Dasuki And His Notion Of National Security


Muhammad Al-Ghazali

Let me make this point abundantly clear from the beginning: regardless of the avalanche of allegations against the former National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki on the unprecedented looting of vital funds for the procurement of armaments for our beleaguered military fighting the scourge of Boko Haram in the North-East; the man remains innocent in accordance with our laws, until proven otherwise by competent courts of the land.

That process – the subjection of all the accused before a judge to dispel the allegations against them - should have commenced yesterday, if media reports proved accurate. In the meantime, however, like the rest of stunned Nigerians, the time is nigh to reflect on how an office with such a rich and historic relevance in the more established democracies of the world, was reduced to a virtual Automatic Teller Machine for the illicit distribution of billions of Naira and Dollars to sundry crooks and political jobbers in the name of national security.

Like the presidential system of government itself, the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) was obviously inspired by the existence of a similar office domiciled in the White House in Washington, bearing the same name. In America, just like in Nigeria, the NSA is the direct appointee of Mr. President, but, in truth, that is where the comparison ends!

In America, the National Security Advisor, officially known as the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, advises the President of the United States on national security issues. He or she also serves and coordinates the activities of the National Security Council and is assisted by staff involved in research, briefings, and intelligence reports. The office of the NSA in America is located very close to that of the president for obvious reasons; and, in times of crises, even operates from the White House Situation Room.

Curiously, in America, to protect the office of the NSA from political controversy and partisanship, the occupant of the office does not require senate confirmation before he is appointed by the President. Also, unlike in Nigeria, the office is not connected administratively to the Departments of State or Defense.

The content and quality of the input from the NSA is solely to enable the American President make informed decisions out of the matrix of actionable inputs he routinely receives from various sources such as the Departments of State and Defense, as well as the CIA and other security agencies. The incumbent US Secretary of State is of course, Susan Rice.

Although the US National Security Act of 1947 effectively created the office, it wasn’t until 1953 when Robert Cutler became the first American NSA. Since then, numerous American NSAs have come and gone with varying influences and pedigree.

It will be difficult, for instance, to forget the magnificent role of McGeorge Bundy who served as the NSA to President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962, when the world came to the brink of nuclear warfare, even though he was slightly overshadowed by the Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and of course, Robert F. Kennedy who was the Attorney-General during the crisis.  

What of Zbigniew  Brzezinski, NSA to Jimmy Carter when the first cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain, and under whom, for the first time, the office enjoyed cabinet status before it was subsequently downgraded by President Ronald Reagan? There was also General Collin Powell who first served Reagan in the heat of his gunboat diplomacy, before becoming Secretary of State under George W. Bush.

What all these gentlemen had in come, was their genuine fixation with the general security awareness and preparedness of the America at different times. They were less burdened with the overriding zeal to retain the various presidents they served in power by any means. They regarded their call to duty to as a privilege to contribute their bit to the collective national security interests of America and its diverse people. They were patriots who had notions of the big picture of where they felt their nation needed to be in the dynamics of global politics and its enormous security implications. They never allowed domestic politics to becloud the vision to secure their country from international terrorism or the Cold War that preceded it.

The former presidential aide and historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in his memoirs for instance, described the Cuban Missile crisis in October 1962 as the “most dangerous moment in human history.” And Kennedy was fortunate that the men and women he relied upon at that critical moment in world history did not disappoint him.

Kennedy demanded “people who raised questions, who criticized, on whose judgment he could rely, who presented an intelligent point of view, regardless of their rank or viewpoint” wrote Jean Pavy in his thesis titled “The role of the Executive Committee in the Cuban Missile Crisis.” And the men and women who constituted Kennedy’s National Security Council coordinated by his NSA delivered.

Here, with Sambo Dasuki, we are saddled with someone who either read his job description upside down, or could not fully fathom what it takes to be a National Security Adviser at the most perilous moment in our nation’s history. He chose to live in his own small world that was completely oblivious of Nigeria’s ordained role as a leader of the black race.

His actions in office scorned the need for Nigeria to develop the right type of security infrastructure that will promote rapid socioeconomic development of the country. Sambo Dasuki was more powerful than all the American NSAs in history. He fully utilized his privileged access to the president to exercise administrative control over the Ministry of Defense and the entire military establishment including the service chiefs. Perhaps this bitter experience will trigger a need for the proper delineation of their functions.

With Boko Haram, Niger Delta militants and kidnappers threatening the nation’s socioeconomic well-being, Dasuki could have written his name in gold by bequeathing an intimidating security infrastructure for the country as his legacy. The enormous sums that accrued to his office clearly proved that was possible.

But he apparently chose the famished path and in the process exposed himself to disgrace and ignominy his noble background hardly deserved. We don’t need a judge to proclaim that to approve the payment of over N600 million to a newspaper house for the bombing of its facilities was not part of his brief. The office of the NSA is not an insurance agency, after all.

We don’t need the jury to confirm that the payment of billions of Naira from funds earlier approved for the procurement of arms for our troops fighting ruthless insurgents is the highest form of corruption and abuse of office. We don’t also need lawyers to convince any judge that the payment or diversion of the same vast security funds to corrupt politicians through various fronts, proxies, or companies is tantamount to money laundering in its crudest and most nauseating form.

I could go on, and on, and the verdict will still be the same. It is damning. It is deeply unsettling and annoying. It is repulsive.  Only God knows what his predecessors did in the past; but even on account of what is already in the public square, Dasuki’s record will take some beating. To even think that some of the allegations were credited to official statements he allegedly wrote makes my blood boil with and revulsion.

At a time our brave and gallant troops were battling to contain the maniacal charge of insurgents monies meant for their equipment and welfare were rechanneled to feed the pot-bellies of sleazy politicians hell-bent on retaining a corrupt government in power. And he even managed to get our elections postponed to achieve the goal.

The biggest tragedy, of course, was that he also mocked Nigerians in the process. He paraded himself our National Security Adviser. He flaunted the same title at Chatham House in January. That, to me, was the ironic comedy in the entire episode!  McGeorge Bundy must be laughing in his grave!