Monguno; BBC Interview and the Gulfy Confutation

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By Philip Agbese

The advertised reality of Nigeria as a terribly endangered country is quite unfortunate.  It clear to all of us that having vociferous characters like Babagana Monguno as the Nigeria’s National Security Adviser (NSA) have laid strong pillars of the country’s path to self-perdition. It is strange and a misnomer in Nigeria’s history to consistently see the effluxions of an NSA in the media.

With due respect, I don’t think Monguno has any scant regard for the high office of NSA. He is either briefing State House Correspondents on the outcome of meetings of the National Security Council (NSC) or granting reckless media interviews or even a suspicious stealthy romance with the Nigerian media divulging top security secretes. That’s the job of politicians; but certainly, it is outside the purview of the office of the NSA.

Monguno  is always publicly mouthy and observes no restrictions. This posture tells us, we no longer need to consult soothsayers to know the tormentors of Nigeria’s security are within. With Monguno’s constant public parroting, as a topnotch security aide to Mr. President , it means the terrorists, armed bandits and the conspirators need no special technology to decode our strategy. It can be found on Google, YouTube and Facebook.

I should not be the one informing Monguno that the power and efficacy of security management   resides substantially in secrecy and confidentiality, especially in this age of insurgency being faced by Nigeria. But sadly, he pays no attention to it.

Monguno reportedly told the world in an interview with BBC Hausa Service last Friday that large chunk of monies Mr. President approved for the purchase of arms to fight terrorism or insecurity in the country have remained unaccountable by the Nigerian Military authority. He was ostensibly referring to the $1 billion sourced from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) in 2018 to pay the US Government for the purchase of 12 Super Tucano fighter jets when the former Service Chiefs held sway.

Monguno recanted these alleged utterances almost immediately when the news went viral. I have grudgingly accepted Monguno’s afterthought refutations of the statements credited to him and his claims of being quoted out of context.  But clearly, it was a deliberate gaffe, crafted and delivered by Monguno for reasons best known to him.

But the timing of this statement was sensitive and played effectively into national psyche. Before now, some mischievous  Nigerians raised eyebrows and questioned the utilization of the $1 billion for procurement of arms. Some even blended or likened it with all falsities to something akin with the Dasukigate scandal.

That Monguno deemed it expedient to publicly comment on the matter, told me clearly, Nigeria has a “A Long Walk To Freedom.”  The counter-reaction from the Presidency, explained it all, by stating the known facts already in public domain on the $1billion from ECA, released in 2018 for the purchase of 12 Super Tucano fighter jets from America.

Whether it was a mistake or a misquote of Monguno, I don’t know how the excitement with media presence or voice has become the obsession of the NSA. It was not the culture of preceding Nigeria’s NSAs. The NSAs usual traits known to us are reticence and invisibility in public domain. They did not transform into media freaks or pundits.

NSAs are not supposed to be heard or seen; but basically, confine themselves strictly to the arduous task of churning out initiatives and policies for the promotion and preservation of national security. Never before have NSAs become town-criers or vuvuzelas like it catches the fancy of Monguno now.

The best actions of NSAs are seen by the President and the people in terms of practical improvement in the security situation of the nation.  But now, it looks more like, we have a third presidential “spokesman” in this case, as exemplified by Monguno’s media-hoopla disposition.

We have seen Monguno’s predecessors’ in the likes of  Aliyu Gusau, famed as the most dangerous covert spy master;  Abdullahi Sarki Muktar, Kayode Are, Owoye Andrew Azazi and even  Monguno’s  immediate predecessor, Dasuki Sambo. But never at any time did they morph into Presidential spokespersons on security matters. Their briefs started and ended with advising Mr. President or aiding to formulate workable initiatives on subsisting or emerging security threats to the country.

However, in spite of the NSA’s rebuttal, he has already bruised many souls and the psychological damage is quite enormous. He has given mischief makers and detractors another opportunity to unnecessarily upbraid the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari because the  “wrong” news went viral before his confutation came.

Monguno is fond of this indulgence. Nigerians still recount the leaked memo saga between Monguno and Abba Kyari (of blessed memory), Buhari’s former chief of staff (Cos). Monguno wrote the memo to the Presidency complaining about the usurpation of his powers as NSA by the former Chief of Staff. Soon after, the official memo on security found its way into public space and became a subject of heated national discourses.

He has probably recanted himself in this instance because of the heat his statements generated. But it has not obviated the reality that Monguno is overstretching himself and his responsibilities or enfeebled by the workload of the office of NSA.

He shows more than passing interest or glibly switches on and tenaciously holds unto the boardroom politics of close aides of the Presidency in the Villa, than concentrate on his job of germinating ideas to improve national security. Monguno’s belated denials, notwithstanding, but his outbursts conveyed a sweeping vote of no confidence in the Commander-in-Chief, President Muhammadu  in public court  or at least, it has hinted of his intention to do so very soon.

I believe it is not the brief of the   NSA to always seek to be in the news or castigating other appointees of the President in the security sector. Or is it his responsibility to always engage the media with expositions on security policies, frameworks or its operationalization?

And for public clarity to eclipse some misconceptions, the former or serving Service Chiefs have no briefs to handle any special weapons procurement fund. The $1 billion from ECA  was paid directly to the Ministry of Defence. It was the Minister of Defence that did all the payments and procurements on behalf of the FGN in conjunction with other relevant Government financial institutions. And the transaction was paid directly to the treasury of the US Government as explicitly conveyed by the letter of anticipatory approval, Mr. President forwarded to the National Assembly (NASS) dated April 13, 2018.

Disappointingly, even the Monguno public statement of rebuttal betrayed him unwittingly; It read; “We would like to state that the NSA was quoted out of context as he did not categorically say that funds meant for arms procurement were missing under the former Service Chiefs as reported or transcribed by some media outlets from the BBC interview.”

By stating that he “…did not categorically say that funds meant for arms procurement were missing under the former Service Chiefs….,” Monguno either implied or conveyed some intentional ambiguity in the rebuttal; or uttered something close to the accusations, or nursed such feelings, but only shirked from saying it expressly.

Even by his own admittance of what he confessed as saying, what relevance were the ideas canvassed to resolving the insecurities in Nigeria? It was absolutely unnecessary and added no scintilla of value to the ongoing counter-insurgency operations. Monguno must know, serving Military chiefs are not politicians.

Monguno’s presumed submission in the BBC Hausa Service interview would have been better disgorged by a politician, like may be, the Minister of Defence.  Monguno must learn to keep his tongue in cheek and purge himself from media excitement.

And did the phrase by Monguno which pledged; “…President Buhari’s continued commitment to provide all necessary support to the Armed Forces, including the provision of arms and equipment,” an indirect indictment of Mr. President or free information to the terrorists and bandits that “all necessary support to the Armed Forces, including the provision of arms and equipment,” have not been provided already by President Buhari to security agencies?

Monguno should be more circumspect next time and avoid public political comments on national security issues. Mr. NSA, in plain terms and based on your recent unpatriotic or outrightly  confused outings in Nigeria’s top echelon of security leadership, it only tells me that you are fatigued on the job.

The most viable alternative at your disposal now is to throw in the gauntlet and honourably quit the scene or seek reposting to a suitable dormant sector. Mr. President in his usual magnanimity, might repost you to one of these docile establishment to leisure yourself out! The demands of the office of the NSA are clearly beyond your competence now.

Agbese is a Publisher with TheNigerian News and wrote this piece from the United Kingdom.

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