The question of who actually runs the complex machinery of the Federal Government of Nigeria has long been on the lips of not a few citizens in various walks of life. Even from the most casual scanning of the present administration of President Muhamadu Buhari, there is a deluge of glaring evidence which graphically betray a few nuts that are out of place, thereby presenting the Aso Rock power house as the modern day Tower of Babel, where confusion reigns on end. One of the glaring instances remains a recent memorandum from the National Security Adviser (NSA) Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd), to the service chiefs which indicted the Chief of Staff (COS) to the President, Abba Kyari. According to the document, Kyari is allegedly compromising the country’s security architecture, through several unauthorised and unlawful activities bordering on interference in matters relating to such. His sins include presiding over meetings with service chiefs, even without authorization from Mr President. If anything, the memorandum may have erased whatever doubts that have been lingering over the miasma of mal-administration, prevailing in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa.
In an unprecedented development, the administration of the country’s security architecture has attracted the public reproach of the NSA who has also sent a memorandum to service chiefs cautioning them to be wary of unapproved dalliance with Kyari. In the words of the NSA the COS is not a “presiding head of security, neither is he sworn to an oath of defending the country”. Hence “unprofessional practices” by the COS “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”. Continuing, the NSA, lamented that “Such acts and continuous meddlesomeness by Chief of Staff have not only ruptured our security and defence efforts but have slowed down any meaningful gain that Mr President has sought to achieve”.
Understandably, whatever has provoked the NSA to launch this broadside at the COS goes beyond the generic import of that particular memorandum under consideration. There must have been other issues that tipped the balance of discretion for the NSA, especially when beyond him other persons have also raised concerns over the meddlesomeness of the COS in the initiatives and decisions of the President. Reading the memorandum along with the earlier contributions by Nigerians, including that from the Minority Leader of the Senate Enyinnaya Abaribe, it is becoming established that President Buhari may have in breach of the Constitution and unlawfully therefore, ended up somehow to concede leadership of the country to his COS.
In the appraisal of what could have triggered the intervention of the NSA can be fingered at least two factors. Firstly could be the NSA’s patriotic inclination to act in the national interest by drawing a line in the sand whereby the COS Kyari can be restricted from further interference and associated compromise of the country’s security architecture, among other issues. At least the memorandum hinted at such. In another context the correspondence may have accentuated the no love lost relationship between the NSA and COS and has mysteriously percolated same into the public domain to cause the stir associated with it. In that context runs the argument that the NSA may actually be ruing his systematic marginalization in his own supposedly exclusive domain – Nigeria’s formal security apparatus.
For many Nigerians the situation of disharmony in the Presidency is not new, just as the serial instances of infighting among Buhari’s aides offers no comfort. Rather disturbing is that the situation is spawned by the oracular stance of Buhari himself, and has generated a scramble among his aides to secure direct access to him. This scenario translated into a rat race in which the COS – as a wily and opportunistic politician, exploited his closeness to the President, and brow-beat everyone to the prize of enjoying the most exclusive access to the President’s ears. This he has achieved – even to the disadvantage of the First Lady Aisha Buhari.
And from the look of things, any person aspiring to pry Abba Kyari out of his privileged position of serving as alter ego to Buhari, deserves the prayers of all Nigerians to succeed. This is short of calling such an undertaking, a mission impossible.
However returning to the main course raises the question of how Nigerians take the Buhari laissez- faire style of leadership whereby he has ensconced himself in a gilded palace and remains distant from direct administration of the country, having conceded such responsibility to the COS and other aides. Incidentally, management scholars are in unison that such leadership style characteristically provides the most worthless and unedifying dividends for any administration. Hence the dipping fortunes of the country under Buhari should not be surprising.
Just as well, it is also not in contention that this style of lassie faire administration has impacted negatively on the country and divided it into several shades of opinion. In one vein, are the hardcore ‘Buharists’ who advocate his infallibility, even with the glaring incontinences around. Then are the anti-Buhari lobby who have always lamented the day he returned to the leadership of the country, arguing in the process that they even foresaw the current depressed trend of developments in government. Yet are also others in the middle of the road course, which they see as a supposed comfort zone that offers minimal risk of offending the powers that be. This lobby drives on the principle of all is well that ends well.
Against this diversity of opinions on Buhari’s administrative style can be situated the timing of the intervention by the NSA – especially in the context of whether it was right or wrong, when he did. The answer to the question has both yes and no dimensions. In the context of wrong timing, the fact remains that in the light of the long running malfeasances in the administration – especially as concern national security, the NSA should have reacted earlier than when he did. As the NSA and co-ordinator in chief of the country’s security capabilities as well as network, it behoves him to provide early response to any contingencies ahead of such manifesting. The intervention in the form of a spoilsport as the COS has been providing in security matters, could not have gone by another name, for him to act on earlier. Coming as it did now makes his intervention more reactionary than proactive.
However, the previous position notwithstanding, his intervention at this time also has its positive side whereby it can be said that he acted better late than never, as he could have been bidding his time to strike, just as the cliché goes that discretion is the better part of valour. Given his superlative career antecedents, retired Major General Babagana Monguno fits more into the second mould.
In the final analysis, even if Monguno’s intervention does not yield the unlikely dividend of trimming the excesses of the COS to the President, he had nevertheless acted well his part. The onus for a new dispensation ultimately rests on President Muhamadu Buhari to yield to public pressure and demystify if not possibly remove the COS, or retain the latter properly as the head of the Presidential personal staff, which the office of COS actually entails. This is safer than the present set-up where the public face of the administration is Buhari’s, while the hands that rock the system belong to Abba Kyari as alternate President.