DSS and 2019 general elections

Following the departure on Sunday, April 7, 2019 of the last group of the European Union Election Observer Mission (EUEOM) for the recently-concluded general elections from Nigeria, matters relating to electoral processes in the conduct of the 2019 general elections would seem to have come to an end. In a statement in Abuja on Sunday, the Mission said “In a few months’ time, the Chief Observer, Maria Arena MEP, will return to Abuja to present the mission’s final report, which will include recommendations to strengthen Nigeria’s future electoral processes.”

What appear to be outstanding are litigations arising from the conduct of the elections at various levels; from primary elections through the real polls to supplementary elections. Various election tribunals have continued to receive petitions from aggrieved politicians that contested for different elective offices (executive as well as legislative) in the 2019 general elections. Nigerians are looking up to how quickly and fairly the election tribunals would resolve many of the issues emanating from the polls. Verdicts from these tribunals are expected to determine the overall success or otherwise of the last general elections

In any case, the role of some security agencies, especially the army, in the conduct of the 2019 general elections has not ceased to dominate public discourse, six weeks after the presidential election took place in the country. Before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed the elections by two weeks, some civil rights activists expressed reservations about the deployment of armed military men to support the police who have the primary mandate of providing security to lives, property, voting premises, electoral officers, election observers as well as materials.

Security agencies in the country, including the Nigeria Police (which argue that they have a constitutional role to play in the process), the DSS, and NSCDC actually came under intense scrutiny from public commentators during the 2019 general elections. The INEC and the judiciary were also not left out. Some analysts also expressed concern over how EFCC, which technically and procedurally have no direct role to play in general elections, got itself involved when it opened a ‘hotline’.

Amazingly though, the fears expressed by those who were apprehensive of the deployment of armed soldiers on election days were, to some extent, confirmed when governorship and states houses of assembly elections held on March 9, 2019. For instance, the indictment in a report by INEC of Nigeria Army over its roles in the conduct of the elections in Rivers State prompted the army headquarters to institute an investigative team that will ascertain whatever role its officers played in the election. The team, which is led by Major General Taritimiye Gagariga, is expected to report back to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt General Yusuf Buratai, who promised that any soldier indicted in the crises would not go unpunished. The Army had initially dismissed claims about the involvement of its officers and men in unwholesome activities in favour of some political interest during the election, saying those spotted by INEC were criminal elements who (as fake soldiers) were dressed in illegally acquired army uniforms. The report of General Taritimiye Gagariga-led team should reveal the extent to which the army got involved and to whose advantage.

Nonetheless, the DSS seems for now to be the silver lining in the ‘cloud’ of security agencies as it concerns their respective roles in the 2019 general elections. The SSS, which is the operative arm of the DSS, generally operated during the general elections just as was the case before and even now that the elections are over, in the most professional way and in accordance with best global practices such that no stakeholder in the electoral process felt intimidated or humiliated. The fact that the Yusuf Bichi Magaji-led DSS has transformed from being the hitherto obsessive outfit it was before he assumed office to a specialized intelligence-gathering agency substantiates public perception of the organization’s nonaligned role in the 2019 general elections.

As a primary domestic intelligence agency of the country, it closely observes, monitors and preempts situations that constitute threat to the security of lives, property and institutions from developing or escalating without being noticed by criminally-minded persons and their collaborators; with a deliberate view to protecting and defending the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It equally has a responsibility to provide vital information to the country’s political leadership and policy makers in their bid to avail citizens with all the benefits of good governance.

Besides being its statutory mandate, the discreet and impartial stance that is thought to have sprout from the professional conduct of its personnel in Nigeria’s 2019 general elections, the DSS is believed to be better positioned more than any security agency in the country to authoritatively report on the events that actually transpired at all levels of the electoral process. The DSS should be able to provide classified and a more accurate data and answers to questions that may include: Who did what? Who failed to do what? What really happened within and between political parties?

Considering his antecedents as a former state Director of Security in some states including Jigawa, Niger, Sokoto and Abia states; as a Director at State Service Academy; at various times Director at national headquarters in the Directorate of Security Enforcement, Directorate of Operations, Directorate of Intelligence, Directorate of Inspection and Directorate of Administration and Finance; Bichi’s professional leadership so far as the current DSS boss should not be too surprising. A Nigerian proverb says “It is the not the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog that matters”. What actually matters is Bichi’s skills and wealth of experience in intelligence gathering and counter intelligence which should be exploited to make the DSS function as a truly intelligence organization; and not the ‘gra-gra’ that may be ‘missing’ in him.

May Allah (SWT) guide us a country towards improving upon our electoral institutions and processes with a view to conducting the most credible elections so that the DSS and other sister security agencies would be relieved of the burden of keeping vigilant ‘eyes’ every stage of general elections, amin.

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