Monguno As His Own Foe

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By Ojumirayo Hafiz

It is indubitable that Nigeria’s National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Mohammed Babagana Monguno (retd) has not been on top of his national security mandate or brief since stepping in the saddle. Even now, these are not the best of times for him.  He, together with his professional competence keep unravelling in some monumental fashion that calls to question his appointment into the sensitive position in the first instance.

A few events, in recent times, have validated that perception. He has been unable to galvanise the nation’s security architecture for utilitarian benefits of Nigerians and the polity.  Had he been able to do so, the current saga around the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, would not have happened.  It would not have happened because Pantami would not have been appointed minister in the first instance on the strength of security report by the relevant agencies on his watch as the NSA. He should have ensured that the security report received his imprimatur. Even just now, there were reports that the security agency did not submit its report on Pantami to the National Assembly during screening. How then did the National Assembly allow him to pass?  

Perhaps some compromise took place, which Monguno was not dexterous enough to discern, and for which reason the mischief of pushing through Pantami’s nomination did not fall through. It was possible that the Department of State Services (DSS) did the necessary due diligence and someone, somewhere just decided to appropriate the responsibility of the NSA to advise the President on the decision to take. That alone subtracts substantially from his leadership of the nation’s security architecture.   

The Pantami ministerial approbation must have been a subject of some webs of intrigues. This is not making excuses for Monguno. He should have known what to do in that circumstance, except he was waiting for Pantami to be out of government before he would begin to sing as he did in the case of the immediate past Service Chiefs, whom he (Monguno), just because he could not rein them in, alleged immediately they bowed out of military service, that they diverted $1 billion arms and ammunition fund. 

Munguno should be blamed for the Pantami and his promoters’ act of causing security report and consideration to be scorned and scoffed at with impunity in the promotion of a ministerial contemplation. But, alas, time has resurrected the ghostly past supposedly buried in the façade of the shenanigans of the past.  It should not have happened because the security agencies under Monguno’s overarching superintendence would have stopped it. That it happened speaks to Monguno’s faux pas.

By his failure to prove his capacity and capabilities to handle and advise Mr President on security matters in the most effective, seamless and smooth operational manner of some of his predecessors, especially General Aliyu Gusau (retd), Monguno has cut the insalubrious niche for himself as an archetypically unusual person for being his own foe since his appointment into the very sensitive and strategic office by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. Nobody could have undermined him if he had known his onions.  

I may not be able to assess his tenures as the Commander of the Brigade of Guards from 2007 to 2009 and as the Chief of Intelligence from July 2009 to September 2011, or even as Deputy Commandant of National Defence College, but I believe that whatever he is today, his mannerism, work ethic, and disposition to intelligence networking are products of how he discharged (whether satisfactorily or otherwise, and an inference could be safely made here in the context of current circumstances) his duties through previous assignments at those intersections.

There appears to be a competition for magnitude or scope between the flippancy of Monguno and his failings in his core mandate deliverables. If the verbal exuberance he invested in trying to nail the former service chiefs had been deployed in rejigging the nation’s security architecture, that effort would have somewhat mitigated his failings as the NSA under whose watch insecurity has become a common denominator in social-political interactions. There is an incremental dimension in the spate of police killing, as well as kidnapping in every nook and cranny of the nation.

It is not only sad but also sardonic that the NSA of a supposed giant of Africa where megabucks had been reportedly invested in security equipment could not deploy them in addressing the insecurity in the land.  What is needed more than anything in the battle against terrorism, banditry and insecurity is a load of intelligence and security information.  The NSA and his office should be on top of this process, coordinating the relevant agencies under him so that a robust synergy could be built. Instead, the NSA has been busy, in a largely distractive fashion, with how funds earmarked and released for arms were either spent, not well spent or diverted outright.

Unfortunately, the country is not having it easy under Monguno as NSA.  He could not provide the salutary solutions or strategies to navigate the insecurity storm buffeting the nation.  Terrorists have been on renewed rampage in Borno and Yobe, re-establishing control and dominance in some villages. It has taken the commitment of the new service chiefs without the intelligence backup by the office of the NSA to push back the terrorists.  There is a report just now that Boko Haram Terrorists have hoisted their flag in a village in Niger State. Nigerian troops need solid intelligence backups with accurate situation reports to boot. Whereas, the NSA should have taken this backup trajectory; it does appear he is clueless.  He is apparently overwhelmed, and his performance has been underwhelming.  

The predicament of Nigerians, which has given rise to a deep-seated angst, was succinctly captured in a statement by the President of ECWA, Reverend (Dr) Stephen Baba Panya.  In the statement dated March 31, 2021, Panya lamented the seeming inability of the Federal Government to deal decisively with the heightened insecurity across the country, and the massive occupation of ungoverned spaces by criminals; non-state actors have taken the centre stage in a bid to protect their people from murderous criminals while also exploiting the situation to pursue their quest for self-determination.

Read Panya in another perspective to the insecurity issue: “Boko Haram and ISWAP have destroyed tens of thousands of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of Nigerians. It is unfortunate that many Christians and Christian communities have been deliberately targeted and destroyed.  It is clear that these terrorist groups are gradually but tactically making incursions into other parts of the north even beyond. The apparent lack of unity against these terrorist groups and the inability of government to deal decisively with them within the shortest possible time has emboldened them to do more havoc.”

Terrorism has been consistently unleashed on the northeast with relish. Banditry has been added to the monstrosity of insecurity in the land.  Governor of Benue, Samuel Ortom, escaped being killed on his farm by bandits some weeks ago. Hoodlums set fire on the country home of a sitting governor, Hope Uzodinma. Gunmen shot at the convoy of the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu many months ago. Students have been kidnapped from their schools. Nigerians have lost their sense of security and entitlement to their homes because nowhere is safe any longer.  

To really understand the import of this Elephant in the room, the Minister of Defence, General Bashir Magashi (retd) recently cried out that the nation was bleeding.  For a military man to put the situation in the context of blood, then it means the situation is indeed very serious.  And, upon all of this, the NSA, Monguno, who should lead in the front, quietly coordinating the nation’s security architecture, has been busy with mendacities against some former service chiefs in order to settle some scores, abandoning his core mandate deliverables.  

It is quite sad that Monguno lost focus even when he had yet to gain traction. Having lost his essential professional gravitas, the best thing for him to do is to throw in the towel for someone else with focus and commitment coupled with the competence to multi-task in the complex business of intelligence gathering to step in to back the military with intelligence and security information with which to put terrorists and bandits into irredeemable disarray; otherwise, the President should the needful: sack him Now! 
 
Mr. Hafiz, a security expert writes in from Lagos.

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