Every Head of state or President in Nigeria (living or dead) had had an inner circle (kitchen cabinet if you like) within the government. It is almost a tradition all around the world for a leader to choose those (s)he can trust to be able to provide quality leadership. So we cannot say it is peculiar to Nigeria in particular or Africa in general. Democracy (or even dictatorship) is not a one-man show. That was why an Adolph Hitler, during the bloody ill-fated Reich, had some fiercely-loyal men and women around him as he sought violently to executive his satanic mission of ruling the world for a thousand years! That is also why a Yahya Jammeh, despite losing a democratic election, in its fairness and freeness, still has some brutal elements in the military and elsewhere pledging their unalloyed loyalty to him in the crucial moment of national democratic challenge.
Loyalty is not a bad thing. But blind loyalty leading to extremism or terrorism is. For example, the out-going US President Barack Obama, paid a glowing tribute to his loyal aides and staff during his recent farewell speech in Chicago. In his characteristic eloquence and elegance he saluted them for standing by him and doing their bits in furtherance of the democratic greatness of the United States of America. That is the positive side of the coin. On the other side you have loyalists blinded by the trappings of power or overzealousness of duty. Examples abound around the globe. The late Idi Amin Dada had had some loyal aides who stuck with him till the last minutes in power. Ditto Robert Mugabe, Pierre Nkurunziza, the late Gnassingbe Eyadema etc.
In Nigeria the presidency is littered with all manner of people who in one time or another provided services that could least be considered as decent or patriotic in the promotion and expansion of the democratic space. Let us start with former President Shehu Shagari whose reluctance for the presidential calling became an issue publicly debated with blame apportioned. Following the retired General Obasanjo’s fanatic preference for him above others he came in as a good-looking good man of high morals and high sense of patriotism. He was not ambitious or covetous; records showed that he may not have stolen any money belonging to Nigeria but his die-hard lieutenants (including the late Umaru Dikko) exploited Shagari’s meekness and aloofness to milk the nation dry. In the end the odious corruption that festered under him became an attractive invitation of the Jackboot into the system.
Subsequently when the Generals struck Shagari was found innocently watching a film inside the State House in Marina Lagos! Perhaps he felt relieved that a martial solution had come to free him, as it were, from the dwindling economic situation and reports of looting by his aides. He welcomed his fate without question and submitted himself to the new authorities in town. He was treated fairly well by the succeeding regime of the late Tunde Idiagbon and Muhammadu Buhari. But the WAI Generals went for Dikko’s jugular in far-away London in a spectacular demonstration of will and power to strike in defense of national interest. Dikko narrowly survived the attempt to crate him home to face trial for his fiscal heist perpetrated against the state but other top-ranking officials were thrown into jail for crimes against the nation.
From Shagari we move to the Buhari first coming in December 1983. With a second man like the late Gen. Tunde Idiagbon providing cover Gen. Buhari launched his war against corruption and indiscipline. They delivered on their promise of a radical change but some reactionary forces led by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida imposed yet another putsch that swept the regime away. Idiagbon was not in the country when IBB and his military boys struck. With Idiagbon by his corner Buhari was supremely assured of operating a forceful change of attitude onto an indisciplined corrupt population deserving of a benevolent dictatorship to knock patriotic and decency sense in us.
Enter the Maradona from Minna! Gen. Ibrahim Babangida came into office as a charming gap-toothed officer who dismantled the Buhari’s ‘draconian’ measures. He sought desperately to be a good ruler who came to restore some sanity to the political space where fear and tyranny reigned supreme. The late Augustus Aikhomu, former de-facto Vice President, was IBB’s man-Friday who announced every execution of coupists or promulgation of decrees aimed at stiffling the press or instilling fear in the hearts of the opposition. IBB as a professional coup-plotter was always wary of any violent change happening given the many allegations against him then — money laundering, involvement in drug business, cronyism, homosexuality and graft.
It took the June 12 1993 presidential election after close to a decade of political engineering and re-engineering for Babangida to be finally demystified. He was swept aside by the Abiola saga having criminally annulled a free and fair election won by the late Bashorun. As Babangida shamefully withdrew he left behind the late Gen. Sani Abacha to continue where he stopped. Abacha quickly seized his moment by pushing out an interim arrangement hurriedly put together by the fleeing IBB.
