THE SSS AND THE RE-ARREST OF KABIRU SOKOTO By Idang Alibi
The reported re-arrest of escapee Boko Haram kingpin, Kabiru Sokoto, over the weekend has, no doubt, come as a huge relief to millions of Nigeria who have every cause to be apprehensive that the man was allowed to have slipped away in the first place.
Described as the mastermind of the Christmas day bombing of a church in Madalla, Niger State in which over 40 souls perished, the escape of Kabiru in the hands of the police in suspicious circumstances about a month ago, created fear and apprehension in many Nigerians.
And who can blame Nigerians? When a lion or a jackal gets out of their lair, anyone who knows their ferocity has nothing to hope for but to live in fear and anxiety. The escape of Kabiru in the hands of the police seemed to have confirmed the assertion by President Goodluck Jonathan that operatives of the sect have infiltrated all arms of the government and all arms of the security services.
Following that unpardonable act of negligence shown by the police in letting such a dangerous element escape lawful custody, the job done by the SSS has not only brought a sigh of relief, it will also help to restore a measure of confidence of Nigerians in our security services, this time around, in the SSS.
Since the outbreak of the Boko Haram insurgency some three years ago, Nigerians have been wondering at the seeming helplessness of our security forces in the face of the horrendous assault waged almost daily against the Nigerian nation by the sect.
A spokesman of Boko Haram will give notice of their next target and they will strike at will. They may operate in a town for five hours and it would look as if there is a conspiracy among the forces not to lift a hand in challenge. Boko Haram will pound a town from all corners, like they did in Kano recently, and melt like shadows into the city and no one will be able to arrest any of the perpetrators of such monumental violence. It was as if the forces were in unholy matrimony with the sect to levy war against Nigeria.
Nigerians were ruing what they consider the total failure of intelligence on the part of our security apparatuses to infiltrate the ranks of the insurgents in order to understand their mind; to understand what is it they really want; to know the mode of their operations; to establish who their possible sponsors are and other vital intelligence as to their links, their operational strategies and their hit men.
There was absolutely no clue that could prove useful in any effort to eliminate or severely contain this dangerous group. The SSS feat should therefore be saluted for it act of redemption for all the forces which seem to have betrayed us by their inexplicable acts of helplessness in the face of the clear and present danger facing the nation.
Although the SSS will not divulge the type of efforts that they put in to nab this high profile activist, it is clear that the service must have used high intelligence to ferret him out of the hole he was hiding in. It is also not in the character of an organisation like the SSS to engage in some chest-beating when they pull off an operation such as the re-arrest of Kabiru, but I think we should celebrate the SSS specifically for this operation and generally for the relative discipline and professionalism that still define that arm of our security services.
In our country today, the image of the police has sunken so low that if a police officer should come asking for the hand of any man's daughter, the father would be most reluctant to endorse such a proposal.
The police are known for indiscipline, lack of professional conduct and of course high level of corruption. Now that the soldiers are increasingly getting involved in civil life following the loss of confidence in the police, they too are beginning to acquire a poor image and losing the respect they once enjoyed among Nigerians. The para-military services do not fare any better in the estimation of the average Nigerian. Corruption and apparent lack of love for the fatherland are charges which are easily levied against them all.
Admittedly, by the nature of their job, the SSS people do not relate with the general public at the level the other services do, but from what some of us see of the SSS, they are a shade higher than the others in many respects. They carry themselves with a greater degree of comportment than their brethren in other services. They appear more professional and also tend to act in more patriotic manner than their other fellows.
I also hope that the great Nigerian disease of tribalism and nepotism has not eaten the innards of this service. An organisation that is not disciplined and which has no internal cohesion and esprit td corps can of course not pull off any success.
As a humanist, I do not have any particular cause to express any love for any organisation, no matter how lofty its mandate is, which can be identified as the repressive or coercive agency of the state.
But what the SSS has now done and the visible and invisible efforts it has made to maintain the stability of Nigeria, I think they deserve some commendation, if not for any other reason but to encourage them to do more to help defuse the huge threat posed by the Boko Haram to this country. At the moment in Nigeria, the one thing everybody talks about is not the corruption and wastage in government but the menace called Boko Haram.
They are a monster with four horns.
I do not know whether the recent success of the SSS in respect of the Kabiru case can be attributed to a possible able leadership provided by the new Director-General of the SSS, Mr. Ita Ekpenyong, a man everybody who has worked with acknowledges as a decent man, a patriot and a thorough bred professional, or it is just that the SSS has happened to remain an oasis in a land that decay has affected virtually every of its sectors.
Whatever may be the answer, we have cause to commend the SSS and to urge it to remain the most patriotic agency of the state it is conceived to be.
If agencies such as the SSS and others which are expected to be the prop of the state fail to live up to expectation, the health and stability of the entire system is imperilled If however, the success is attributable to a new sense of commitment and diligence which Ita Ekpenyong has brought into the service as its leader, we will salute him and encourage him to deploy his widely acknowledged professional expertise and administrative skills to make the SSS perform its duties to safeguard the safety and security of Nigeria and Nigerians.
The circumstances we find ourselves in Nigeria today require heroes of unusual kind and ability. So many institutions and agencies have broken down, some of them completely.
Many others are in various stages of decline and atrophy. We therefore need men and women of exceptional integrity or ability or character to rescue us all from this pit of hell that many Nigerians are in. Will Mr. Ekpenyong and others in other strategic arms of our governance be willing, through their actions, to be among those few who will do the most to become heroes of this moment?
Posterity is waiting to judge
We hear that our security agencies have become largely ineffectual because their top hierarchy have acquired the obnoxious habit of sharing money meant for informants among themselves.
It is common knowledge that in modern intelligence work, no security agency, not even the famous MOSSAD, can succeed without a vibrant informant system. Security men are not spirits. They need the help of all to be able to curtail the activities of criminal elements who also are not spirits but men and women who live among us.
The greatest challenge facing Nigeria at the moment is undoubtedly security. And without a feeling of safety and security no one can be in any position to enjoy any other benefit of citizenship.
That is why the SSS should not rest on its oars. We will not celebrate the re-arrest of Kabiru too much unless the SSS use him maximally to supply the kind of information that will lead to the decapitation and scattering of the group that poses such a mortal threat to the country.
Unlike the police we do not hope that the SSS will let out a story one day that he has either escaped again or that he was killed while trying to escape. Nigerians will like to hear from Kabiru, from the horse's mouth, some of the details we have been longing to know about how a sect that became radicalised only three years ago has become such a fearsome fighting force.
What is the source(s) of their awesome strength? After much information has been expertly ferreted from him, he should be made to face the law. The SSS should not be involved in his or any extra-judicial killing for that matter. That would be counter-productive as it would turn a villain into an unjustified hero.
Mr. Alibi is an Abuja-based journalist