The security agencies should confine themselves to safeguarding the people

Across the nation, there are several unprecedented security challenges straining the security and intelligence agencies. From the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East to the clashes between farmers and herdsmen, particularly in the Middle Belt to kidnapping for ransom and general banditry, the security agencies have more than enough to chew. However, against this grim backdrop of terrorism, crimes and criminality, some of the security organisations prefer to play politics by their open partisanship and rabid support for individuals to the detriment of their constitutional duty of protecting the people.

Perhaps nothing portrays this disturbing assault on the democratic process better than the open political campaigns for President Muhammadu Buhari by the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col Hameed Ali (rtd). Ali is the National coordinator of the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO), an outfit committed to the re-election of President Buhari. Meanwhile the Nigeria Customs is a paramilitary organisation. But Ali has no qualms about his activities, including leading members of the BSO on solidarity visits to the president and more. He told some of his members recently, “We will be calling on you from now on and we will be working day and night. We must do so because we want to save our name at the end of the day and the name of the president for what he is doing. Our president is on course and all we need is to ensure that we support him.”

However, those not amused by Ali are asking questions, many of them reasonable ones. To these we also ask: Even if the customs’ boss is brought in from outside to head the office, is it fit and proper for him to throw his hat into the political ring? Should the highest ranking officer in the Nigeria Customs Service display such brazen partisanship or what some have described as political tribalism? Will this assault on professionalism help in building the institution and instil discipline in the rank and file? Must he owe his loyalty first to the president before the nation? How can we build strong institutions that outlive individuals in this manner?

Unfortunately, Ali has good company. Indeed, so many top officers of the security agencies that ought to be neutral and professional in their services to the nation are taking sides and are into more or less political advocacy. Indeed, many institutions of the state are being deliberately bastardised. From the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who wears Buhari’s lapel to everywhere he goes to the DSS which could withdraw security personnel from top officers of the National Assembly obviously for political reasons to top officials of the Ministry of Defence whose utterances are weird and constantly coloured with ethnic bias and politics to a zealous Inspector-General of Police who acts with impunity, including dishonouring invitations from the parliament, we again ask: Is what they are doing right?

Security agencies are vital state institutions which ought to owe allegiance first to the nation and not to individuals or political parties. “We have all agreed to protect this institution but the political participation by the agencies must be called to order”, said Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki recently in apparent repudiation of these untoward acts. If the current politicisation of institutions is allowed to prevail, are we really serious about all the talk on building great institutions?

We therefore charge the security and intelligence agencies to direct their full attention to safeguarding the people by ensuring that crimes – of any sort- are nipped in the bud. And there are plenty to engage their attention. With deadly attacks being experienced daily, they must confine themselves to arresting the widespread violence across the nation.