by Aloy Ejimakor
Since the inception of the Buhari administration, fighting corruption (and its garden-varieties) appears to have become the preeminent agenda of the administration. Mindful of his campaign promises and emboldened by enormous public goodwill, Buhari has demonstrated an anticorruption zeal that has somewhat diminished the importance of other equally hot-button national problems, such as fighting terrorism, adjusting to the free and ominous fall in oil prices, national unity, and yes – the dividends of democracy.
Yet, the way the anticorruption crusade is going in some respects, the President may, despite his good intentions, thread on areas where the angels fear to go; and thus ultimately succeed only in endangering national security, in addition to gaining nothing both for his administration and Nigerians as a whole. Sadly, some signs are already there, judging by the administration’s inexplicable over-zeal in pursuing Sambo Dasuki, the immediate past National Security Adviser.
Charging Dasuki for possession of a few small arms (as opposed to offensive combat ordnance) without license, as inflammatory as it sounds, appears overly and suggests a lack of strong and clear handle – by the Buhari administration – on the anticorruption agenda. Worse is the administration’s companion claim that, with such small arms, Dasuki is suddenly a danger to the security of Nigerians. All in all, such tactics suggest a prosecutorial overkill of previous administration hawks – a creeping public perception that poses profound political and diplomatic risks to the President. The administration should note that the international intelligence community, of which Dasuki was until recently a ranking member, might be watching with understandable unease.
But more worrisome is the sensational manner the issue is being handled without any consideration for the danger it portends for Nigeria’s national security. It also comes with the risk of creating credibility problems for an otherwise upstanding President Buhari. Pushed to the wall – for possessing a few choice cars and small arms – and facing prospects of irreparable injury to his reputation and liberty, Dasuki is entitled to give his all in defending himself. And in so doing, he might be persuaded by a sense of self-survival to dip into sensitive state (and foreign) secrets at his disposal. That will be bad for our national security and counter-productive to the nation as a whole. In such event, you can’t blame Sambo but the state apparatus that appears to be acting without such considerations and discretion.
Better yet, in order to prevent this matter from escalating to the detriment of all, the administration needs to rethink its prosecutorial strategy on Dasuki; and consider other less sensational but discretionary paths to dealing with any issues raised against him. In these trying times of an ISIS-allied Boko Haram, Nigeria cannot afford to bite its nose to spite its face over such a relatively small matter, especially as it involves a Dasuki that was in the frontline of fighting Boko Haram and still keeping national and foreign secrets of how it was being done successfully.
Thus, far more important than the few cars confiscated, is the issue of the few small arms the SSS allegedly found at Dasuki’s residence and for which SSS says it has “charged to court based on evidence so far obtained, but which relates to possession of fire arms without license punishable under section 27(i)(a)(i) of the Firearms Act Cap F28 LFN 2004”. This is a non-capital charge that should have been adequately explained away by Dasuki’s rebuttal that the arms were meant for his security guards. To be sure, such is easily a reasonable and credible explanation that comports with the unique setting of Nigeria and the sensitivity of the position Dasuki recently vacated.
Every Nigerian knows that high government officials, from State to Federal levels, continue to be entitled to some personal security guards and arms (both state-supplied and private) long or so soon after they have left office. Dasuki’s cannot be different, especially with his highly vulnerable position as a former NSA and someone perpetually in Boko Haram’s gunsight. Yet, the SSS, in a needless escalation of such a relatively minor matter, insists that Dasuki’s vicarious possession of such small arms constituted “acts capable of undermining national security.” The administration should note that Nigerians and the international community are likely not buying that; and I doubt if it will stick with a criminal court.
Is the SSS suggesting that, with such small arms, Dasuki possesses the capability to overawe the Buhari administration, or start some civil war? Or how possible is it that with such measly weapons, some presumably supplied or condoned by the federal government, Dasuki has suddenly become a credible and portent threat to the security of ‘all’ Nigerians, as the the SSS seems to suggest when it stated in tow that: “the Service recommits itself to the fundamental role of providing adequate security for all Nigerians to enable them pursue their legitimate aspirations and businesses”. Security of “all Nigerians” from a Dasuki?
It is this sort of needless posturing that is tasking the credibility of this whole Dasuki saga and fueling speculations that he is being pursued for his vaunted loyalty to the previous administration. I say these because – again, the stakes are high and Buhari cannot afford to sacrifice Nigeria’s national security chasing a few weapons and a handful of cars from a Sambo Dasuki that was a former military officer, a wealthy businessman, a high government official, and the scion of a family known to be very wealthy and well-connected from the time of his ancestor – the legendary Uthman Dan Fodio.
Aloy Ejimakor is a lawyer. He can be reached by Email.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.