By Olusegun Adeniyi
On 29th August 2015, just three months after he was sworn-in, President Muhammadu Buhari disowned two ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) campaign documents containing promises of the achievements he would make during his first 100 days in office. A statement from Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said Buhari had no knowledge of most of the promises being ascribed to him which he said emanated from the party’s “many centres of public communication which, for whatever reason, were on the loose.”
However, Garba Shehu also added that even within three months, Nigerians could see the difference between Buhari and predecessors. “In the area of economic management, Nigerians are already seeing things happen that they thought were not possible in so short a time”, Shehu stated. “He didn’t put a Kobo to finance the power sector. Yet, reading his body language alone and knowing that there are things you cannot do and get away with under Buhari, electricity supply all over the country has risen to unprecedented heights.”
After highlighting the administration’s achievements in less than 100 days at the time, Garba Shehu concluded: “President Buhari will turn out to be a leader in the tradition of Lee Kuan Yew and India’s current reform-minded Prime Minister Modi with strong and clear emphasis on detail and execution. He may, however, differ with them by not micro-managing things.”
With just about 25 days to the end of his tenure, it is left to be seen whether the president will be remembered like the late Singaporean leader. Incidentally, there were indeed many promises ascribed to Buhari before he came to power in 2015. We were for instance told that Buhari would conjure a Naira to command the same value as a dollar, sell all the aircraft in the presidential fleet, ban public officials from seeking medical treatment abroad, publicly declare his assets etc. Of course, none of that happened.
As Nigerians reflect on what has transpired in the past eight years, the president has also been doing his own introspection. Receiving visitors on what would be his last Eid-el-Fitr ceremony as president two weeks ago, Buhari thanked Nigerians for the honour to serve them for two terms between 2015 and 2023. He also sought forgiveness from those he might have offended while discharging his duties. “I can’t wait to go home to Daura,” said Buhari in the remark that has since drawn flak. “If they make any noise to disturb me in Daura, I will leave for the Niger Republic. I deliberately arranged to be as far away as possible. I got what I wanted and will quietly retire to my hometown.”
There can be no doubt that the president has got all he ever wanted out of Nigeria. The question is whether Nigerians have fulfilled their aspirations under his leadership. If one gauges responses to Buhari’s ‘apology plea’, the conclusion would be that the president has failed on his campaign promises to the country. But I beg to disagree with that. Since presidential handlers told us from the outset that most of the pre-election promises in 2015 were “audio” to borrow a famous slang, we can only hold Buhari accountable for the promises he made personally. And in that regard, there is no better place to look than his inaugural speech.
While the president may have made several promises at his inauguration on 29th May 2015, one stands out, even though it was plagiarized from a 1958 speech of the late Charles de Gaulle of France without taking account of the context: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.”
That famous line has been the guiding philosophy of the Buhari administration in the past eight years. For instance, three key areas that Buhari promised to focus on are: fighting corruption; revamping the economy; and tackling insecurity. A lot has been done by this administration, especially in infrastructure. I am sure fair-minded Nigerians will agree with some of the achievements listed in the 90-page ‘factsheet’ released by the presidential media team. But not a few will also remember that in a rare interview in 2014, a year before he came to power, Buhari dismissed the subsidy regime in the downstream sector of the Petroleum industry as a scam. ‘Who is subsidising who?’ he had asked.
In January, Reuters reported that Nigeria spent $9.7 billion (N4.39 trillion at official rate) on fuel subsidy in 2022. If we extrapolate from that, we can imagine how many trillions of Naira we have wasted on subsidy in the past eight years. Buhari of course has signed off on its removal. But that is scheduled to happen two days after he must have left office and relocated to Daura! That’s the hallmark of a man who is for everybody and for nobody. The same can be said regarding the management of other critical sectors, which explains the crisis of mission dogging Buhari’s administration. Meanwhile, a leader that is for everybody and nobody is basically telling us that he is only for himself!
In my 19th April 2018 column, ‘A National Security Endangered’, I summed up the indifference of Buhari when it comes to dealing with the security sector. Because the tragic fallouts of that episode remain unresolved, I crave the indulgence of readers to rehash parts of what I wrote five years ago so we can see how being for everybody and for nobody accounts for the insecurity that defines our country today.
Inter-agency frictions have long been apparent under the current dispensation, especially following what transpired in the Senate during the confirmation hearing of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC) Acting Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu. The Directorate of State Security (DSS) wrote a damning report, depicting Magu unworthy of the office for which he was nominated by the president.
