By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
WHEN news broke last weekend of the killing of nine individuals by the State Security Service, Marilyn Ogar, the Deputy Director, Information, DSS, carefully couched her narrative in classic anti-terrorist speak. Ogar, very much like a disciple of Joseph Goebbels, the notorious propaganda chief of Hitler’s Third Reich, told how two alleged Boko Haram “elements”, Kamal Abdullahi and Mohammed Adamu, earlier arrested “for terrorist activities”, led security operatives to uncompleted buildings, “where arms were purported to have been buried underground”.
Ogar took the drama further: “No sooner had the team commenced digging for the arms, than they came under heavy gunfire attack by other Boko Haram elements within the area”. Ogar’s “combined security team”, Rambo-like than the Hollywood star himself, did what they knew best. Having come “under heavy fire”, promptly responded!
Ogar added: “As a result (of the prompt ‘heroic’ response of her agency’s operatives) some persons were injured and 12 others have been arrested in connection with the incident, and are making useful statements (under the well-worn tactics often used to extract such ‘useful statements’ obviously!)”. The “heroic” narrative arrived at a sanitized conclusion, as Ogar re-assured citizens: “Normalcy has returned to the area.
Members of the public are advised to go about their normal businesses as appropriate security measures have been emplaced to ensure the safety of citizens in the FCT”. The joke went a wee bit further, when she lectured: “We want to reiterate the need for all Nigerians to be vigilant of their immediate environment and promptly report suspicious activities to security agencies. Our national security must remain the collective responsibility of all Nigerians”.
We might have responded with deafening applauses, and even requested Marilyn Ogar to step forward under a neon-lit evening, to take a bow for a very wonderful performance. Except for a troubling counter-narrative which tears at the heart of our citizenship. Ogar’s histrionics took place against the backdrop of extra-judicial killing of nine innocent Nigerians, a figure which rose to ten during the week when NasiruAdamu died from gunshot wounds at the Asokoro GeneralHospital on Monday morning. He was a 30-year-old father of a two-year-old daughter and was the husband of young Mayya (that Ogar’s colleagues have turned into a widow), from ZamfaraState. Soon after Ogar’s ridiculous narrative, it came to the public domain, that the scene of her ‘joint security operation’ was actually an uncompleted duplex, where migrant workers of various trades paid N200 per night to security guards to spend the night. Given the accommodation situation in the FCT, the story was far more plausible that it was the abode of migrant working people, than the den of “terrorists” Ogar attempted to hoodwink us with.
But far more important in the tragic narrative are two issues long-buried in the “heroic” story of a security complex somehow working tirelessly on our behalf. The first is that the poor and working people are the greatest culprits of the class-based, security operations of the “anti-terror” war; and second, is the persistent profiling of young men of Northern Nigerian origin in this war.
These two issues were central to the Gudu killings last week. The DSS narrative has become increasingly discredited and Nigerians are outraged at the coldblooded killings. The National Assembly weighed in, while the National Human Rights Commission launched an investigation. Former Vice President, AtikuAbubakar, called for an independent investigation.
The Nigerian security complex was caught pants down and thoroughly exposed in the Gudu killing. We must sustain outrage and interrogate the operations of institutions hiding behind walls of delusion of securing our lives, not only to take huge sums of money under their wings, but can kill citizens with disdain. Since the Bush administration in the USA launched a “war on terror”, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, security complexes nudged in copycat manners around the world. Nigeria’s version came with the Boko Haram insurgency. Billions of naira fed a security bureaucracy that has become fabulously rich, creaming off huge sums of money, as AFRICA CONFIDENTIAL magazine has reported.
This security complex needs acontinuation of terror scenarios to sustain its riches. But from a citizen’s perspective, there is the danger that the systematic profiling of Northern Muslim youth has also been woven into this complex security tapestry.
Since most of these young people are often from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds, there is an added issue of class embedded in the dialectic. Nigeria is one of the most unequal, unjust and class-divided countries in the world today.
Our ruling class foisted a socio-economic system that allows a tiny elite of private jets-owning individuals to exist in an ocean of poverty and hopelessness, for the majority.
Anti state acts of violence
Official statistics say over 60% of the urban population lives in slums and as most of the population of our country is under the age of 30, the socio-economic project leaves this national majority of young people, out of the loop of prosperity. All over Nigeria, there are manifestations of rejection of the class-based project that gives most of the nation’s resources to a tiny elite of bandits; while there has emerged a new phenomenon, of individuals who wielded political power becoming richer than the states they ruled.
