Power Tussle at our Collective Expense

Mallam Abba Kyari

Eddy Odivwri

Last week, on this same page, I had expressed surprise that for eleven years the entire Nigerian military formation has been battling, unsuccessfully, to combat and quell the insurgency orchestrated by Boko Haram. I was wondering why it had been so difficult over-running those who were once described as “rag-tag” insurgents.

I had gone further to adduce some reasons why the war against Boko Haram had dragged on, whilst also saying that unless a few things were done, we’d yet be in the war situation, for a little longer time.

What I did not know was that there was an in-house war raging in the seat of power. The Holy Book says a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.

So how have we been expecting to stand, as one country, against the common enemy called Boko Haram, when the very brain box of the battle is counter-firing?

The leaked memo of the National Security Adviser, Maj Gen Babagana Mungono (retd) which accused the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari of “meddlesomeness” and usurping both his functions and that of the President, bespeaks of the rumble in the rock.

And it explains, in a way, why we have not made appreciable progress in the task of crushing the insurgents.

In Drama and other literary works, it is called Denoument. It explains what had appeared foggy and complex in the past.

By the leaked memo, we can reasonably argue and understand why the Nigerian military has seemed to be nibbling at the war simply because the engine room of the war has not been speaking with one voice, nor acting in unison. One officer seems to be sabotaging the effort of the other. So what we have is take one step forward, and two steps backward.

The memo, without doubt, clearly shows that things are falling apart and the centre is not holding. And if the centre is not holding, how do we expect the needed cohesion to tackle the problem facing the country? It clearly shows that the President’s men are working at cross-purposes. We can never get the desired result from such contra-clicks.

It is even worse that in all of these, either Mr President will not act at all, or will leisurely take his time to act, at a time when so much water would have passed under the bridge and the bridge might have broken.

Some uncharitable persons had said some of those around the president apply some metaphysical powers on him in a way that makes him lose his guard with them and grants them unchecked powers.

But according to the wife of the president, Mrs Aisha Buhari, the seat of power has been hijacked by a cabal which runs independent of President Buhari. Many believe her.

That cabal, it seems, that determines almost everything about the administration. The cabal has a strong hold on Mr President, who very often pander and defer to their views and preferences on almost all matters pertaining to the nation’s governance.

The tussle for supremacy among the cabal members had been in existence, long before and even after the fall of the former DG of Department of State Services (DSS), Mr Lawal Daura. The tussle has always been on who holds the longer end of the ace; and part of the ace is who controls the ears and heart of Mr President. The reasoning seems to be that when you have Mr President’s ears and heart, you have everything.

That seems to be the propelling force behind the unbridled reach of Mr Abba Kyari, who has now been accused of ramming his authority down the throat of everybody, including the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj Gen Mungono (retd) and even the other cabinet members like the ministers.

In the instant controversy between the NSA and CoS, it was reported that Mr President had actually shunned the NSA when he dismissed his (Mungono’s) complaint that CoS was usurping his roles and functions by convening and presiding over meetings with Security Chiefs. Mr President was said to have quipped at Mungono, asking him to mind his business and leave Kyari alone. So, what else is the NSA’s business if we take away security concerns from his job description?

The response from Mr President also shows that he has not been getting quality advice from the NSA who has been accused of frequent foreign trips.

The question is how come a Chief of Staff is this important, wielding even more political influence and powers more than the Vice President? How did he secure such level of trust from his principal? Or is his principal a victim of some kind of manipulation?

However, some scholars argue that the office of the Chief of Staff means superintending and co-ordinating all the appointees of the President. Yes, all the appointees except elected persons.

At the inauguration of the last cabinet, Mr President had instructed all cabinet members and indeed, all appointees to route their memos and requests to see him through the CoS.

That had reaffirmed the numero uno position of the office of the Chief of Staff.

But this does not necessarily mean that the CoS is an alternate President. He cannot also be seen as eroding the roles and functions of other appointees. He can and should co-ordinate and allow appointees with technical expertise and superior competence to handle and drive special areas of need of government like security. This is even more so because to argue that co-ordination means taking over the job of other appointees, then the President may not need to appoint other persons into other offices after appointing a CoS who automatically becomes a Deus ex machina.

What has been manifestly betrayed between the NSA and CoS is mutual suspicion and distrust. Perhaps the question of who controls the budget is also at the root of this quarrel.

All said, Mr President must rise to the occasion by putting his house in order. Job descriptions must be clearly defined. And perhaps more importantly, all hands must not only be on deck in rescuing the nation, everybody must work as a team having a common goal of making Nigeria safer and better for all.