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Buhari And New NIA Boss: Can The President Help Us Understand Him Better?

February 6, 2018

What is it about Rufai Abubakar that President Mohhammadu Buhari or whoever is acting on his behalf would keep insisting that it must be him or no other person?

It would have been just okay to stay away from the controversy that has dogged the appointment of Ahmed Rufai Abubakar as the new Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) as the president and operators of this administration had since waved goodbye to all forms of decency in their dealings but for the obvious obfuscation of facts and the continued unscrambling of new controversies which in itself is a more serious threat to the integrity of our national security infrastructure.

What is it about Rufai Abubakar that President Mohhammadu Buhari or whoever is acting on his behalf would keep insisting that it must be him or no other person? Without mincing words, that there are oppositions or rather controversies in the appointment in the first instance is more than enough reason to ask him to step aside and allow a less controversial Nigerian head the agency which is supposed to be our apex national security infrastructure.

When growing up, we read all sorts of intelligence literatures including those of the world top national agencies such the Israelis, Russians, British , Americans and so many others. And one common note in all those agencies is the integrity and covertness of their operators and heads. Now because we have a government that cares little about our collective national concerns and interests, the whole world has known our chief spy- his strength, weaknesses, flaws and even questions about his nationality and loyalty even before he taking over the position to head our apex national security agency. Haba! 

Can we just be serious for once as a nation or is there more to this than we are seeing on the surface. Why has the President become so adamant to the dreadful concerns raised by those who should know in the security circles? So if not Rufai, no other person can head the agency?

The initial kick was against what was described “as breach of national security” over the personality of the new NIA chief. The identity, nationality, citizenship and competence of the new DG were also subjects of public speculation and controversy.

The expressed fears had it that the new NIA chief “may compromise the security of this country because of his background. As said, Rufai was born in Chad Republic. He had his primary and secondary education all in Chad. He had a dual citizenship. He is also married to a Moroccan. All these raised issues of his loyalty. And as severally asked: will he be loyal to Nigeria, Chad or Morocco now that he will be heading Nigeria’s apex intelligence body?

In attempt to “set the facts straight” on Abubkar’s appointment, The Presidency in a Statement in Abuja on Sunday 28 January by Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, said: “the new NIA director general neither failed promotion examinations twice nor holds dual nationality. Some of such unfounded stories include that Abubakar had retired from the services of NIA as an Assistant Director, because he failed promotion examinations twice, and had to quit, willy-nilly.”

The presidential aide maintained that President Muhammadu Buhari appointed the new DG because he had worked closely with him in the past two years, and “sincerely believes that he would add value to the NIA”.

Let’s even take just one big question mark on the new DG which borders heavily on integrity: when did Rufai retire/resigned from National Intelligence Agency-in 2013 or before?

We need to inform the president that sources close to the United Nations Mission in Darfur said the the 2013 date flaunted by the Presidency cannot be true because Ahmed Rufai Abubakar was still their staff in Darfur in 2013. As disclosed, he actually left the mission (UNAMID) in 2013 having attended the UN mandatory retirement age of 62.

President Muhammadu Buhari

The question now is: How come he resigned from the NIA in 2013, could it be that he took up a permanent job with the UN without first resigning from the NIA? As disclosed, Rufai should have returned to Nigeria after Ambassador Kingibe’s duty tour as head of mission ended in late 2004. He remained with AMIS till 2007 when it transmuted to a UN Mission (UNAMID). He remained with the UN till 2013 when he departed. So Rufai Abubakar should have resigned long ago from NIA when he accepted the UN job, otherwise, it means he kept and collected remuneration on two jobs at the same time.

Adding to the already bad situation just as Nigerians outside the security circles were saddled with the controversy that heralded the announcement of Rufai as the NIA boss, some directors of the agency in an unprecedented move raised an alarm in a letter to the House of Representatives Committee on Security and National Intelligence, calling for an urgent intervention to stop the change in the agency’s leadership from having severe consequences on the country’s security apparatus. They demanded the removal Ahmed Rufai Abubakar as the DG of the agency.              

Dated January 29 and co-signed by EO Olanrewaju, Nelson Obiakor and Ahmed Sarki (not real names) on behalf of a group named Concerned Directors of NIA, the letter said the appointment of Mr. Abubakar is a threat to cohesion in the agency as Mr. Abubakar is the first head of the agency to be appointed from a rank below that of a director.

As stated, since the inception of the NIA 32 years ago, nobody below the rank of director had been appointed as head of the agency. So Abubakar’s appointment as DG would certainly set a dangerous precedent, with equally dangerous implications.

The stated position of the agency’s directors adding to the already raging controversy over nationality, competence and loyalty would have simply been dismissed as the usual chant of disgruntled elements but for the likely grievous implications to the integrity of our national security infrastructure and this is where concerned Nigerians have expressed serious concerns that the president’s adamant disposition on this matter is curious at best and at worst suspect.

The obvious danger in Buhari’s insisting on appointing someone with this fleet of controversy including blurred nationality to such a high sensitive National Security position against all known protocols, is that the President himself can now not be trusted to protect the interest of Nigeria and Nigerian Constitution, first and foremost.

Well, the usual answer to such appointments by Buhari throughout the life of this administration has always been that: The appointee is a Nigerian; he is the best qualified for the job; those complaining are doing so because they are looters who are unhappy because they lost out and; above all the President is at liberty to appoint any one he wants to any job.

Since the Presidency itself had admitted that Abubakar was born and bred in Chad, while on the other hand he claimed to have been born in Nigeria; at least going by his records and CV available both at the NIA and some United Nations missions, is it not clear to the president that there is an obvious contradiction? Haba ranka de de!

(IFEANYI IZEZE writes from Abuja: [email protected])