One of the first acts of President Muhammadu Buhari, on assumption of office, was to recall his 62-year old kinsman from retirement and send him to head the nation’s secret police, the DSS. Alhaji Lawan Daura, from all accounts, had acquitted himself well as a very competent intelligence officer at the different positions he had occupied in the secret service. He had almost got to its apex before he left on reaching the mandatory age of retirement.
It was said that his service record was without any blemish. It happened that soon after Lawan’s retirement, his kinsman – some even say relative – became the presidential flag-bearer of the All Peoples Congress (APC) and he thought he could contribute his expertise and experience to the success of his kinsman’s campaign efforts. Mr. Lawan volunteered his services, and it must have been a grateful Buhari’s campaign organisation that made him a frontline member of its security committee. The man’s contributions must have been so sterling, and the confidence reposed in his abilities so superlative, that he became one of the first choices of the new president for a job.
Perhaps, Mr Lawan’s appointment and position could have gone unnoticed but for the fact that he took off like a rocket in his new appointment, in the obvious reading of the body language of the man who had sent him on his errand. He descended on the old order at the Service, unravelling most of the actions enacted and reversing promotions made by his predecessor, Mr Ita Ekpenyong. One of the most visible objects of Lawan Daura’s hurricane changes was Ms Marilyn Ogar, the erstwhile deputy director of the DSS, who for several years before Jonathan’s fall, was the very public face of the agency whose activities are supposed to be mostly conducted in secret.
While Ms Ogar was not the only affected officer, her demotion and transfer to Maiduguri loomed large in the public space because she was probably the SSS officer whose name and face were most recognizable to the public. It could not have been a witch hunt, after all, Buhari’s recently appointed security detail was also ‘purged’.
There were many Nigerians, including this writer, who had complained openly that the treatment of the likes of Marilyn Ogar was high-handed, given that she was an unfortunate victim caught in the web and middle of obeying superior officers. There were many people who countered those claims, pointing out that officials are supposed to carry out only so-called legal orders, citing many instances, elsewhere in the world, like at the Nuremberg war crimes trials in Germany after the World War II, when the issue of obeying orders was not enough as an alibi for committing heinous crimes.
According to them, Ogar and her ilk should have stuck to the dictates of the books rather than of her bosses. Accepted! But suffice it to say that it is easier said than done, in an environment like ours, of poorly developed or non-existent institutions, where the caprices of men loom above the law of institutions. Perhaps, Mr Lawan Daura feels that he is doing his work the way he knows best to – by sticking to the rules – the result of which is bringing him into direct confrontation with people and interests that believe that he is “doing too much”. The current furore over the morality of his appointment, which dominated the political space for most of last week is perhaps, a way of either stopping him, or slowing him down. And to many Nigerians, too, it was a recognition that the new DSS helmsman was doing well.
Last week, the PDP accused President Buhari of having erred by appointing his own kinsman who was also a card carrying member of his party as the DG of the DSS. Perhaps, the accusation would have gone being dismissed as a political rattle-tattle, had the APC not, in their usual befuddling information management style, not initially denied any connection between the party and Alhaji Lawan, only to come out later to admit that the DSS boss was, in deed one of their own.
If the APC had come clean, the whole thing would have been dismissed as a non-event, as people would have wondered where it exists in our law or rules that a party card is an impediment to occupying a sensitive state position. If there was any such law, PDP would have been severally guilty of it, during the past 16 years that it had held sway. Even at that, and while not wanting to hold brief for Alhaji Lawan, I wish to point out that volunteering for a candidate, or even being hired to perform a professional duty for a candidate or a political platform, does not necessarily mean that one must belong to a party. In 2003 and thereafter, I served as the director of media and publicity of the Buhari presidential campaign and was also a prominent member of the publicity committee of the presidential campaign council. I was never a member of the ANPP, which was Buhari’s party then.
I have also worked for other candidates and other parties since then, but till date, I have never enrolled into any political party. I don’t see how I cannot, as an information management expert, work professionally for a candidate, the way a lawyer or architect should, without joining a party. In the same way, I don’t see why and how Mr Lawan Daura could not have operated as a security expert for Buhari without being a card carrying member of APC. In the estimation of many observers, whether Mr. Daura belongs to APC or not is beside the point.
Rather, one would be more bothered about how fairly or otherwise, the director general has been carrying on from a non-partisan state institution as the DSS. Accordingly, PDP’s complaint was necessitated by the allegation that the DSS was allegedly working against their interests, especially by allegedly meddling in some tribunal issues in which PDP felt that DSS was acting in a partisan manner that favours the APC. Remarkably too, APC had continually accused the DSS, under Jonathan, of overt partisanship, and had often accused Marilyn Ogar and her boss Ekpenyong, of acting as if she were a PDP card carrying member.
That is principally why she has not been attracting a lot of sympathetic ears in her present travails. Rather, there are definitely more germane and weightier issues to consider besides the lame issue of belonging to a party or not. The pattern for a long time in Nigeria has been the situation whereby the head of state appoints people of his ethnic areas to oversee the security operations of the state.
Obasanjo picked Kayode Are from his hometown to head SSS, Jonathan picked General Aziza, his kinsman as the NSA, and now Buhari has picked his townsman as the helmsman at the DSS. Such a tendency leaves a very sour taste in the mouth and casts on ominous question mark on the type of lessons our leaders give us, ordinary Nigerians, on patriotism. When a leader picks his kinsman to head a state institution, the tendency invariably becomes for that appointee to show more loyalty to his relative, who is in charge of government, than to the state institution that he is supposed to superintend.
That is why such officials oftentimes see the survival of the government of the day as being more crucial than the interests of the state. The protest of the PDP against Lawan Daura’s appointment on the basis that he might have been partisan does not hold any water, especially as they had not seen anything wrong when they had acted in like manner. Many people, including this writer, do not also see anything laudable in disqualifying a competent person because he had belonged to a party. Many more Nigerians would take PDP more seriously when and if it starts insisting that important appointments to state institutions should be made on basis of factors that are superior, more objective and far removed from such primordial ones as kinship and friendship.