A Commander-in-Chief must either Nigerianise or personalise his security outfit but, in either case, bear responsibility for the consequences
The newly-appointed Director-General of State Security Services (SSS) must be consoling himself in the manner of a helpless innocent man that “See me, see trouble o.” Poor chap, Yusuf Bichi. Before his appointment last week, he was hardly known to Nigerians but since then the man has become a metaphor for very negative focus. The list could be endless but, briefly, Bichi was recalled from retirement.
READ ALSO: Buhari names Yusuf Bichi new DSS DG
Bichi’s appointment nullified Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s appointment of Acting Director for SSS, in the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari, away on less than a fortnight’s leave. Bichi’s appointment also reinforced lopsidedness in Buhari’s choice of his personal security outfit, etc.
An irritating aspect of our situation is double standard. That is, an action or decision by a Southerner (especially a South-Westerner) is normal and tolerable but wrong and intolerable if by a Northerner or South-Easterner. If Bichi was brought from retirement to head the SSS, would he be the first? Colonel Kayode Are was a retired army officer recalled by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 to head the same SSS.
It was even mischievous to claim that Bichi’s appointment necessarily nullified Acting President Osinbajo’s (as he then was) punitive action at SSS. Osinbajo never (repeat never) appointed nor desired to appoint a substantive head of the SSS. The appointment thus made was meant to be temporary and so it was. Also, there was nothing automatic that such a temporary posting would be necessarily, still less routinely, confirmed. Confirmation in such circumstances is earned on merit.
If, however, Osinbajo were to make that appointment substantive even within the short period of Buhari’s leave, an unusual harmony exists between both men (Buhari and Osinbajo) that Osinbajo would have obtained approval from Buhari for the exercise of such authority. But the reasoning of the mob was that Osinbajo, all on his own, appointed a new head of SSS. What is more, there was no need for such haste as Buhari was away for less than a fortnight, while former DG of SSS Lawal Daura was being investigated. Any action before final report of such probe, unless where and when essential, would be unduly precipitate.
It also does not follow in a paramilitary set-up that, in the event of a vacuum, the next most senior officer automatically is appointed. In certain special circumstances, junior officers supercede their seniors. In 1976, General Obasanjo became new Head of State after the assassination of General Murtala Muhammed. Obasanjo’s successor as Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters was a Lt. Colonel and Minister of Transport, Shehu Yar’Adua, promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General. Nobody or group complained on behalf of General Theo Danjuma, then Chief of Army Staff, who was by-passed.
General Sani Abacha as Head of State also appointed General Abdulsalami Abubakar as Chief of Defence Staff ahead of other senior officers like General Jerry Useni, who had to shunt aside to non- command posts.
It is even more ruthless in the police force where, for example, former President Obasanjo promoted Nuhu Ribadu (a deputy if not Assistant Commissioner of Police) to fill a vacancy in the rank of Assistant Inspector-General of Police, well ahead of his erstwhile senior officers, all of whom had to go on premature retirement. In fact, allegations were rampart that accelerated promotions in paramilitary set-ups were deliberately triggered to clear the way for favoured candidates for the topmost post of Inspector-General of Police. There is, therefore, nothing sacrosanct for acting officers in a paramilitary set-up or even most senior officers to necessarily fill vacant senior posts substantively. Such may not be desirable but still must not be portrayed as peculiar to SSS or Buhari, moreso because of the silly insinuations.
It is indeed very dangerous for security operations to allege that an acting officer at SSS was not confirmed because he was from Bayelsa, home state of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, a top-notcher in PDP, the major rival to ruling APC. Who is that Nigerian to be appointed to sensitive public posts without being traced to an ethnic group or political affinity?
In view of the dangerous tone of arguments on the new Director-General of SSS, or Buhari’s security personnel, we must brush aside long-standing unstated but existing mistrust and risks in security appointments. First, we must note such is the sole prerogative of a Commander-in- Chief, especially in our presidential system.
In such circumstances, a Commander-in-Chief has only one out of two choices and whatever his preference can never be without historical aspects of our country since January 1966.
The facts are brutal and better left unstated but we must tell ourselves the truth if only to contain intermittent provocative postures. A Commander-in-Chief must, therefore, either Nigerianise or personalise his security outfit but, in either case, bear responsibility for the consequences, desired or unexpected. The guiding principle? Trust and reliance on the loyalty of security personnel. No matter the criticisms, anything less is sentiments. In our situation, a younger brother is no guarantee of loyalty. Indeed, Samson,
the presumed most invincible man, was betrayed on the source of his prowess by his wife, a Commander-in-Chief, therefore, is the only one to weigh his options for his security personnel.