Last weekend, there were reports in some online media quoting both the DSS Director General, Mr Lawal Daura, and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana M. Monguno (rtd), as trading damaging allegations. The media stories were based on the Senate ‘Report of the Ad Hoc committee on investigation of the arrest episodes of Tuesday 21st November 2017 among officers of EFCC, NIA and DSSS’, a copy of which I obtained yesterday.
Since President Buhari came to power with the promise to restore the economy, fight corruption and tackle general insecurity in the country, it is hard to believe that those who head the agencies expected to deliver on two of those main planks are not only bitter enemies but are fighting openly to subvert one another, and in the process, the system. That is the only conclusion to draw from the Senate report which then explains why the country has practically been reduced to a killing field where entrepreneurs of violence ply their nefarious trade everywhere, almost unchallenged by the state.
The story started on 22nd November 2017 when the attention of the Senate was drawn to a botched arrest drama involving EFCC officials and operatives of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) and DSS. After taking both oral and written testimonies from all the principal actors, the Senate concluded that the acrimonious relationship between and among those manning our security agencies “was noticed from the outset of the investigation, leading the committee to conduct the hearings in camera as well as holding separate meetings with the security agencies. This lack of cooperation and cohesion is reflected at a secondary level with the EFCC and the NSA belonging to one group and the NIA and DSS belonging to another group.”
When he appeared before the Senate committee, Magu submitted a memorandum and gave oral testimony. According to the report, the highlights of his submissions were that the EFCC operatives were on a legitimate mission before they were obstructed by heavily armed operatives from the two security agencies: DSS and NIA. “Upon arrival at the aforementioned address, the Commission’s operatives met heavily armed personnel of the DSS numbering about thirty (30) with three (3) operational vehicles. In a bid to carry out our legitimate duty, the (EFCC) operatives approached the DSS personnel at the gate, introduced themselves and requested to see the former Director-General, Mr. Ita E. Ekpenyong. Their response to the operatives was ‘No’. Upon further inquiry and presentation of Warrant of Arrest, they responded as follows: ‘We are under instruction from the Headquarters’.” A similar situation, according to Magu, occurred at the residence of Oke whose official residence was also defended by heavily armed NIA officials.
Meanwhile, Daura, who also submitted a memorandum and appeared before the committee contradicted the claims by Magu. He traced the standoff between the agencies to the events that occurred in July 2016, “in the aftermath of the inauguration of the probe panel set up by the NSA, upon the approval of the President to investigate Defence procurement from 2014 to 2015.” According to Daura, shortly after the commencement of investigation, “operatives of the DSS serving on the panel were removed by the NSA, leaving members from the Military, NIA and EFCC to continue the investigation. Thereafter, the DSS acting on intelligence discovered that some Ad-Hoc members were brought in by the NSA to serve on the committee. These Ad-Hoc members were later found to be involved in some shady deals, which bordered on corrupt practices. The Service subsequently arrested Mohammed Umar (Air Commodore/Rtd), the arrowhead of the members involved in extorting money from suspects under investigation to give them soft landing. At the end of investigation, he (Umar) was arraigned in court and is presently being prosecuted at the Federal High Court, Abuja.”
Daura argued that because both Monguno and Magu were unhappy about the arrest and prosecution of Umar, “they decided to embark on a vendetta to investigate the Service on some trumped-up charges, including corrupt practices. The starting point of this was the invitation sent to Ita Ekpenyong and Kunle Kadiri, former Director-General State Services (DGSS) and Head of Account of the DSS, respectively.”
The investigation, Daura contends “was actually a voyage of discovery to fish out incriminating evidence against the Service with a view to depict it and the Management as being corrupt…The Service discovered that this effort by the Commission was part of a clandestine investigation of DSS accounts by a team set up by the NSA in collaboration with the EFCC Acting Chairman in complete violation of extant laws pertaining to financial regulations of the Service.”
Daura quoted the extant laws which he said forbid what Monguno and Magu were trying to do except with the express permission of the president or the EFCC Board (of which he is statutorily a member along with the CBN Governor, Attorney General of the Federation and 15 other stakeholders). He then declared: “The method (brawn instead of brain) deployed by the current EFCC under Magu is a Gestapo style that belongs to dictatorial regimes. The Acting Chairman runs the agency based on public rumours, maneouvers, gossips, political interferences from certain quarters and Marabouts.”