Anti-state acts of violence, banditry, and terror have multiplied since 1999, with the Boko Haram insurgency becoming the most serious. Unfortunately, a security complex cannot escape the historic contradictions associated with the class nature of the society it sets out to secure; and the Nigerian security complex has historically been configured as anti-poor, anti-working people. The Boko Haram crisis has given it an extra ounce of notoriety, becoming increasingly sucked into the profiling of Muslim youth.
These historical patterns played out in the Gudu killings last week; they were what Ogar tried to prettify, with her puny attempts at playing the Nazi propaganda card of Joseph Goebbels. It fell flat on the face and her agency was exposed!
Far more important is the need to increase democratic control of the security complex because it is increasingly alienating the ruling class project that it is defending. Profiling a huge swathe of Nigerian society that happens to be young, Northern and Muslim, will not assist the search for national harmony and concord. Similarly, the ruling class project of building a heartless,kleptocracy masquerading as capitalism, cannot be sustained.
Too many citizens are left on the desperate margins of Nigerian society; these are the people trying to make an honest living as KekeNapep drivers; scratch cards vendors; water vendors and sundry lumpen existence. They sleep rough in uncompleted buildings in urban cities, but especially in Abuja, where the divide between the rich and poor is more magnified in its obscenities, than at any other location in the country.
This is where the security complex is more hyperactive. It does not want ruling class feathers ruffled and the “international (imperialist) community” must be kept believing, that capitalism will not be disturbed in the Nigerian version of its exploitative proclivities. A more trigger-happy tendency is therefore central to the security project here.
That is why the SSS killed poor citizens in an extra-judicial manner in the dead of night and Marilyn Ogar’s pretty face used to justify the lies of a successful anti-terror project. Nigeria’s greatest musician, FelaAnikulapo-Kuti, sang over two decades ago, that Nigeria’s security forces often leave tears, sorrow and blood in the wake of their brutalities against the Nigerian people; we saw an example of that last week, in the killings in the Gudu District of the FCT!
Nuhu Ribadu: Passion cannot trump intellect
NO one can take away Nuhu Ribadu’s genuine sense of outrage against corruption in Nigeria. He fought with tremendous passion, as the anti-corruption Czar at the EFCC, under the Obasanjo administration.
But unfortunately, passion is never enough, in the complex issues associated with societal development. Far more useful is intellect and a measured attitude to build lasting institutions and the ability to sustain work in a methodical manner.
These are Nuhu Ribadu’s deficiencies. They are in fact the reason why it became easy, in the long run, to isolate him and eliminate his effectiveness.
Nuhu did a lot that was very remarkable in the anti-corruption struggle and he was a darling, particularly of the intellectual and media nomenclatura in Southern Nigeria. They lionized him and he soaked up the adulations.
But bluster and emotional outburst leave gaping holes in the activities of the individual. Ribadu exposed his frailties last week in a London court, where he appeared in the Ibori assets seizure case. Under cross examination, Ribadu told the court that neither he nor the EFCC had an investigation file, notes of calls, meetings, briefings or records detailing the offer of alleged bribes between him (Nuhu) and James Ibori, said to have offered Nuhu $15million bribe.
Ribadu said the only notes he had were “personal notes”, which got lost while being persecuted after his removal as EFCC chief! Was that the way the EFCC was run? Can such a serious allegation of bribes be so sloppily handled? Ribadu was a senior police officer, for crying out loud! With hindsight, especially for those who see only a hero in Ribadu, there were too many inconsistencies that made sustenance of the heroic narrative very difficult.
Ribadu owes us all a more sustained explanation of the way he seemed willing to be an instrument of fighting Obasanjo’s political enemies (he had told interviewers on AIT on May 29, 2006, that Obasanjo was a “Saint”!).
The same Obasanjo’s government that he then described to American Ambassador, Robin Sanders in December 2007, as being far more corrupt than Abacha’s. Adding that Obasanjo only knew how to cover his steps and deceive the international community. Ribadu indicted Madame Patience Jonathan of money laundering in 2006 and returned in 2010 to deny his 2006 position.
He listed corrupt governors as including then governors Jonathan and Bola Tinubu, but returned to become a Tinubu sidekick! Clearly, emotions are not enough and Ribadu possesses anti-corruption emotions in abundance; but they never could trump intellect and in that department, he seemed to have always been rather deficient!