Armsgate: The dancer or the dance?

686 views | Sanusi Muhammad | April 3, 2021

On the trended issue of the alleged stealing, diversion, squandering and reckless disbursement of the national patrimony by the embattled former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), the outrage expressed seemed patently hypocritical. Nigerians suddenly acted as if they have not been aware that at both the federal and state levels, a lot of atrocities are committed daily under the guise of our nebulous definition of ‘security’.

Why are we pretending not to remember that for some time now, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) was the big pipeline most activities of the country passed through, and we have never for once been told that we are not allowed to know what passed through and to pass through, because security issues are- or should be-out of the purview of the governed. But what of security issues in states and their security votes?  Security issues, as we have been forced to accept, are the preserve of a very minute, cult of people at the very top of affairs at the federal and state levels. So, why are we now surprise and angry that Dasuki as NSA had access to the deepest recesses of our coffers and squandered it as he willed, much like a drunken sailor?

Undoubtedly, we borrowed the concept of the NSA from the Americans, whose system we have been aping most sluggishly, but without accepting to submit ourselves to the very stringent transparency rigors of the system.

From research, the ONSA was not part of the US presidential system until 1953, when Robert Cutler was appointed as the first person to advise the president on national security issues. Incidentally, following the start of the Cold War, the National Security Council was created under the National Security Act of 1947 to coordinate defense, foreign affairs, international economic policy and intelligence and its head was the NSA.

I started hearing of the NSA in Nigeria earlier, but honestly not until my business brought me very close to that office during the days of late Gen. Andrew Owoye Azazi. I came face to face with the enormous powers which the NSA wielded. In fact, the NSA was all in all, in that anybody who needed funds for anything  then – ranging from sponsoring propaganda, rallies, travels, feature articles in local and foreign newspapers, students union affairs, market women, sponsorship of faith based activities, labour matters etc. Name anything then, the NSA could handle.

When I timidly inquired to know under what budgetary headings the ONSA sourced the huge sums it disbursed daily, I was told that it was from the President’s security vote. To me that was enough even though I was baffled by the stories I heard to the effect that the ONSA could request funds directly from the Central Bank of Nigeria, especially when I noticed that trips undertaken by some highly placed federal government officials were funded with crisp travelers’ cheques. I assumed then that there must be a problem in the management of our economy.

As Nigerians get better information of how the ONSA misused their money on flimsy excuses, I now understand it must be through that office that Sani Abacha stole most of what he was accused of stealing. It is beyond doubt that Sambo Dasuki misused his position as NSA to milk the country dry under the guise of fighting Boko Haram while allegedly funding a favored political party.

However, even if one had no way of knowing if the ONSA had been sanitized or if its funds had acquired better transparent ways of being monitored by subsequent administrations, it is striking that each of them kept the NSA, which continue to be one of the most powerful people in government, not necessarily because it was a very high office in the scheme of affairs, but most probably because it had enough largesse to dole out at anytime from the president’s security vote.

From Abdulsalam Abubakar – Obasanjo- Jonathan, all had very powerful NSAs, if only by the positions they had held in the military before being picked. Yet, this ‘power’ was derived from the president, as the NSA was just one of those appointed aides.

The definition and ramifications of ‘security’ must have different meanings to the Americans as it has for Nigerian leaders.

In Nigeria, National Security Advisers are always drawn from the Military, Police or the Security Service while in the United States they mostly come from the academia or the public service. Not discountenancing the fact that great military goons like General Colin Powell was an NSA under President Ronald Reagan between November 1987 and January 1989. But there have been more civilians like Susan Rice.

Obviously, the definition of ‘security’ in Nigeria is narrower in scope than elsewhere, otherwise, Nigeria would have opted for people with wider scope of appreciation of the ramifications of the society to advise the president on security issues not necessarily uniformed personnel which has now assumed wider dimensions than just arms and ammunitions.

The choice of Sambo Dasuki was necessitated by the desperation to hire someone with the perception of better understanding of Boko Haram scourge not necessarily as a professional soldier and his socio-cultural backgrounds. But when he assumed office, his first step towards Boko Haram to me, exposed his ignorance of their modus operandi and I concluded that Nigeria was to remain in the mess with Dasuki as NSA. Dasuki lacked the capacity and technicality to defeat Boko Haram from my experience with the insurgents over the years. I knew Dasuki was one of those merchants in search of capital for investment and he found one in Boko Haram not that he and his co-travelers were keen to defeat Boko Haram. A hard fact then president Jonathan ignored. To be fair, the late Andrew Owoye Azazi, who we interacted with, was better than Dasuki in handling Boko Haram insurgency. He performed better and achieved a lot silently when he held sway. Dasuki, allegedly saw the Office of the NSA as an extension of the Sokoto caliphate where he could shout and dictate without challenge as a “Sultan” in waiting. Under his claimed credentials, Boko Haram scourge got worse for obvious reason not unconnected with stealing and diversion of funds budgeted for the purchase of arms. Some observers who possibly benefitted from the stealing spree were quick to say that his attention to crushing Boko Haram was distracted by other ‘weightier’ national assignments beside the security over which he was appointed to superintend.