As a reminder, in the matter of trusting his security personnel, he, (the Commander-in-Chief) can only Nigerianise or personalise. Neither is iron-cast guarantee but the C-in-C can at least trust his judgement. There was Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa who Nigerianised his security personnel. They killed him. Successor General J.T.U. Agui-Ironsi was even a goner from the opening second. That is, in view of the killing pattern of the January 1966 military coup, Ironsi would still not survive whatever security personnel he adopted. If Ironsi personalised his security outfit, that would weaponise his assassins for accusations of tribalism. Ironsi, on the other hand, Nigerianised his security personnel and even discounted alarming unfavourable security reports. Eventually, his Nigerianised security personnel killed him.
General Yakubu Gowon Nigerianised his security personnel, only to be toppled while abroad for OAC conference in Uganda. Were Gowon at home, the coup against him would have been resisted and would have been bloody. Only luck would have produced survivours. His successor, General Murtala Muhammed, Nigerianised his security personnel. The same security personnel, led by Defence Minister, killed him. As military ruler, General Buhari Nigerianised his security personnel. They toppled him.
Lest we forget, former President Shehu Shagari Nigerianised his security personnel, the very same outfit which toppled him three months after his re-election for a second term. Former President Ibrahim Babangida also Nigerianised his security personnel. He was less than three months in office when he had to crush a bloody coup plot. But naïve critics faulted him
for ruthlessly crushing a coup plot, which was yet to be implemented. It would be foolhardy and suicidal of an Army General to await the commencement of a bloody coup plot against him before crushing such.
In any case, four years later, the April 22, 1990, bloody coup attempt left no doubt that a Commander-in-Chief is the best judge of his defence outfit – Nigerianised or personalized. IBB was only lucky to have survived.
Who, therefore, is that C-in-C today to disregard these ugly past episodes of security personnel? Where is the law stipulating that, in setting up his security outfit, a C-in-C must rigidly Nigerianise? You set up your security as you deem fit. The major focus in the light of our political experiences since January 1966 should be the survival of the C-in-C and his administration.
Former President Obasanjo inherited Musiliu Smith as Police Inspector-General in 1999. He soon replaced Smith with Tafa Balogun. The same Obasanjo replaced Tafa Balogun with Sunday Ehindero as Inspector-General of Police, another South-Westerner, all in succession, at time a South-Westerner was the Director-General of SSS. Nobody complained. Obasanjo also had his reason(s) for unilaterally sacking Chief of Army Staff, General Victor Malu. Who complained? Obasanjo must survive, and he did, strictly within his rights and our laws.
Accordingly, what was the fuss about the appointment of Yusuf Bichi as substantive Director-General of SSS to replace the erstwhile Acting Director-General? A public officer in acting capacity must earn the post substantively on personal merit, moreso a sensitive security post. Quite unusually, the main feature of that acting appointment was a series of leaks of security directives and publicising of changes in security policy. Presumably, such changes were cleared and approved in advance by the commanding authorities. Even then, whatever changes in security policies should not have been unduly publicised. An ideal and professional approach should have been subtle and gradual implementation of the new policy. Credit would still go to whom it was due.
The most inexcusable were the leaks to newspapers of purported directives from the office of the C-in-C, even if through a surrogate. Apart from the aspects of blackmail, there were other grave implications for a paramilitary outfit, especially if it was not true that SSS directors already reshuffled were asked by Aso Rock to be recalled immediately. On the other hand, if it was true that secret service agents posted out were ordered to be recalled, it was dangerous such obviously classified instruction found its way to beaming front pages of newspapers.
The clear meaning was disingenuous resistance, a disobedience of lawful order. In a paramilitary set-up? That was an act of insubordination. If an officer merely acting in a post would not obey simple directive, disloyalty does not come more disturbingly. In a paramilitary set-up, that is. Even if such officer were to merit eventual confirmation of his acting appointment, such insubordination and disloyalty were indications of what to expect if and when confirmed.
At the worst, such orders should be obeyed first and ironed out later. Would a Chief of Army Staff redeploy his divisional commanders without the knowledge and consent of his Commander-in-Chief, who in any case has the final say? Gross misconduct (disobedience of or resistance to lawful order) is not condoned in the Armed Forces where the operating word is firmness.
Postscript: Police authorities must go softly, softly on Osun elections or public will shift sympathy.