In his written and oral testimonies, the then Acting NIA Director General, Ambassador Mohammed Dauda (who has since been replaced) said there was no official communication to the agency from the EFCC on the exact mission of its operatives to the official residence of his predecessor, Oke and that he got wind of it only from the media. “It was the expectation of the DG NIA that a prior notice would be served on the Agency by the EFCC, particularly against the backdrop of the fact that the former DG NIA was still resident in the Command House (official residence of a serving DGNIA), while in the process of handing-over in line with extant practice. By virtue of its status, the Command House is a critical National Security Asset with sensitive documents and equipment. Accordingly, the attempt to storm the Command House to effect an arrest had far-reaching national security implications”, according to the report.
The report added: “Resistance against the EFCC by operatives of the NIA consequently served a larger national interest, to maintain the sanctity of the Agency, its operatives and sensitive security assets in the Flag House. The NIA is a Secret Service, whose operations are clandestine and highly classified. Accordingly, it is imperative to shield the Agency from further negative publicity. He regretted that the EFCC under Magu has been hostile to and uncooperative with the NIA leading to the massive withdrawal of NIA operatives from the services of the EFCC.”
The last to give evidence was Monguno who admitted knowledge of the letter submitted to his office by Daura but disregarded it because “it was written in a distasteful and impolite tone.” Monguno, according to the report, traced the “ongoing investigation by the EFCC as an outcome of the Vice-President’s Panel which discovered the misappropriation of $289 Million Intervention which was released by the CBN to some Security Agencies around 2015”, although he also added that “he was not aware of the EFCC Chairman’s plan to arrest any of the persons until after the media frenzy and that the resistance made by the Security Agencies during the arrest episode cast some aspersions.”
Monguno expressed concerns about the apparent lack of unity and cooperation which has led to the current state of disharmony amongst the sister agencies. “He said that this resulted due to the National Security Agencies Decree 1986 which has stripped the NSA of the power to check the other security agencies that have now become independent of his office due to their now ‘easy’ access to the President. Thus, there is a desperate need to streamline the Agencies and make them answerable to the NSA.”
The most critical part of the report is the claim that Monguno “informed the Senators during the meeting that the President is evidence of the state of things as he has informed him of the situation and also presented evidences of some instances in which his duties were usurped due to the lack of discipline exhibited by the Security Agencies…He harped on the fact that failure to arrest this situation would have transnational implications as the hierarchical structure for command has been compromised.”
What is baffling to most observers is how President Buhari has allowed the institutions of national security to be freely carved up into clashing and competing private fiefdoms of ambitious and lawless chieftains who have carried their fights into the public arena. Tragically, it is this dysfunction between the security agencies and the unhealthy rivalry among their heads that has led to the current state of general insecurity in the country.
In 2016, two years before I wrote the foregoing, Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina authored a controversial piece, ‘President Muhammadu Buhari and the descendants of Shimei’, where he likened his principal to King David, easily one of the most important Bible characters; and his critics to “descendants of Shimei’’, a member of the family of the displaced King Saul who once publicly humiliated King David. In response a few months later, I wrote ‘Of President Buhari and King David’. The conclusion I drew more than five years ago is still as apt today as it was then: Ordinarily, the president of a republic sees himself in the least of his citizens; their joy is his uplift; their sorrow is his personal anguish. In times of travail, he goes to places where people are hurting and empathises with them. His visit is not ceremonial; it is in the line of active duty. In a monarchy, the leader is king. He is above the people and sees gestures of empathy even in dire circumstances as condescension. The fracture in the polity is somehow traceable to this very disconnect.
In case the president and his handlers have forgotten, let me remind them. Even though he proposed no set of values beyond a ‘body language’ that, on the face of recent developments, might have been wrongly interpreted by many Nigerians, Buhari was elected president to serve as a moral compass—a leader who would need no prompting before choosing between right and wrong in the conduct of public affairs. Unfortunately, that is not what has transpired under his stewardship. And since moral authority, according to Ken Robinson, is intertwined with legitimacy, “once the confidence and trust in a leader’s moral authority is seriously questioned, once it becomes obvious that their moral compass is off, their ability to lead is undermined and challenged.”
In 25 days, President Buhari will be out of office. In a way, he has already written the epitaph for his administration. He promised to be for everybody and for nobody. Against the background of what has happened in Nigeria in the past eight years, it will be difficult to argue that Buhari has not fulfilled that promise. And one final point: In case President Buhari feels offended by this column or any that I have written in the past eight years about him or his administration, I also seek his forgiveness!
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