…General Monguno as the national security adviser should devise strategies and methods in bringing the leadership of the various agencies to a roundtable to dialogue and achieve mutual understanding. It doesn’t even need to be elaborate engagements, as reaching out to each agency with a sincerity of purpose can enable the magic.
On July 13, 2015, General Babagana Monguno (rtd.) was announced as the new national security adviser (NSA) by the current administration. He replaced Sambo Dasuki who had acted in that position in the new regime for over a month, after serving as substantial NSA to the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan for about three years.
General Monguno was widely known as a fine, unassuming army officer during his active years in service. During occasional visits to my kind in-law, General Garba Wahab, and military press officer, Mohammed Yerima, at the Army Headquarters about a decade ago, soldiers and officers referred to Monguno as a perfect gentleman in the military uniform. In fact, it was around that period that I learnt he married his anticipated perfect woman, Nafisah Munir, while he was an Army General.
Monguno attended King’s College, Lagos and enrolled in the Nigerian Defence Academy 21st Regular Course. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Masters in International Relations.
Some of the positions he held in the military included those of the chief of Logistics at the Defence Headquarters; commandant of the Nigerian Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC); commander, Guards Brigade; deputy commandant, National Defence College; and chief of Defence Intelligence. He voluntarily retired from the Nigerian Army in September 2013 at the age of 56. He left some legacies behind, especially on the level of infrastructural development.
On assumption of office as the national security adviser, I had the privilege of meeting him and during our encounters, he was very attentive and receptive to good ideas. He is a man that believes in positive and rapid changes on various national and security issues.
Nevertheless, it is obvious that Monguno is neither a typical Nigerian politician nor does he act like one, especially on issues that require diplomatic manoeuvrings and assertiveness. Probably, as a retired army officer and an architect, he may be looking at things from the precision of architectural design and a military mentality.
The office of the national security adviser (ONSA) is statutorily empowered by the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011 to coordinate and support “all security, intelligence, law enforcement agencies and military services to prevent and combat acts of terrorism in Nigeria.” Therefore, the office is the most powerful one after the presidency, in ensuring effective formulation and implementation of comprehensive security and counter-terrorism strategies through the synergy of the various units within the national security architecture.
There is, therefore, a greater expectation that the ONSA must be at the forefront in ensuring effective inter-agency collaboration. There is no reason to pretend about the prevailing inter-agency rivalries among the security organs of the country, even while they record successes on some fronts, notably in the war against the Boko Haram insurgency.
Some recent developments are quite worrisome however: the heated arguments between the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Economic and Financial Crimes COmmission (EFCC) over the money found in an apartment in Ikoyi recently; the arraignment, in court, of Air-Force chiefs as a result of corruption, while shielding the past chiefs of other security sectors; the laughable tit-for-tat public parades of members of the Police and NSCDC on flimsy excuses by the same sister agencies; the damning DSS reports on EFCC’s Ibrahim Magu, among others, which are clear signs of intense rivalry amongst the security agencies.
Deeply concerned about this development, the Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC) recently called on security agencies in the country to avoid inter-agency rivalry which could damage their individual reputations and the government as a whole.
The Executive Secretary of CCC, Air Commodore Yusuf Anas (rtd.), made the call at a special meeting of the Forum of Spokespersons of Security and Response Agencies (FOSSRA) in Abuja, under the sponsorship of the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP).
At the occassion, Anas said: “We have observed some disturbing trends, blame games and breaches in information disclosures among agencies of government in the media. We have also noticed conflicting information, disinformation and rivalries among respective organisations through the media. These developments can damage the reputation of the agencies involved and give Nigeria a bad image.”
Also, the new Chairman of FOSSRA, who doubles as the director, Defence Information, Major General John Enenche urged members of FOSSRA, as the spokespersons of their respective organisations, to work in harmony and handle information activities professionally and responsibly.
One fact that is of utmost importance is that spokespersons of security agencies have consistently used their meeting platforms to synergise and collaborate in harmonising security information. Through their interactions, they share professional ideas towards eliminating incidences of conflicting sensitive information released to the public by their organisations. However, and unfortunately too, at their level, there is little they could do to eradicate the conflict.
It is an open secret that the surest way of getting damaging and destructive information in the guise of classified information, is to look beyond the officially designated spokespersons to the bosses of the organisations who are frequently cited in the media as ‘highly reliable sources.’
For the sake of emphasis and to address this intractable rivalry, General Monguno as the national security adviser should devise strategies and methods in bringing the leadership of the various agencies to a roundtable to dialogue and achieve mutual understanding. It doesn’t even need to be elaborate engagements, as reaching out to each agency with a sincerity of purpose can enable the magic. This is a period where we need to guard against any unnecessary bickering within the national security system.
Yushau A. Shuaib is publisher of PRNigeria; www.YAShuaib.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.