SOBs of Presidents
In 1972, White House Chief of Staff H. R. ‘Bob’ Haldeman was asked why he and another aide, John Ehrlichman created a siege atmosphere around President Richard Nixon. The two men, both of German ancestry, were called “the German shepherds” and were accused of erecting a “Berlin Wall” around Nixon. Haldeman said, “Every President needs his son of a bitch. And I am Nixon’s.” The question agitating Nigerians’ minds in the wake of last week’s events is, was Lawal Musa Daura the official SOB of the Buhari Presidency?
Only six days ago, LMD was the powerful, rambunctious, all-loyal Director General of the Directorate of State Services, DSS. His oddly-shaped, white goatee beard struck terror in the hearts of regime opponents. In the corridors of power however, he was seen as a bulwark against regime opponents, his numerous extra-legal activities in the name of national security notwithstanding. As 2019 approached, political opponents have increasingly boxed the Buhari Presidency into a corner and its aloof, self-assured, messianic approach to politics since 2015 was rapidly giving way to a combative, all guns blazing approach.
What a long time a week makes in politics. In six short days Daura became the poster-boy of Nigerian democratic misdeed. Remarkably, both sides of the political divide are now heaping blames on him for the single most shocking political deed of recent times, last Tuesday’s siege on the National Assembly by hooded DSS agents. The Acting President promptly sacked Daura, ordered his arrest and declared the siege as illegal and unauthorized. One would have thought that matters ended there, but the sack only opened the floodgates of bitter acrimony, insults, claims, counter claims and outrageous conspiracy theories.
Let us begin from the beginning. To find a comparable, overzealous action by a Nigerian security official, we must go all the way back to 1980 when President Shehu Shagari’s Internal Affairs Minister Alhaji Bello Maitama Yusuf ordered the secret deportation to Chad of Alhaji Shugaba Abdurrahman Darman, GNPP Majority Leader of the Borno State House of Assembly. The day the story broke, a stern Yusuf appeared on NTA Network News. He owned up to ordering the deportation and said, “He is not a Nigerian. His parents were from Chad.” Apparently, he did not tell the president before he acted, a script that LMD recently borrowed. After a huge media outcry, the Federal Government allowed Darman back into Nigeria. Shagari then set up a Presidential Commission to Determine the Nationality of Shugaba Darman, which the media derided as an afterthought. In contrast, Acting President Osinbajo’s sack of Daura was firm and decisive.
Apart from Yusuf, the Second Republic threw up other overzealous security officers, in particular Alhaji Tahiru Jidda, Police Commissioner of Borno State. In 1983 when NPP presidential candidate Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe arrived in Maiduguri to hold a rally, Jidda’s men blocked his path. Zik, who was accompanied by Governor Muhammadu Goni, alighted from his car and walked towards the police cordon; Jidda’s men fired tear gas. It was a monumental scandal; the father of the Nigerian independence movement tear-gassed by the Nigeria Police.
The Second Republic also threw up a very controversial Police Inspector General, Mr. Sunday Adewusi, recently deceased. Adewusi was so powerful that newspapers said he dictated the choice of ministers to President Shagari. It was Adewusi who told the president to sack one child of Chief Samuel Akintola from the cabinet and he brought another one as replacement. It was Adewusi who formed the Police Mobile Force, not only to suppress rioters but also to confront the military if necessary. When the Army overthrew the Second Republic on December 31, 1983 one of their first acts was to seize a consignment of armoured cars at the Lagos ports. Adewusi imported the cars for Mopol, having boasted that he could stop even a military coup.
The long years of military rule produced many notorious security chiefs. One of them was Alhaji Lawal Rafindadi, Director General of the National Security Organization [NSO] under military Head of State General Muhammadu Buhari. In 1985 when the Buhari regime was overthrown, then Deputy Police Inspector General Muhammadu Gambo Jimeta led an NTA News crew into the NSO’s dungeons in Lagos. What we saw were cells crammed with detainees, living in the filthiest of conditions. Last week when the Acting DSS DG opened the cells and released persons that Daura illegally detained, he did not invite television cameras to witness the event.
Nigerians will not forget Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo in a hurry. The National Security Adviser to General Sani Abacha coordinated the reign of terror in Nigeria, together with Major Hamza Al-Mustapha’s Strike Force which dealt with regime opponents. Fast forward to this Republic. EFCC’s first Chairman Malam Nuhu Ribadu did a lot of quality service to Nigeria but he also aided the biggest impunity of this Republic, namely President Olusegun Obasanjo’s serial impeachment of the governors of Bayelsa, Oyo, Plateau and Ekiti that fell out with him politically. In all cases EFCC rounded up state assembly members and threatened to imprison them unless they agreed to impeach their governors. In the case of Plateau, only eight members of out 30 were put in an EFCC bus, driven from Abuja to Jos, provided with police cover to impeach Dariye, and were then driven back to Abuja. Then there was Rivers State Police Commissioner Joseph Mbu of the Jonathan era.
A debate raged in the social media last week as to what would have happened if Daura had perpetrated his act while Buhari was in the country. We will never know since Buhari was not around but those who made the charge have a point because in the last three years, the president did not act decisively when his top officials were accused of corruption or impunity. Even before he went to London, policemen laid siege on the Benue State Assembly and tried to help a minority group of eight members to impeach Governor Samuel Ortom. No one was punished for that deed.
It was a real puzzle that Acting President Osinbajo gave Police IG Ibrahim Idris the task of investigating Daura for last week’s siege of the National Assembly. The mistakesriddled report that Idris submitted to Osinbajo leaked faster than the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. The report also contained a coded sentence that soon provided the basis for a startling conspiracy theory. The IG said Daura connived with some politicians to perpetrate the act. One would have thought that the most likely politician to connive with Daura was APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole, who is leading the cavalry charge to remove Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki from his seat for defecting to PDP. Yet, government spokesmen soon said it was Saraki who mobilized Daura to carry out the siege in order to paint the government in bad light. This allegation flies in the face of reason but if there is hard evidence to support it, Nigerians will kindly like to see it.
Right now, APC has concentrated all its energies in a crusade to oust Saraki. The assumption that the ruling party and Presidency are in trouble just because they do not own the top National Assembly leaders is not true. Shagari coexisted peacefully with the National Assembly for four years even though the House Speaker, Edwin Umeh Ezeoke and the Deputy Senate President, John Wash Pam were members of NPP, which had only 15 senators out of 95. Nor was PDP unduly imperiled just because Speaker Aminu Tambuwal defected to APC in 2015.
Given the determination with which Oshiomhole is leading the effort to remove Saraki and given the unlikelihood that APC will garner 73 senators needed to remove him, the danger exists that the atmosphere might soon be created for another security official to cash in on the desperation and step forward to occupy the vacant seat of SOB to the President.