There was shock and consternation across the country last week when reports surfaced of a leaked memo in whichNational Security Adviser [NSA]Major General Babagana Monguno accused the President’s Chief of Staff Malam Abba Kyari of undue interferencein national security matters. Monguno saidthat Kyari’s meddling has slowed down meaningful gains that President Buhari had sought to achieve.
Monguno’s memo, dated December 9, 2019 was sent to the military service chiefs, which is unusual. He directed them to desist from taking further directives from Kyari, which hesaid were sometimes issued without the president’s knowledge or approval. He said such practice added to the government’s failure to contain insecurity, a very serious charge indeed for a country fighting a war against insurgency and wracked by kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery.
The NSA also said the “Chief of Staff to the President is not a presiding head of security, neither is he sworn to an oath of defending the country. As such, unprofessional practices such as presiding over meetings with service chiefs and heads of security organisations as well as ambassadors and high commissioners to the exclusion of the NSA and/or supervising ministers are a violation of the Constitution and directly undermine the authority of Mr President.”Such acts of meddlesomeness, Monguno said, ruptured our security and defence efforts.
It is remarkable that the Presidency has not said a word about this widely published story after nearly a week in circulation. The NSA has not denied the story. For the Presidency to neither speak nor take action on this episode is shameful and speaks badly aboutits organization and accountability.
Many media reports over the years spoke about a rift between top Buhari Presidencyofficials. While some disagreements over policy issues are inevitable in any collection of human beings, it is different if groups coalesce into permanently feuding camps. Neither the President nor the country will be well served by such an arrangement.
The immediate issue in this dispute can be resolved if the president approves a clear reporting line for military and security chiefs. As Commander-in-Chief, he must retain a direct line of communication with the service chiefs and top security officials. Buhari should also make good use of his Defence Minister, who is a retired Major General.
As for the NSA, the functions of this office have fluctuated over the years. Men such as the late General Andrew Azazi and Colonel Sambo Dasuki were very powerful as NSAs because they took on extra functions such as financing the president’s politics. We do not expect Monguno or any future NSA to do the same thing but his functions should be clearly defined and strictly adhered to.
President Buhari has made the Chief of Staff’s office more powerful than it has ever been but he is well advised to remove Kyari from the military reporting line, since he is not experienced in security matters. This open rift between the President’s top aides is the best reason Nigerians have got so far as to why government is making little headway in the fight against insurgency and other forms of internal insecurity.
President Buhari must step forward immediately, assume full control, bring his experience in politics, administration and in the military to bear and end this infighting once and for all. Soldiers are dying, policemen are dying, hapless civilians are dying andpoor folks are being utterly ruined having to pay millions of naira in ransom to kidnappers. Yet, top officials are busy feuding.