For Daura, the chickens finally came home to roost By Ikechukwu Amaechi
As the half a millennium old axiomatic expression goes, curses are like chickens, they always come home to roost.
When President Muhammadu Buhari pulled out his kinsman, Lawal Daura, from retirement on July 2, 2015, to replace Ita Ekpenyong as Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), eyebrows were raised.
Daura’s appointment two years after his 2013 retirement having attained the statutory age of 60 was one of the first the president made having eased out about 40 top ranking DSS personnel.
To make way for Daura, careers of some of the finest and highly qualified officers were sacrificed on the altar of nepotism, a tendency that has defined the Buhari Presidency.
But being the president’s kinsman is not necessarily the issue here. To squelch the careers of high-flying operatives for a retiree, such a man must have some extraordinary competence: a genius of some sort.
It takes more than being the president’s kinsman and confidant, who served as his campaign’s deputy head of security – under Interior Minister Abdulrahman Dambazau – during the 2015 elections, to fit that bill.
And Daura made that point so eloquently in three years.
Under his conceited watch, the secret police flouted the Constitution without any qualms, became notorious for illegal arrests and detention of citizens, abuse of court orders, deep partisanship and sundry human rights abuses.
He was crude. He epitomized callousness. He personified cold-heartedness. He incarnated cruelty. He embodied nastiness. And guess what? He did all these with a swag, like a child sent on a stealing expedition by his own father, sure of the protection of the highest office in the land.
But for me, Daura’s “first cut,” to borrow the title of Cat Stevens 1967 song “is the deepest.”
Only two weeks after his appointment, on September 11, 2015, to be precise, the appointments of 60 trainee officers out of 452 that belonged to Basic Course 28 of 2014 codenamed COBC28/2014 were terminated and the trainees thrown out of the State Services Academy (SSA) in Lagos.
Those dismissed had only one month of training to undergo before their commissioning as senior intelligence officers on October 26, 2015.
They had not only undergone the basic training in the academy but also the three-month attachment at DSS state commands nationwide where they learnt how to handle high calibre weapons, detonate bombs and all sorts of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Security experts from the British Secret Service were also hired by Nigeria to take them on special intelligence gathering courses in counter-terrorism and insurgency. They had been on this since December 2014 and many of them were already in celebratory mood, having only one month left.
Then, the shocker.
None of the trainees had an inkling what was in the offing. It was just like any other normal day in the camp until about noon when some officers arrived from Abuja, called out their names and handed them their dismissal letters.
They were marched to their various rooms to pick their personal belongings and thrown out of the camp, under the rain, with the gate shut behind them.
Just like that!
Even the pictures they took with their colleagues while in training were seized. Their laptops and cellphones were thoroughly pored over. The victims were not told what the issues were. It was all about national security and the DSS did not owe them any apologies.
But one thing was certain; those rusticated were not found wanting. They were not thrown out because they performed below expectation in training.
In fact, some of them had already been commended by their course advisors. They were some of the best trainees, already proficient in the use of sophisticated weapons.
The termination letter dated September 4 and signed by one GK Mohammed on behalf of Daura simply read: “I am directed to inform you that the Director General, State Services (DGSS) has approved the termination of your appointment from service with immediate effect.
“You are, however, required to hand over all government property in your possession, including your study guide/note books to the Director of Studies, State Services Academy (SSA), Lagos, and obtain appropriate clearance before your final exit please.”
These were young men and women, Nigerian youths, who had looked forward to serving their country with all their God-given talents being treated so shabbily by a country that expects them to be patriotic.
It was just Daura’s way of announcing that a new kid was on the security block whose middle name was impunity.
To add insult to injury, the victims were demonised after they left camp because the instructors told those left behind that the rusticated trainees had fake certificates and gained admission through the back door.
That was a lie. They had genuine certificates.
In any case, shouldn’t anyone who gained admission to any institution, particularly the country’s foremost secret service, with fake credentials be punished beyond mere rustication?
The DSS also lied when it claimed that those sacked came through the back door because truth be told, none of them came through the front door, figuratively speaking.
The DSS does not advertise vacancies and the process of recruitment is always secretive.
The trainees were told it was “Executive Recruitment,” and in one of the forms they filled to gain admission, they were asked to name their sponsors, the person through whom they came to the academy. You must have a godfather to be there.
If sponsorship was the crime, then all the 452 trainees were guilty. So, why were some kicked out and others allowed to stay?
Most of those expelled were from the Southeast and South-south. Those from the right neck of the woods survived the first wave of “Hurricane Daura.”
I wrote on this issue on October 4, 2015, and my conclusion was simple: “The flip side is that no country run on these paradigms ever achieves greatness. History is our witness.”
I hate to say that I said it. But today, history is bearing witness.
Having weeded out would-be officers from the regions that allegedly gave his principal “5 percent” of the votes in 2015, when he initiated his own recruitment in 2016, he not only flouted the federal character principle but also sacrificed merit on nepotistic altar.
Out of the 479 candidates admitted as cadet officers at the time, 51 came from his home state of Katsina, while the entire Southeast region of five states was given only 44 slots.
Of course, Daura went from one act of lawlessness to another, his three-year stint becoming the country’s diary of impunity, until the chickens came home to roost on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, when he was kicked out of office ignominiously by the acting president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, for invading the National Assembly with hooded DSS officers.
Granted, the jury is still out on what really happened. Is it possible he took a unilateral action to deploy armed officers to lay siege to the National Assembly?
Or is he, the hitherto untouchable muscle of the “Aso Rock cabal” simply a fall guy, made to take the rap for an operation that went awry?
The answers are ensconced in the womb of time.
But what I find even more intriguing is the response of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the tragi-comedy.
It is curious that a party which on Tuesday condemned “in strongest terms” the “unfortunate invasion of the National Assembly by security forces,” which it rightly called an “act of brigandage and affront on the sacred symbols of our budding democracy,” made a volte-face barely 24 hours later.
On Wednesday, APC claimed to have uncovered a “sinister plot hatched by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to foment violence in the legislative chamber all in a bid to stop his impeachment.”
“We are now aware that the timely intervention of the security operatives forestalled the planned violence which could have led to possible deaths, injuries and destruction of property in the National Assembly on Tuesday,” the party claimed.
If this allegation is true, then Daura is not the villain this self-same APC government is painting him because his “unilateral” deployment of DSS personnel forestalled anarchy and pulled back Nigeria’s tottering democracy from the brink. The party should, therefore, ensure that the government’s enforcer-in-chief is immediately reinstated and rewarded with national honours.
While Daura may have been disgraced out of an office he had no business with in the first place, the joke is on President Muhammadu Buhari, who, in appointing him, made a burnt offering of merit to the gods of nepotism.
The sad reality for Nigeria is that there are many Dauras still out there, consequence of Buhari’s inexplicable insularity, prejudice and blinkered leadership worldview – accidents waiting to happen.