Is Nigeria’s DSSS Speaking Truth to Power or Playing Poker on Magu?
It is doubtful that anyone is ready to break bones over whether Ibrahim Magu becomes the Chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) or not but there is a puzzle in the role of the Department of State Security Service, (DSSS) that need unearthing. Is it the case that the Department has, very happily, acquired the capacity to speak truth to power and stretch its oversight in matters of scrutiny to those who get public appointment or it is playing poker in the politics of the appointment of the EFCC Chairperson? For the second time, a presidential nominee is turned down on security grounds, suggesting incoherence of the government. The first time it happened, the president handed the matter to the Attorney-General of the Federation to look into. The re-submission of the name after that suggested that whatever reservations the DSSS had on Magu had been cleared. That has not happened as the DSS has stuck to its guns. It seems that the nation is facing a problem both at the level of The Presidency as well as the National Assembly. There seems to have been no coordination between the players in the rear and those in the front of the battlefield of governance. That’s the only plausible reason it could happen the second time. And the substantive issue might be the president’s availability to govern.
It is perhaps not that surprising that the DSS is shedding secrecy by being very forward in this matter or being made so by the Senate. It is perhaps following the trend that has brought secret service agencies into dancing naked unlike before when it was rare to hear of them even though everyone feared their shadows. Although the CIA is not the direct equivalent of Nigeria’s DSS, its recent roles in the US war in Afghanistan, US Drone warfare and, in short, its leadership of the counter-terrorism agenda has declassified it from the classical covert undertaker to something more like a worldwide military police formation. Perhaps, the DSS is following in that tradition, landing its teams in the houses of judges in midnight raids and rating presidential nominees on integrity independently of presidential move thereto. Perhaps, something good is happening to Nigeria. However, what if it is something bad?
Analysts are saying that, from the way the game has gone so far, it is either the DSSS has found something absolutely against national interest or simply unacceptable about Ibrahim Magu and has got presidential nod to act out the kill joy or just take the risk of finding a way around getting him discredited and disqualified. Alternatively, some interests have the same reason and have got the DSS to understand with it why Magu is unfit. But it could also be part of the hegemonic brawl of the power elite playing out. In which case, what is going on might have nothing to do with scrutiny and moral high ground but an embarrassing power play. Whichever one it is, the question is how the Nigerian public might know which is which?
As there is no such thing as truth which is not a function of power, would the Nigerian public ever get to know anything about this ding-dong which would not be truth produced by one faction or another? It would rather seem to many that only the ultimate power in this context would have been able to decide the truth. Pundits are resting the first problem about confirmation/non-confirmation of Magu with presidential disposition or reservation or inattention to the nomination. The belief is that if President Buhari were to overcome the surprise in the DSS’s open exercise of its screening powers and then find a way around the matter, either by directing the DSS to withdraw whatever reservations it has or cajole the National Assembly, the matter would be dead. The fact that no such thing has happened and might not be happening soon makes it safe for such analysts to say that somehow, the cabals have the national floor to dance out their hearts in the politics of Magu’s confirmation and certainly in all other matters.
For one, the DSS scrutiny was obviously asked for. Two, the Senate was keen to go by it, invoking the traditional argument impossibility of going against the leading national security institution. That is the language by which power is constituted. Who says Nigeria is not getting too sophisticated in politics, far, far ahead of its material development, the other risk that gladiators might not be taking note of? In other words, the Magu confirmation palaver might have brought more forcefully to the fore the reality of cabalistic politics in and around the Nigerian presidency. Or, the fact that no one knows the contours of cabalistic ring around the seat of power now. It looks like beyond the original cabal that has been at the centre of the Buhari presidency, there are other cabals at work. Striking to imagination is an anti-corruption cabal around the Prof Itse Sagays of the regime; a pro-corruption cabal that does not appear to have such a clear leader; the cabal of godfathers; the business cabal; the APC cabal; the Islamic cabal; the Christian cabal; the joint Christian-Muslim cabal; the National Assembly cabal and the most dangerous of them all, the neoliberal cabal, all of them pulling the presidency in different directions as enclaves for the acquisition and preservation of elite privileges.
The sociological rather than empirical evidence for this might be seen in the impossibility of resolving any problems at all because of the way interests insist on maximum advantage. Unlike in other climes where national elite put consensual issues first on the agenda of national debates, the Nigerian elite now put the divisive ones first. As divisive ones lead to division, they end up being unable to resolve even the consensual ones because anger and hatred have overtaken everybody. With a followership that revels in metaphysics and clapping for their own ethno-religious heroes and heroines, ignorant of the cabalistic dimension, the nation is permanently on tenterhook and violence becomes so common. Every attempt at solution stalls because nobody asks about what but who went wrong. Nobody then gets punished because what is wrong is never identified inter-subjectively. It becomes easy for those who should be punished to politicise the punishment and get away with murder. How do nations get out of such a junction? The Magu confirmation politics appears to have drawn out the cabals. May Nigeria be the winner!