By Abimbola Adelakun
Recently, the Department of State Services issued a press statement to deny they dispersed doctors attending recruitment for Nigerian doctors intending to migrate to Saudi Arabia. The denial was typical of the inelegant press releases the DSS churns out -a rambling word salad, full of feigned indignation, and signifying the characteristic ruse of reducing every issue to a matter of “national security.” This particular statement even read like a chatterbot cranked it up. Notably, it did not deny that the DSS was present at the venue of the recruitment. Given how much that recruitment embarrassed the Nigerian government, it is not hard to believe that the DSS would disrupt the event.
Whether they scattered the event or not, it is not out of place to link them with that kind of errand. Nobody in Nigeria today associates the DSS with intelligence-gathering, stealthy and efficient operations, and the promotion of national security. They are only famous for pursuing the civilians who overreach themselves by protesting Nigeria’s woes. Nigeria has never been more threatened by insecurity than now, and you cannot but wonder what these so-called intelligence cum security agencies really do that justifies their existence. Until the Defence Intelligence Agency invited Navy Commodore Kunle Olawumi (retd.), over the interview he granted Channels TV, who knew they existed? These organisations seem to have only one job, and it is to protect the Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) regime from the shame of its many failings. If they were not a bureaucracy, we would call them political thugs.
Out of the many heartbreaking stories of the breakdown of security in Nigeria, let me share this one. The same last week that the DSS railed over a media report, Abubakar Hassan, the Head Teacher of Salihu Tanko Islamiya School in Tegina, Niger State, where 136 schoolchildren were kidnapped about three months ago, reported that he had spoken to their abductors. They told him that five of the children were already dead, many were seriously ill, and because their clothes have virtually become rags, their parents should send a change of clothes. The part that broke me completely was that some of those children are as young as four years. What kind of country watches babies languish in their abductors’ den? Unfortunately, these stories have become trite in today’s Nigeria.
Meanwhile, Hassan also noted that he had spoken to the abductors twice in three days. They had demanded N200m, but the parents could only raise N20m even after the families had solicited funds from the public. The abductors did not budge their demands. An elderly man sent to deliver that ransom in July was reportedly also seized. In all of these back-and-forth negotiations with kidnappers and even public fund-raising for ransom, notice that there is mention of the involvement of the organisations like the DSS or even the DFI?
How do the abductors call the teacher on the phone several times, and there was no reported official effort to track their location? Where do these kidnappers stash away the humongous sums they receive as ransom? In a country that supposedly registers everyone’s SIM card, why have the security agencies not availed themselves of the many surveillance tools of digital technology to find those children? They can find you if you abuse a politician on WhatsApp, but kidnappers that use cell phones somehow elude them? Elsewhere, security agencies train personnel to negotiate with hostage-takers, but these poor families have had to transact with their victimisers all by themselves. Imagine the many layers of trauma they must suffer. In all these, the efforts of security agencies that supposedly gather intelligence for national security purposes are glaringly missing.
What role do these agencies play in these frequent abductions plaguing Nigerians? And no, their silence on these issues does not mean they have been entirely passive. Here are some of the headlines of the reports of their activities: “DSS violates court order on Igboho’s aides”; “DSS finally complies with a court order; “DSS denies detaining and torturing Buhari’s late driver”; “DSS cautions against violence and hate speech”; “DSS reiterates call against violence in Nigeria”; “DSS pledges to support the protection of NNPC assets”; “DSS warns public against recruitment fraudsters”; “DSS denies arresting, detaining INEC staff”; “DSS says Mailafia’s allegations aimed at creating tension”; “DSS says there’re plans to incite religious violence across the country”; “DSS says some prominent persons plotting to destabilise the country”; “DSS uncovers plot to destabilise Nigeria”; “Why DSS invited Onumah for wearing Biafra T-shirt”.
The kind of inanity that engages the DSS while Nigerians are imperilled by insecurity adds a new cadence to the cliché of political authority fiddling while the country burns. Having wired their entire administrative impulses towards protecting the Buhari regime from dissidents, they frequently sacrifice administrative dignity to bark at every rat. Their lack of administrative focus has grown so acute they even usurp the role of the police -as it happened in the case of The Dunamis Five. These agencies are never linked to heroic retrieval of abducted victims or to effective management of the security threats that diminish Nigerian lives. You will never catch them protecting the lives and dignity of regular Nigerians. All they do is hound those who make their paymasters uncomfortable. The time is still coming when the DSS officials will take it upon themselves to regulate the price of fish in the market.
On the whole issue of the recruitment itself, you could tell how tremendously shameful it has been for the Nigerian political class from the way their minions have been guilt-tripping doctors for wanting to abscond. They bemoan the subsidisation of medical training in public universities, allowing these doctors to get highly trained enough for their services to be prized elsewhere. But first, precisely what is unique about this arrangement? Which country in the world does not subsidise public education? Anyway, since some of the most prominent of these caterwaulers are Buhari’s flunkies, maybe they should also tell us how Buhari has paid the country in any way since Nigeria has subsidised his entire adult life?
After he was ousted in 1985, Buhari never took a job or even contributed as much as a policy idea to Nigeria’s development. All he has done is to take and take and take! For instance, when his aides needed to reconcile the incongruity of his frequent medical tours to the UK with the kind of ethically driven leader he promised to be, they claimed he had to go abroad for consistency because he has been with the same doctor for about 40 years. But given that he has never held a job in those 30 years, it only means Nigeria has been subsidising his health for that long. In what way has he paid us back?
He got a second chance and returned as a civilian president, but it only broadened his means of taking and taking. His children went to school abroad at the same time he shrugged off the plight of other Nigerians who needed foreign currency for the same purpose. Three of them got lavish wedding ceremonies, fully subsidised by the state. Nigeria has given them lush lives, but what have they given back? Elsewhere, children of the political elite at least try to be seen as giving back to society by working for public service, volunteering with charity organisations, or even joining the military. What do their Nigerian counterparts do for the country? Their parents will not even let them go through the rigours of the National Youth Service Corps, let alone join the military as a gesture of their faith in the country they rule.
Has it not been the case that they smuggle their children into top jobs in the public institutions and multinationals through backdoor recruitments, and unconscientiously displacing those who need those opportunities for upward mobility? If people like Buhari have not repaid society for all the years of paying for their privileges, why accost those who defied the Nigerian odds to become medical professionals for wanting to go elsewhere and expand their chances of thriving?
Credit: Abimbola Adelakun, Punch