. Since the IGP has vehemently denied the charge, it is currently a subject of litigation .
That’s not all.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Hamid Ali has also alleged that corrupt people formerly domiciled in the Peoples Democratic Party have now mutated and made their way into the control room of power in the current APC led govt.
While the curious and dramatic claim was being digested, the senate president, Bukola Saraki raised the alarm that the recovered looted funds are being re-looted and it is the reason the authorities in countries having custody of looted funds from Nigeria are reluctant to return same as they are concerned that the funds may be re-looted.
And the alarm by the head of the legislative arm of govt is an echo of the lamentation of Abubakar Malami, attorney general and minister of justice, who had in the course of responding to parliamentary inquiry reported that Abdulrasheed Maina, the accused pension fund looter had turned over to the EFCC, choice properties recovered by him and which the anti graft agency is alleged to have resold to its cronies and cohorts.
The brazenness of the economic brigandage and the lack of appetite by the govt in power to vigorously prosecute indicted officials who populate the inner recesses of govt make one wonder if Nigeria is not supposed to be a nation governed by the rule of laws as opposed to being a land of people who operate above the law?
Reading through the forgoing plot, anybody who had not been in Nigeria in the past 24 months would be excused if he/she thought that it’s a screen play for a blockbuster movie, like the good, the bad, the ugly,with the legendary Hollywood icon, Clint Eastwood.
However, the narrative is not a make believe movie, but an existential reality in our country Nigeria where absurdity would appear to be the new normal.
The DG of DSS, Lawal Daura captured it succintly when he narrowed down the reason the Nigerian security architecture has become like a house of cards to lack of or poor interagency cooperation .
Permit me to help those not into watching movies to familiarize themselves with the movie titled: House of Cards from which the title of this article is partly derived.
The BBC tv mini series based on a book authored by Mark Dobbs, an alumni of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, my alma mater is a hit for movie lovers, especially those who cherish political dramas.
The movie exposes the under belly of British politicians and in my estimation, it now has a parallel in Nigeria.
By all indications, the security agencies’ inspired reality show with Aso Rock villa, Abuja as the main setting, and other scenes shot on locations outside Aso Rock villa such as Foreshore Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos where billions of Naira being pampered with dedicated air conditioning facilities were discovered. Also the residence of the ex-DSS DG in Abuja where the Nigerian version of the movie, Body Guard featuring the veteran actor Richard Gear and the late songstress Whitney Houston was re-enacted, is an equivalent reenactment.
The difference between Body Guard the movie and what played out in the ex DSS boss’ residence in Abuja is that while the subject being protected fell in love with the body guard, the opposite is the case in the Nigerian version.
Another significant exception is that instead of featuring politicians, it is full of James Bond like stunts as reflected by the bubble in Nigeria’s security fiasco which is exposing the under belly of the country’s spy community ecosystem with its attendant incalculable collateral damage.
For instance, the revelation to the public that billions of Naira are stashed away as slush funds for covert activities is an anathema. So also are the other secretive security activities which are now in the public domain and might have compromising effects on the gathering and sharing of intelligence through activities of reliable sources, undercover operatives and other members of the intelligence community who might have been unduly exposed.
In the midst of the unfolding security services hiatus, what role is the office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA headed by Babagana Mungono, playing ?
Ideally, that’s the office that’s supposed to be coordinating all the security functions of govt on behalf of Mr. president.
So what’s going on?
From a distance, the NSA who is a retired army brigadier general, strikes me as an officer and a gentleman. Correct me if l’m wrong but I’m yet to meet anybody that has a contrarian view to the general understanding that the NSA is a thoroughbred professional that does not fancy ruffling feathers unnecessarily.
To that extent, l would imagine that he must be working assiduously behind the scene to manage the damage being done to the credibility of the security and intelligence community by the ongoing butting of heads by the various agencies that are supposed to be under his purview”.
Following the security agencies Onslaught on democracy which started with seemingly innocuous infractions like stealing the Mace in broad daylight from the senate chambers without consequences; attempt to impeach Benue State Governor Ortom by 8 legislators under the alleged cover of the NPF; as well as the EFCC freezing of the accounts of Benue and Akwa lbom state govts after gov Ortom defected to the opposition party, and Gov Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom refused to cross carpet with his senator and former boss, Godswill Akpabio to the ruling party ,it would appear that the NSA, Mungono did not succeed in preventing Nigeria’s security architecture from becoming as fragile as House of Cards, as l had feared.
Put simply , the kernel of my article bring referenced was that owing to the conflict of the multiple interests in Aso Rock villa, a situation which some critics of President Buhari’s style of governance refer to as govt within govt, it was only a matter of time before a major security disaster, (worse than standing aloof while herdsmen butcher Nigerians) would happen.
By and large the trampling of democracy in the residences of senate president, Saraki and his deputy, Ekweremadu by both the NPF and EFCC on the 24th of July and climaxed by the DSS invasion of NASS on 7th August culminating in the locking down of the legislative arm of govt, have taken the steady decimation of Nigeria’s nascent democracy by security agencies to a new level and the highest crescendo.
What worse damage can security agencies do to our democracy other than a military coup de detat? Clearly, Nigerians are willing and able to resist any such attempt to truncate democracy if and when it is ever contemplated.
Many countries have attained greatness by weathering the storm of anti democracy forces and Nigeria can not be an exception.
In that regard, I’m reminded of
Theodore Roosevelt, one of the foremost presidents of the USA from where Nigeria lifted her presidential system of govt, who had the following to say with respect to who or what should take precedence in terms of loyalty to individuals occupying public office like a president or the constitution of the country.
According to him “To announce that there will be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile, but morally treasonable to American public”
A similar threat to democracy might have occurred at its nascent stage in the USA to warrant such admonition by president Roosevelt and it is now a truism that both the elected and electorate in Nigeria must imbibe to enable democracy develop tap root here .
Another curious but largely ignored angle to the sacking of Lawal Daura as the DG of DSS is that in-spite of president Buhari’s characteristic manner of not firing aberrant or non performing members of his team,(as evidenced by his reluctance to sack former SFG Babachar Lawal and ex DG NlA, Wole Oke) somehow, unforeseen circumstances have compelled the presidency to axe Mr Daura.
The 9 trillion naira (Nigeria’s yet to be implemented 2018 budget which is at stake) question now is; given that both prominent and ordinary Nigerians have been vociferous in demanding a change in Nigeria’s security architecture owing to the perceived dereliction of duty by the agencies , a path that president Buhari has been reluctant to tread, (for the obvious reason that it is not his preferred management style, and therefore an anathema to him) following the current embarrassing situation arising from the futile serial attempts by the trio of the NPF, EFCC and DSS to truncate our hard earned democracy in the bid to curry favor, would president Buhari now be forced to see to it that more heads roll in agencies manning the security architecture?
Well, we won’t know that until mr President resumes on the 21st day of this month from his 10 days vacation in London.
And although my fingers are crossed, l’m not holding my breath.
Magnus Onyibe, a development strategist, alumnus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy , Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and former commissioner in delta state govt sent this piece from Abuja.