Daura: The Conundrum of Authority, By Dele Agekameh
Unfortunately, Daura’s official impudence was not an isolated case. Most appointees of the Buhari administration seem to be working on their own clock, carrying on as if their connection to the centre has been severed by their self-importance.
It is no longer news that the chickens finally came home to roost for Lawal Daura last week when Acting President Yemi Osinbajo terminated his appointment as head of the Department for State Services (DSS). The move was a shock, just like many of Daura’s own stunts in his time as the head of the country’s secret service. Daura was said to have been sacked, then whisked away through a back exit, while his security details waited in vain at the administration gate of the Villa.
It was a fitting departure for the controversial spy chief as he finally met his waterloo after yet another controversy regarding a blockade of the National Assembly complex by his men. Daura’s record as the head of the secret service was marred by lawlessness and disregard for authority, including that of his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari. In an administration that has been markedly liberal in its attitude towards exercise of power by its appointees, Daura reached new heights in the excessive use of authority and cast unwarranted publicity on his agency’s activities, often in contravention of extant laws and superior directives.
Unfortunately, Daura’s official impudence was not an isolated case. Most appointees in the Buhari administration seem to be working on their own clock, carrying on as if their connection to the centre has been severed by their self-importance. The most visible example of this has been in the case of security chiefs who seem to be going beyond the line of their duty in the pursuit of unclear agendas. Daura, for instance, went toe to toe with the Presidency on the issue of the appointment of Ibrahim Magu as head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). While the independence of certain institutions is necessary to properly run a democracy, one expects that there should be a meeting of minds on many matters, especially when the acts of government agencies always reflect on the president.
The ultra-liberal approach to the delegation of authority by the Buhari administration has been more disruptive than it has been productive. It is in the nature of appointees overseeing government agencies to follow directives, and where no direction is forthcoming from the appropriate quarters, there is a danger of control of the agency being hijacked by others, who may not have the best interests of the administration at heart. Time after time, we have seen the Presidency dissociate itself from the acts of its appointees in one agency or another. The public has to contemplate whether the Presidency has been feigning ignorance of its own orders or is really out of touch with its appointees.
It could be this disconnect in the line of communication between the centre and its agents that led to the recent commotion at the gates of the National Assembly. The errant head of the secret service enjoyed the advantage of a very long leash from the Presidency, which may have opened up the DSS to influence from forces that were opposed to the smooth running of government in this administration.
There is so much activity in the political and public space and one cannot distinguish between issues propelled by self-interest and those driven by public good. Many government agents find themselves serving multiple masters in the conundrum that government authority has become.
Bukola Saraki, the Senate president, has been fingered as a possible mastermind behind the reckless show by the DSS last Tuesday. If there is any truth to this, it casts more aspersions on the ability of the president to manage his appointees and run a tight ship than it does on the Senate president for being a cheap opportunist. Either way, the outrage expressed by the Presidency, and by the vice president in particular, shows that Daura may have become uncontrollable and had to be served his walking papers. The question then remains, that how many more of Buhari’s appointees need the same treatment?
Daura’s sin of storming the National Assembly without proper authorisation is equal to the excesses of others like Ibrahim Idris, the inspector general of Police, who has himself laid siege to the Benue State House of Assembly in a shambolic impeachment proceeding, or Ibrahim Magu who has been accused of freezing state accounts or carrying out selective prosecutions against interests not aligned with that of his principal. The outrage at Daura’s act of ‘betrayal’ is somewhat an endorsement of the excesses of these other officials and many more like them who have remained untouched despite compromising the ethos of their office.
There is so much activity in the political and public space and one cannot distinguish between issues propelled by self-interest and those driven by public good. Many government agents find themselves serving multiple masters in the conundrum that government authority has become. This is aided by the supremacy battle between the legislature and executive, which has produced a Senate president who is ready to dismiss all practical legislative conventions in order to win one over the ruling party and the president.
Whether the Senate president was behind the DSS siege on the National Assembly or not, he has proven to be a chronic opportunist and master of deflection. The evidence in his case regarding the Offa robbers suggests that there may be a sinister side to the man who wants us to believe he is being unfairly hounded by the president’s men. A Senate president who thinks it is good and practical politics not to resign after defecting to the opposition, despite leaving the ruling party, must be deeply immoral. Politics, like the one he practices, is what has led us into the recent political commotion we are experiencing, and the commotion in-turn fuels confusion and abuse of authority by agents of the government.
Now that the country has seen what a lack of cohesion in government can do, it is time the Presidency starts setting the tone for its administration by strengthening its chain of command and outlining the bounds of the exercise of power by its appointees in the different agencies of government. It is not enough to appoint a person into authority, there needs to be a synergising of objectives and the activities of the government as a whole. If this is achieved, the united front on the executive side may inspire cooperation from the legislature, within its ranks and in collaboration with the executive arm, to carry on the business of governance.
If indeed, there was an unauthorised request for the DSS to act in the manner it did at the National Assembly, the truth must be unearthed and appropriate actions taken swiftly against anyone who is found complicit. It should also be noted that this is not the first time the government has distanced itself from the acts of its agents.
Also, the timing of executive actions like that which the vice president performed last week ought to be right; there had already been foot-dragging about insubordination within the government fold in the past three years. The deterrent value of the sack of Daura may not be immediately seen, but it has sent a clear message to others to sit up and establish a clear line of authority before taking sensitive actions. This is one reason why the Presidency ought to take decisive and timely actions, where it has been exposed.
The feud between Daura and Magu is public knowledge. Already, Daura has reportedly had his passport seized, while the EFCC has been called in to investigate his involvement in the controversy surrounding about N80 billion linked to the DSS. The Presidency should monitor the investigation to ensure that it does not become a mission of vendetta by Magu who may have a personal axe to grind with Daura. The country needs the true resolution of issues at this point and not scapegoats for a collective problem.
If indeed, there was an unauthorised request for the DSS to act in the manner it did at the National Assembly, the truth must be unearthed and appropriate actions taken swiftly against anyone who is found complicit. It should also be noted that this is not the first time the government has distanced itself from the acts of its agents. Other cases should be investigated too and those found complicit need to be punished.
In the boiling political landscape right now, there is a likelihood that the DSS siege and Daura’s dismissal could be shaded in certain ways to suit the aims of people in or out of government. It is imperative that this episode does not become a case of sacrifice of the scapegoat. Instead, it is an opportunity to tighten ship and do things through normal channels, for the benefit of Nigerians.
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