While addressing the stakeholders of his party recently, the very distraught Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko complained openly that he had received a threatening sms from the very powerful national security adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, who happens to be a prominent Sokoto prince. According to the governor, he had, in a radio interview, spoken against the assault by security officials on the National Assembly. He claimed to have said in the interview that, “…in a normal society, national security adviser and the inspector-general of police, Suleiman Abba, were supposed to have resigned from their appointments because they have failed Nigerians as a result of the action…”
Soon after, according to the governor, he received a text message on his phone from the NSA telling him, “I have heard you, you will be hearing from me”. He regarded that as a direct threat both to this life and position.
Given that there has been no public rebuttal to the allegation of the Sokoto governor by the NSA that one is aware of, one is led to conclude that the facts as Governor Wamakko had averred were true. Yet, without hearing the NSA’s version, it would be too presumptuous to take the sms on its face value, which should ordinarily imply an unconcealed threat from a man who has ample access to both means of protection and harm. All the same, in these dangerous times and judging from the fact that Governor Wamakko belongs to the Opposition, the alleged sms from the NSA is naturally viewed with seriousness, especially within the ranks of his group which currently feels haunted by the government whose coercive instruments the NSA commands.
The apprehension expressed by the Sokoto governor needs not be dismissed with a wave of the hand, judging from the recent behaviour of the security arms of the government which on the last 20th November tried to bar the speaker of the House of Representatives from accessing his official place of work, on the ultra vires assumption of the duties of the Judiciary by the Police boss, who had arbitrarily assumed the responsibility of interpreting the laws of the land. Not being all lawyers, the polity is more attuned to interpreting the issues on the ground on their face value and within the confines of common sense. That is why the general impression in Nigeria and outside is that the fracas at the National Assembly was a brazen affront on the right of the Opposition, which has been further interpreted as victimization.
In other words, while the action of the security agents which has been classified as high-handed, in spite of the explanation of their act as being in line with its duty to prevent crime after it had received intelligence information, is still under public scrutiny, any such sms from the NSA which obviously conveys some traces of a threat, is expected to be taken seriously and with trepidation. A situation whereby a person at the high pedestal of a governor publicly expresses fears over such a threat is very dangerous to the polity which seems to be at its shakiest state at the moment. More significantly, the NSA, from his vantage position, should be most aware of the fact that if there is anything the nation needs at the moment it is not the aggravation of domestic tension when all hands, all resources and all faculties are needed to confront the external enemy which is terror.
After 16 years of the current practice of democracy, one would assume that it should have become obvious to all that no one is above public scrutiny and that Nigeria should have since outgrown a situation whereby people would be sanctioned for voicing their opinions. In Governor Wamakko’s estimation, the apparently innocuous statement which might have attracted the reported reaction of the NSA was his call on the inspector-general of Police and the national security adviser to resign from their jobs for the assault on the National Assembly last month. One cannot but say that it would be unfortunate if the NSA is riled by such a call which has become a mantra across the country in the recent times, not just for the NASS imbroglio but for the citizens’ lack of satisfaction on how the war against terror is being prosecuted. If the NSA and his security apparatchik are not aware of public discontentment over many issues in the country at the moment, then it would be a very unfortunate development.
Yes, the calls from many quarters – both real and mischievous – for many high officers of the state to resign, have taken on very high decibel, and such calls have often been made on the president, too. At each of those instances when the president has been called upon to resign by the Opposition elements, his aides had either ignored them or made explanations, based on how weighty they consider such calls. The Presidency has never gone out to threaten or make insinuating gestures against those who had called on him to resign; knowing that it is a right guaranteed them by the Constitution under a democratic clime.
But then, that is the stuff of which democracy is made, whereby institutions are greater than individuals that head them and who must be humble enough to feel that they are accountable to the people and must be sensitive to the vagaries of their feelings. Nigeria cannot be an island and must fit into and aspire to the best practices of other nations. There should be nothing to break heads when a political appointee of the government is called upon to resign, especially by the Opposition. Rather, it should be the responsibility of that official so called upon to show cause why he should not resign and never an occasion for sabre-rattling or issuance of threats. Even under the military dispensation, people have mustered courage to call on their leaders and occupiers of high office to resign when their performance is viewed as suspect.
Just very recently, the Inspector General of Police of Kenya voluntarily resigned from his office while the Interior Minister who oversights the Police was shown the door by the president for the outrage caused by the terrorists who had crossed the northern border from Somalia into Kenya to massacre innocent civilians. So, resignations had never been new for security officials when breaches occur. Would it be wrong to suggest that the breach that happened in Kenya which resulted in the resignation of the police chief and the Interior Minister do not pale into insignificance when compared to the situation in Nigeria? To that extent, does anybody making such a call deserve any threats at all?
More surprisingly, one would have expected that Colonel Dasuki would have appreciated the unique position of Sokoto State which has remained a refreshing oasis in the torrid desert of insecurity in the North. More than anybody else, from his military training, current posting and as prince of the ancient and revered Sokoto Caliphate, the NSA ought to lecture everybody else on the role of chief executives of states in ensuring peace, stability and security in their states. Governor Wamakko is widely acclaimed and extolled as an experienced and cool-headed administrator, who is very much loved by his people because he has been one of them and has identified with their tears and laughter. It is difficult to find anybody in Sokoto State who speaks ill of the governor because of his painstaking attention to issues of community development which takes the people into great consideration.
The fact that the governor does not discriminate among the inhabitants of the state, on basis of their ethnic origins or religion has created an unprecedented sense of belonging to all who reside in the state. Very approachable and humane, Aliyu Wamakko is said to have become a veritable example of what Pope Francis described as a “shepherd who smells like his sheep”.
Therefore, the fact that Sokoto remains the most peaceful corner of Nigeria today is not out of luck, but rather out of a systematic build-up of good governance and care for the people, as well as a legacy of good governance which has been inherited from the days of Othman dan Fodio and his successors since 1804. Wamakko has been a great apostle of this great legacy which other parts of Nigeria need to emulate.
The NSA definitely appreciates the importance of sustaining this peace and stability at his home base and needs to work hand in hand with the political and traditional leaders in his home state to ensure that Sokoto becomes better and continues to remain safe and peaceful as the last bastion of peace and stability. Governor Wamakko might be in the APC today, probably making the NSA jittery over his statements and pronouncements. But that need not be so, as differences are the best ingredients of progress in a democratic setting.
In these perilous times when a tiny spark could easily balloon into an inferno, it behoves on those whose prime responsibility it is to prevent the small sparks as well as big infernos to always seek ways that would douse all fires – big or small. It is not for the likes of the NSA to stoke fires, but a primary responsibility to douse them, even when they are started by others. A situation whereby a state governor of the calibre and experience of Dr. Aliyu Wamakko is made to feel threatened can only be an ill-wind which will blow nobody any good.
Haruna Jimme, a political scientist , writes from Abuja