Up till this moment of writing, there are still those who insist that it is the responsibility of the defence ministry to source and purchase arms not that of the ONSA. But, from revelations, purchase of arms was the major preoccupation of the ONSA, to the effect that Dasuki was alleged to have requested for and received unspeakable sums of money, which if judiciously deployed to the claimed arms purchase, could have buried Boko Haram in the bowel of the desert years ago. Instead of that, he and his co-travelers; Raymond Dokpesi, Tony Anenih, Olisah Metuh, Alex Badeh, Esther Nenadi Usman, Attahiru Bafarawa, Samuel Olu Falae, Tanko Yakasai, Muhammed Bello Halliru, Aminu Babakusa, Bashir Yuguda, Musiliu Obanikoro, Prof. Rufa’i Alkali etc allegedly obtained and disbursed dizzying sums of public funds to other sources possibly even to Boko Haram leaders through Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, while the fighting troops were forced to fight with bare hands for suicide.

Even though most of what are in the open remain as allegations, as Dasuki has neither denied through his lawyers nor said he committed the offence but kept on saying he was ‘innocent’ that he has failed to prove. But it is striking that unworthy beneficiaries like High Chief Raymond Dokpesi who allegedly scooped the whopping sum of N2.1billion has tongue-in cheek, accepted culpability. Most Nigerians are annoyed with Dasuki not just because he wasted as some NSAs had done before him, but he squandered on other flimsy things that tantamount to blood money. Dasuki allegedly collected huge sums of money under the guise of equipping soldiers fighting the dreaded and well-equipped insurgents but lavished it elsewhere against his Oath of Allegiance and the survival of Nigeria. His action was more disastrous to Nigeria than the Boko Haram he claimed to fight.

There was no way for television campaign placements of deceit could have been equated to the security of our soldiers and civilians under Boko Haram threat. How could the whopping sum of over N4billion be given to Attahiru Bafarawa for ‘spiritual’ purpose? The entire game was mired in callousness and mischief. While Dokpesi caroused in such heaps of money, the staff of his AIT and Ray power radio stations and their families went for several months without salaries forcing them to sleep on empty stomach. Ditto for Bafarawa who kept assuring PDP that he could deliver the votes of Sokoto state after pocketing N4billion for ‘prayers’.

And drunk with the type of power which only accessibility to too much easy money could guarantee, Sambo Dasuki was said to have become megalomaniac, throwing his political weight around and allegedly intimidating his opponents in his native Sokoto State.

Typical case study was how Aliyu Magatakarda Wammako, erstwhile governor of the state and now a senator was put under enormous pressure and constant threats that he had to cry out publicly.

Honestly, with a hitherto compromised judiciary and moles in the EFCC, one doubted if the Buhari administration can recover half of the loot that was allegedly channeled to undeserving beneficiaries from ONSA. But it will be important to take the right steps to block such a leaking hole which existed in the ONSA. The current NSA on seat, Gen. Babagana Munguno that one wonders how he sources the funds the office needs for day to day activities and how the funds are expended. Habits die hard although one has no ground for now to point any accusing finger on Babagana Munguno of following the footsteps of the Sokoto prince, but if the ONSA has been used to squandering unaccounted-for funds, it is unlikely that the fashion may have suddenly stopped with the Babagana style of administration.

In the states, the governors who claim to have financial instability and find it difficult to pay monthly civil servants salaries, have not stopped carting home stupendous amounts of public funds monthly under the guise and nebulous unaccounted SECURITY VOTES. These colossus amounts they lavish as it pleases them and wipes their mouths, has resemblance with Dasukigate. They should be closely monitored and watched.

Finally, it is absolutely right and within the orbit of our laws to force Dasuki and his conspirators to account for what they allegedly stole and shared against national security. If that is done, instead of sending them to jail for punishment, let them be sent to Sambisa for their jail sentence to boast the morale of those they had wanted killed by Boko Haram. Dasuki should lead his co-travelers to Sambisa to taste what others are, tasting. If they so return safely, they may likely repent from future abuse of trust and wanton theft of our commonwealth.

The list of exposed looters and looted amount so far looks like this:-

Sambo Dasuki (N550bn), Aminu Babakusa (N2.2bn), Emeka Mba (N17bn), Dalhatu Attahiru Bafarawa (N4.6bn), Patrick Z. Akpobolokemi (N2.6bn), Sa’idu Nasamu Dakingari (N450m), Ahmadu Fintiri (N970m & $4.8m), James Bala Ngillari (N450m), Diezani Allison-Madueke ($115m), Femi Fani-Kayode (N840m), Chief Samuel Olu-Falae (N100m), High Chief Raymond Dokpesi (N2.1bn), Rashidi Ladoja (N100m), Mrs. Esther Nenadi Usman (N2.5bn), Air Chief Marshal Alex Sebundo Badeh ($2.1bn), Bashir Yuguda (N1.5bn), Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff (N40m), Prof. Rufa’i Alkali (N320m), Chief Olisah Metu (N1.4bn), Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (returned N2.3bn)and Waripamowei Dudafa (2.1bn).

Do those certified, ‘thieves’ and rogues deserve any pity, mercy or sympathy? Jail sentence to me is too a light punishment. Conventional courts should be excused from trying the rogues. Instead, they should be made to face the application of jungle justice from the cheated mob. The unfortunate ones may be lucky to be with their ancestors where they can steal no more.

In recent weeks, the National Security Advisor, Gen. Babagana Munguno threw in another bombshell of missing $1billion released for procurement of arms for the military. The where about of those procured arms, remains mysterious. Another investigation into arms purchase is desired to strengthen the records including disbursement of allowances to soldiers at the theatre of war. Nigeria We Hail Thee!

Muhammad is a commentator on national issues


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