Sani Abacha had marabouts, killers and spinners in his pay-roll. He was a strongman and loyal aides like Aliyu Ismaila Gwarzo as the National Security Adviser. Gwarzo went about his job with satanic mindset to the extent that at a point in time a spy helicopter was hovering over the home of the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, in an apparent surveillance mission. Soyinka had then raised a national alarm threatening to use traditional fetish methods to bring down the aircraft!
During the Obasanjo second coming as a Babarized democrat he had an Abubakar Atiku, the then Vice Preisent, to contend with in a power struggle. But in the end Baba managed the spat diplomatically avoiding to over-heat the polity. No one was allowed to wield extra-ordinary powers during the eight years OBJ called the shots in Aso Rock. Rather he was said to be the over-bearing vindictive President who was bold enough to challenge the rotten system while at the same time helping himself, amassing stupendous wealth.
After suffering defeat in his third term gambit Baba imposed the late former Governor of Katsina State, Umaru Yar’Adua, as President and the man died after few years on the throne! Enter GEJ! Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had many loyalists especially women who openly competed for power, influence and money. You had a Diezani Allison-Madueke from one end romantically manipulating him and misappropriating millions of Dollars. And from another angle you had the Dame, Patience, exerting her influence and breaking protocols and committing innumerable gaffes. Again you had the Niger Delta militants (Asari Dokubo, Ateke Tom, Tompolo etc) becoming emergency millionaires and billionaires through oil and state amnesty deals. And from yet another angle there was a Sambo Dasuki, the NSA, imposing his will and looting billions of Naira or Dollars for himself and his cronies.
And now that the system seems to be sanitized with the triumphant arrival of the strongman from Daura, Muhammadu Buhari, at the helm of affairs there are wide-spread fears that some northern elements (especially the Daura brothers) have seized power surreptitiously. It took the First Lady, Aisha’s famous intervention via a BBC interview for the world to know that PMB might have been an executive prisoner of power of some sorts. Unlike Idiagbon the Dauras are civilians but they wield enormous power in the presidency. Unlike the late Tunde they are from the same town and state as Mr President.
One of the Daura sons is Lawal Musa Daura, the controversial Director-General of Directorate of State Security (DSS) or State Security Service (SSS); he is a major player in the Buhari administration. During the Senate confirmation hearing of the Acting Chairman of the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) the DSS had said in a letter carefully released at the Senate committee’s December 10 event that Ibrahim Magu is “Nigeria’s most dangerous man”. The DSS could therefore not recommend him for clearing! For Daura and his boys there was evidence from eight years ago that Magu took official files home; that he fiddled with recovered assets; that his friend, an air force officer, who is currently under investigation, paid twice the value of his house rent for him and furnished it; that he flies around with suspects under investigation; and that he even flies first class, against the rules. So with these and more ‘offenses’ Magu must not be cleared to chair the EFCC as substantive boss.
Daura has had a recent spat with the Director-General of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) Hameed Ali, a retired colonel and ally of President Buhari over the introduction of $25,000 as new Temporary Import Permit (TIP) levy on each vessel that berths to discharge petroleum products in Nigeria. Daura had fired a memo to the President saying the alleged imposed levy was illegal. According to the security czar Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) made the complaint that formed the basis of his memo. But retired Col. Ali disagreed sharply in his response to a presidential query concerning the matter. Col. Ali took a swipe at Mallam Daura accusing his Service of “unprofessionalism” and engaging more in “smear campaign” and “personal vendetta” than in thorough investigation and anti-corruption efforts of the administration.
And the other Daura, Mallam Mamman, is referred to in some circles as the “unofficial Vice President” of Nigeria. He is a most powerful nephew of the President and he is often described by associates as “extremely intelligent” and “brilliant”. He was a journalist and an industrialist, serving as head of the African International Bank and also Chairman of the board of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). He was editor of the New Nigerian newspaper based in Kaduna in the 1970s. Obviously it was him the First Lady was referring indirectly to when she rebelled against the establishment by informing us about certain powerful forces (who never manifested themselves during the 2015 presidential poll) from the north hijacking her husband’s presidency.
The conclusion may be hastily reached to the effect that Mallam Mamman Daura is the power behind the throne in the Nigerian presidency. But we hasten to add that we elected one President, Muhammadu Buhari, to make our country great again and life better for our compatriots. If he succeeds in this mission we only know him and if he fails no one would remember his Daura brothers or how they misled him in power.
Between Daura town in Katsina state where the President hails from and the sons of Daura (Musa and Mamman) working with PMB in powerful circumstances, therefore, something tells us that a discreet game of nepotism is being played inside the Aso Villa. From the moral point of view this is deplorable!