Like Rafindadi, like Daura
Like most other appointments in his 11 months in the job, only President Muhammadu Buhari knows why he pulled out his kinsman, Lawal Daura, from retirement and handed him the sensitive and strategic job of director general of the Directorate of State Securities (DSS).
That was in July 2015, barely one month after he was sworn in as president on May 29.
But whatever his reason, as usual, it has less to do with competence, the axiomatic act of putting a round peg in a round hole, but more with the overarching considerations in all of his political moves – nepotism, prejudice, clannishness.
For a president who has confessed his love for working with those he knows and who, despite all the positions he has held in the country – including being military head of state for 20 months – his circle of friends is limited to his Fulani kinsmen, Daura may well be his idea of the man who the cap fits after he sacked Ita Ekpeyong who headed the agency from September 2010 to July 2015.
Established under the National Security Agencies Act of 1986 (Decree 19) the DSS, also known as the State Security Service (SSS) – one of the three successor organisations to the National Security Organisation (NSO) dissolved in 1986 – is the primary domestic intelligence agency of Nigeria.
Before the DSS, there was the NSO, set up in 1976 with Abdullahi Mohammed as the first director general.
But the NSO under Mohammed Lawal Rafindadi was broken up into three agencies by former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, after it had been turned into a monster used to abuse Nigerians and trample upon their fundamental human rights by the Buhari-led military junta between December 31, 1983 and August 27, 1985.
In appointing Daura the DG of a critical security apparatus such as the DSS, it would seem that Buhari’s primary goal, aside consolidating power in the hands of his Fulani brethren, is to recreate the stomach-churning 20th century secret police used by his military junta to whip people into line in a 21st century democratic environment.
As scary as that is, nothing prepared me for my shock last week over the bizarre statement credited to the DSS on the alleged abduction and killing of some people in Abia State by yet to be identified hoodlums.
The spy agency announced penultimate Saturday that it had discovered mass graves of “Hausa-Fulani” residents allegedly abducted and murdered by members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) in Abia State.
A statement signed by DSS spokesperson, Tony Opuiyo, said the killings have triggered tension among different communities in Abia.
“The Service has uncovered the heinous role played by members of … IPOB, in the abduction/kidnap of five Hausa-Fulani residents, namely Mohammed Gainako, Ibrahim Mohammed, Idris Yakubu and Isa Mohammed Rago at Isuikwuato LGA in Abia State.
“The abducted men were later discovered at the Umuanyi forest, Abia State, where they were suspected to have been killed by their abductors and buried in shallow graves, amidst fifty (50) other shallow graves of unidentified persons,” said Opuiyo.
“It is pertinent to alert the general public that IPOB is gradually showing its true divisive colour and objectives, while steadily embarking on gruesome actions in a bid to ignite ethnic terrorism and mistrust amongst non-indigenes in the South East region and other parts of the country.
“Following this act, tension is currently rife among communal stakeholders in the state with possibilities of spillover to other parts of the country.”
This is sheer recklessness and unbecoming of a security agency such as the DSS.
In the first place, the agency said it discovered 50 shallow graves but identified only “five” of the victims as Fulani herdsmen.
How did they know that those five victims were Fulani? Were any DNA tests conducted to authenticate their identity? Who was the fifth victim they refused to identify by name? Who were the other unidentified 45 corpses? Were they also Fulani herdsmen? Was it that the DSS found out that they were not Fulani and therefore there was no need to identify them? Why did the DSS rush to press with only four names when there were other 46 victims, presumably Nigerians?
This claim, coming from the DSS without any proof, is not only a remarkable oddity just in itself, it is also irresponsible and repugnant, to say the least.
But assuming, without necessarily conceding that this allegation is true, what did the DSS intend to achieve by issuing such a reckless statement other than inciting the North against the Igbo and precipitating once again the 1960s-type pogroms that culminated in the civil war?
Even if it is true that IPOB activists, or indeed Ndigbo, conspired to kill five Fulani herdsmen and buried them in shallow graves in a forest in Abia State, shouldn’t the DSS device ways of calming frayed nerves and ensuring there are no reprisal killings while also ensuring the culprits are fished out and adequately punished?
Shouldn’t the DSS, as part of its internal security functions, be building bridges of understanding and ethnic harmony rather than fanning the embers of national discord and aggravating already yawning national fissures, which is the only goal its unsubstantiated claim will achieve?
I have heard some people ask why the DSS lost its voice when over 300 people, including women and children, were massacred in one night in Agatu, a rural community in Benue State, by Fulani herdsmen who have been ranked as the fourth most dangerous terrorist group in the world by the Global Terror Index.
While that question remains germane in view of the inherent mischief in the DSS statement, for me that begs the issue because the horror is not necessarily in the numbers but the lack of value for human life. Every murder diminishes our collective humanity.
But that question is resonating because it exposes the hypocrisy of the Daura-led DSS and gives an inkling as to why he was asked to head Nigeria’s secret police at this time.
A few days ago, alleged Fulani men attacked the farm of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olu Falae, and killed one of his security men.
There was no statement from the DSS. Some weeks back, more than 70 indigenes of Enugu State who protested the abduction of their women by Fulani herdsmen, having waited in vain for the government to act, were arrested by security agents.
And last Tuesday, police in Taraba State confirmed that suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked Dori and Mesuma villages in Gashaka Local Government Area of the state, on Sunday, killing at least 15 people, even as residents put the figure at more than 40 with several houses razed.
Unlike what it did on Abia, the DSS is yet to issue any incendiary statement against the Fulani herdsmen even as they have turned themselves into machine-gun wielding outlaws terrorising all and sundry.
Most of Daura’s actions, whether it is the insensitive and callous sacking of young Nigerians recruited as DSS staff and had only two months to complete their training for no offence other than coming from a section of the country, or the invasion of Akwa Ibom State Government House in search of imaginary “dollars and weapons,” or the invasion of Ekiti State House of Assembly, or illegal arrest and detention of real and perceived enemies of the Buhari administration all in the name of fighting corruption, don’t come across as actions taken in furtherance of national interest.
Instead, they all bear the imprimatur of Rafindadi’s NSO under this self-same Buhari. These are actions informed by narrow ethnic and political considerations the DSS should not be associated with.
The DSS is to protect all Nigerians. It should not embark on the reprehensible shenanigan of inciting one group against another or a section of the country against others. No ethnic nationality is superior to any other in Nigeria.
Every human life is sacred and equal premium must be placed on it irrespective of sex, religion and ethnic origin. No group should be given the impression that it has the licence to kill and maim others without being sanctioned by the state, which is what the impunity of Fulani herdsmen suggests.
Sadly, the DSS under Daura, just like the NSO under Rafindadi – all under Buhari’s watch – is right now in a pickle. And that says much about Buhari’s lack of transcendental national leadership qualities.
Both President Buhari and his spy chief, Daura, must be reminded that ethnic baiting in a combustible environment like ours is a slippery slope.
.Ikechukwu Amaechi is the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of TheNiche Sunday newspaper ( [email protected] )