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The Woman Called Marilyn Ogar

BALA DAN ABU e-mail: bala.danabu@theunion.com.ng

I have never met her. I only know her by her reputation as the spokesperson of the Department of State Service, DSS. In that position Marilyn Ogar was very effective in the task of disabusing the minds of those who have always had the impression that the DSS is nothing else but an instrument of state brutality. It was not in doubt that Ms Ogar loved her job and she brought unto it a huge amount of energy, enthusiasm and candour.

The DSS itself is the Nigerian secret police which is better known for its long history of controversy arising mainly from the brutality of its style of operation. In its several decades of existence, it has changed name several times, mostly a product of the desire to give it a toga of civility. It was also for this reason that the organisation embarked on extensive self rebranding with the opening of its doors to more highly educated Nigerians trained in the job of underground police duties using less savage styles. The Public Relations Department which Ogar headed until recently was a product of that new orientation. The idea was to let the public into some aspects of the job of the DSS which were hitherto shrouded in secrecy and for which it earned the reputation of an agency of repression.

This was backed up with a deliberate policy of self-redefinition and modernisation of its style of operation as its officers became increasingly aware that there   was now a window through which the public could monitor their activities and ask questions about some of those things they do even in the dark bowels of the Department’s underground detention camps. Unfortunately, the department that has done so much to salvage the image of the DSS and won for it tremendous public understanding and sympathy is itself today at the centre of a niggling image problem. At the centre also of that controversy is Marilyn Ogar, the first female spokes person of the organisation. In that position, Ms Ogar has had the arduous task of defending some of the highly contentious acts of her employers.

Some of them have now earned her the multiple wahala she’s currently grappling with. These acts include the allegations made by the DSS in the run up to the 2015 general elections against the All Progressives Congress, APC. The agency had accused APC which was then the opposition party of attempting to hack into the data base of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, with the intention of disrupting the electoral process. That was not all. The DSS also claimed that APC had on its membership register serving members of some security agencies including the Military, Police, Customs, Federal Road Safety Corps and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps. It also accused the APC of engaging in multiple registration and encouraging under-aged persons to register to vote in the elections.

Even in the government’s face-off with the #Bring Back Our Girls protests which happened during the same period, the DSS took a stand against the group. Ms Ogar was the purveyor of these highly contentious information and accusations. It was in her line of duty not just to do so but to even make the extra effort to convince the public to accept the information as true. Now, the political pendulum has shifted away from the grip of the interests that Ms Ogar and her bosses served very diligently and the rest of the road has become a nightmare. Ms Ogar has had her latest promotion cancelled by the new helmsmen at the DSS. Recently, she was also recalled from her U.S institution where she had gone on a sponsored higher degree programme. On her return she was posted to Maiguguri, the home base of insurgency.

The posting was quickly suspended because of the reactions it was attracting. As at the time of writing this piece, Ms Ogar had no definite posting or specific assignment at the DSS. I won’t delve into the argument over the veracity or otherwise of the allegations the DSS under the previous administration made against the APC. The reason is that I don’t have a way of knowing if they were true or not. Those are not even the issues of concern to me here. The issue, rather, is the question of loyalty to one’s employers or the government of the day, as the case may be, which the Marilyn Ogar case has thrown up. Was Marilyn Ogar and her bosses at the DSS expected to serve the interest of the opposition party rather than the government in power? In other words, would it be proper for her to defend the position of the opposition party rather than that of her employers and the government of the day? Would she not be guilty of disloyalty to the DSS and to the government?

If that is so, where then is Ms Ogar’s crime really? That is why I think that the current show of anger by the new helmsmen at DSS against Ms Orga is misplaced. Ms Orga was just the public face of the Department, not its chief executive officer. In that case, it would have sufficed to remove the head of the DSS who takes responsibility for the actions and inactions of the agency. This anger ought not to have been extended to Ms Ogar. If anything must be done to Ms Ogar, it ought not to be harsher than a redeployment to another department. All the other punishments meted to her are simply excessive if not vindictive. But if the new helmsmen at the DSS have other things against Ms Ogar yet unknown to the public, let them come up with the details now, otherwise the public will go away with the impression that the real name of what is happening to the former DSS spokes person is victimisation.

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