By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
Come on. Let us face it. Lawal Daura was not appointed the Director General of the DSS because he was the Steve Jobs of his field. There was not any known qualifying exams or interview that could have rationally proved his excellence over other contenders. There were so many serving directors in the department who would have easily stepped into the shoes the Ita Ekpeyong on 2 July 2015. Even if considered, none was picked. In the end, the best to serve the administration was thought to be someone in retirement that shares the same geography as the President.
Why would a President known for due process and faith in public servants choose to abandon serving officers and go for someone from his hometown?
Trust is the answer.
The recall of Lawal Daura to head the DSS was under the recommendation of the President’s nephew, Malam Mamman Daura. Lawal was not the only one. Malam Mamman has also caused the appointments of many of his and the President’s relations, in-laws, friends and loyalists. Known to the public includes the appointments of Chief of Staff, the ministers of education, water resources, FCT, aviation, trade and investment, budget and planning, environment, in addition to numerous assistants, advisers and heads of parastatals. Tambuwal had to even strongly intervene directly with the President to stop the scandalous appointment of a lady as ambassador from his state.
I have pardoned some of such appointments before by proffering that this time the President needs people he can trust given his bad experience of 1985. He knows that he has come the second time against many odds from elements of the previous administration and its party; those of the ancien regime that overthrew him in 1985, most of whom are still active; people that he may harm should he actualise his dream of cleansing the country of corruption; etc. Those that I could not defend were clearly nepotistic, like the ministers that were appointed even in the face of protest from their party members of their state.
Added to this list is the hidden and very powerful members of the kitchen cabinet – who the President’s wife and Nigerians call ‘the cabal’ – headed by no one less capable the President’s nephew. This is a familiar role for Malam Mamman Daura. He played it before when he headed the secret committee of himself, Dr. Mahmud Tukur, Musa Bello and Mutallab in 1985, in Lagos. They used to ‘guide’ the president on matters of policy, pro bono, a courier once confided. Fortunately – or unfortunately – for the President, all of them are still active, though few names like Kingibe have been added.
When a census is taken, it can easily be proven that President Buhari can carry the medal of the President with the highest number of relatives at the centre of power. We never saw the in laws and relatives of any previous president in the mix of Dodan Barracks or Aso Villa. I cannot remember any in law or relative of Balewa, Gowon, Shagari, Babangida, Abacha (except for his son Muhammad), Obasanjo, Yar’adua or Jonathan as presidential staff, advisers and ministers. I cannot remember any of their uncles or nephews occupying ‘the glass house’. They must have been too few, if any, to remember, except for their first ladies. For Buhari, they are too many to escape the enumeration of people like Dr. Junaid Mohammed, in spite of the former’s pledge that he will keep his relatives clear of state matters.
The rise of Daura must be squarely placed in the context of this scheme which only time could prove the wisdom of this scheme.
And time was not kind to Daura.
Would the privileged appointment make Daura a more committed DSS director to the regime than how his predecessors were to theirs? Would he be able to strike a balance between the professional demands of his office and the loyalty to his sponsors?
One thing that cannot be dismissed is that Lawal Daura did not change the tide of abuses in the DSS. He went even farther. Never before did we hear the DSS embroiled in cases of appointments, investigations and duties of other department of government in addition to reported cases of insubordination.
Barricading the legislature was the stroke that broke the camel’s back. The timing was inauspicious for two reasons: the President, who would have tolerated his overzealousness, was not around and, facing elections, the regime is eager to show control instead of the aloofness that greeted such abuses from its side in the past three years.
The Vice-President seized the moment and fired Daura instantly and, possibly, ordered his arrest. Without waiting for the President to return and receive another recommendation for a new DG from his kitchen cabinet, the Vice-President, free from any baggage of memory that hounds his boss, did a professional job by appointing the highest serving officer in the department, Mr. Mathew Seyefa, as the new DG.
Now the EFCC is reportedly bracing up to extract its pound of flesh from Lawal Daura, who did everything to block the confirmation of its boss, Mr. Magu. But I doubt if it can go far without being restrained, like in other cases in which members of the kitchen-cabinet have substantial interest. Perchance the EFCC is able to carry its effort through, then that will confirm the allegation in some quarters that the former DSS director was a double agent.
The fall of Daura is a lesson in the nation’s emerging democracy. The doctrine of separation of powers has to be guarded against abuse from officials of the executive arm of government. We now know that there is a limit to the pretext of ‘security’ which is repeatedly used by the DSS to justify abuses on institutions and individuals alike.
It could also be a good morning for some people detained in violation of court orders or political reasons, all in the name of ‘security’. We expect the government to cleanse itself of this filth before the next elections, if only to whitewash its record of human right abuses. Dasuki may not be a quick beneficiary. But he should contend himself with having a new neighbour in Lawal Daura.
Lastly, the President too will do himself a favour if he takes charge of his appointments. Delegating it to members of the kitchen-cabinet, the SGF or a political camp has proven to be less optimal. As the best that he is suggested to be, he must go for nothing less than the best. I believe, in the performance of the new DG of DSS, there will be abundant proof that Nigerians other than one’s townsmen can also be relied upon to protect both his interest and that of the nation.
Kinship or common geography do not directly translate into safety and competence. We must learn to trust other Nigerians. That is the biggest take home from the fall of Daura.
Lawal Daura has fallen, no doubt. Yet, that does not stop us from wishing him and the nation well. Stay well, brother.