Buhari, The DSS And Retribution By Ogbu, Blessing Ekpere
Nigeria as a nation is never short of drama. Nigerians, as fun loving as they come, never pass up any opportunity to feed on the sensational. For some days now, Nigerians have been treated to a veritable soap opera which the cat and mouse game between who constitutes the security apparatchik of the nation’s domicile of power has become. On a matter that has little or no impact on the price of garri in the market, and for whom the ordinary Nigerian is ill-equipped to comprehend, except, perhaps, to the extent that any attempt on the life of the President – successful or otherwise – holds in its portentous palms the key to anarchy, Nigerians have been divided into two opposing camps. While the one camp holds the view that the DSS should continue to man the security at the Presidential Villa, the other camp believes that the army should take charge of security things within the precincts of the Villa. The latter camp argues most convincingly that when the role of the DSS during the last Polls is considered, PMB would be exercising a faith that rivals that of the alchemists in the famed philosopher’s stone if he trusts them to discharge their responsibility with unflinching loyalty to him. To this argument, the former camp responds most sedately that PMB only needs to change the leadership of the DSS to guarantee the total allegiance of the officers and men of the service.
But whoever that follows the controversial role the DSS played in the events that led up to the 2015 general elections will appreciate PMB’s reluctance to designate the DSS as the fulcrum of his security detail. A study of Nigeria’s recent political history, a history as recent as 2014, will cast the President’s reluctance in sharp relief. It is only in such an empiric analysis that PMB’s disinclination towards the DSS finds validation.
On the 22nd November, 2014, and in what has since become the Nigerian re-enactment of the Watergate scandal, operatives of the DSS invaded the data office of the All Progressives Congress on Lagos carting away vital documents of the party and arresting members of staff working in the data office. The DSS claimed it acted on an ‘intelligence’ that the APC was cloning the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) issued by the nation’s electoral body. It also claimed, with neither a shred nor a shard of evidence, that the APC was hacking into the INEC database. Despite INEC’s explanation that its database was safe, and in utter disregard of widespread condemnations from responsible Nigerians and organisations, the DSS held on to its inexcusably jaundiced ratiocinations for its dastardly act. To further entrench its already maculated reputation in the cesspool of opprobrium, the DSS refused to comply with the unequivocal directives of a valid Order of the Federal High Court mandating it to release the members of staff of the APC data office in its custody. Instead of complying with a valid Order of a superior Court of record, and in a most disturbing display of peevish petulance which further lent credence to the allegations of systemic denudation of institutional integrity under the last administration, the DSS capriciously embarked on forum-shopping and procured a questionable Remand Order from a Magistrate Court in Kaduna to counter a direct, definitive pronouncement of a Federal High Court! While the dust raised by its opprobrious invasion of the data office was yet to settle, the DSS returned to the data office and moved away with over thirty bags containing vital documents belonging to the party.
Some time in August, 2014, the spokesperson of the DSS, Marilyn Ogar, came on Channels TV to announced to a confounded nation that the APC was responsible for the spate of bombings afflicting the nation. During the same flagship programme of the TV station, Sunrise Daily, Ms. Ogar went on to assert that ‘intelligence’ available to the Service had establish an irrefutable link between the APC and the Boko Haram. Not a few Nigerians were angst at such trivialization of a serious national concern by no other organisation than the DSS. Other Nigerians, too, found her pedestrian analysis of the security situation jaw-dropping. Nigerians were convinced that the DSS was merely the hooded arm of the then ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
This popular conviction was not unfounded as prior to, and during the Ekiti State gubernatorial poll, hooded agents of the DSS descended on the State, hounding all known chieftains, stalwarts and supporters of the APC into detention and preventing the national leaders of the Party, notably His Excellency, Right Honourable Chibuike Amaechi from entering the State. Others like Alhaji Lai Mohammed who found themselves already within the enclave were promptly arrested and detained till the polls were concluded.
Now, when a Service whose activities ought to be shrouded in secrecy decides to don the toga of partisanship, it leaves itself open to all manner of constructions with dire consequences. One of such constructions is that such a service has become a tool of the current holder of power in that commune. In that instance, where that holder of power loses out in the power equation, such service expectedly loses the trust of the ultimate winner. By becoming overtly and unabashedly partisan, the DSS violated the cardinal rule of its existence: provision of collective internal security irrespective of the political, ideological and religious affiliations of the citizens. The DSS failed, too, to understand, in the words of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States of America, that “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the President or anyone else.” By virtue of this sacrilegious violation, the DSS lost the primal position to assure the present Landlord of Aso Rock of his security.
It is within this context that one begins to understand President Buhari’s apparent preference for the army to form the Strike Force. This preference is particularly striking when one considers that the army removed his academic records from his personnel file at the height of the electioneering. A lot of arguments have been made concerning this move. Some have condemned President Buhari’s preference for the army, claiming that deploying the army as Presidential protective details is antithetical to the spirit of democracy and runs afoul of the provisions of the Constitution. It is interesting to note that the Constitution does not make specific provisions for who and what constitute the President’s protective detail. One therefore wonders where proponents of the unconstitutionality of the President’s supposed action derive their authority from.
If their ignorance of the Constitution could be pardoned, their stoking of the embers of inter-agency feud merely through the instrumentality of the fans of speculation cannot be forgiven. PMB has not come out to say the DSS cannot be part of his protective details. He has not come out to evacuate the DSS already serving out their beats within the perimeters of the Presidential Villa. In fact, as at the time of this article, the Chief Security Officer of the Presidential Villa was a DSS functionary. This writer concedes that there was a report about an overzealous aide of the President chasing the DSS out of the Villa; but, in that same report, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adeshina denied that the President had sanctioned that act.
If the President decides to employ another agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria to protect him, he cannot be said to have violated any constitutional and conventional authority. As the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation, he reserves the right to choose any arm of the Armed Forces as his protective force. Previous Presidents have had military officers, especially from the army as their ADCs. The present fuss over the DSS’s travails is a mere storm in a teacup, stirred by persons who have no better business to attend to.
But, then, the natural laws of retribution do not need human activation: consequences of actions and inactions flow naturally. Nigerians, therefore, should explicate the disposition of the President towards the DSS within the historicity of that agency’s partisan infamy. No sane person would want to employ their enemies as their security detail. It was former President Obasanjo who, when a critical segment of the Nigerian populace deprecated his almost nepotic appointments into sensitive positions, acidly retorted that when the critics became Presidents, they should appoint their enemies into those positions. Thus, it is inconceivable that the President would be expected to enter into a marriage of whatever sorts with the DSS after their ignoble outing during the last polls.
Some have suggested that the President should decapitate the agency to guarantee the loyalty of the other parts of the organisation’s anatomy. The problem with this rather simplistic recommendation is that it does not address the pervasive effects of certain pathogens. The DSS as an organisation is suffering from a malady so serious that an ordinary surgical excision of the supposed origination of the disorder is not enough: the entire system must be subject to a comprehensive chemotherapy. President Muhammadu Buhari should be accorded that time necessary for this national assignment. It is either he is given that time, or we call for the complete dismemberment and proscription of the DSS as a rogue security outfit. After all, the same fate befell its primogeninator, the National Security Organisation (NSO) under the leadership of the irascible Ambassador Mohammed Lawal Rafindadi when General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida toppled the military junta of General Muhammadu Buhari on August 27, 1985.
Ogbu, Blessing Ekpere, Esq., a Legal Practitioner, writes from Abuja