If retired Major-General Babagana Monguno, National Security Adviser (NSA) to President Muhammadu Buhari, had chosen acting as a career, he would have made a more resounding success at it than the military job he ended up choosing.
The dream of every serviceman is to head his branch of the military, to be a service chief in charge of the army, navy or air force, as the case may be, or the three put together, as chief of defence staff.
Though Monguno also rose to become the Chief of Defence Intelligence, an appointment he got a few weeks before the start of the Boko Haram war in 2009, the fact remains he retired from the military without becoming the Chief of Army Staff, a position he surely would have cherished more than the two put together.
But if acting were his choice career, given his obvious talents in the world of make-believe, chances are that he would have been in hot demand, perhaps even on the global circuit, and reached the zenith of that profession.
Hearing Monguno on the Hausa Service of the BBC exactly a week ago, one could not but submit that the man had immense talents in the art of speaking from both sides of his mouth. In one breath, he gave a one-liner that exonerated the immediate past service chiefs, saying categorically that he was not accusing them of any sleight of the hand in arms procurement, which, according to him, went awry. But in another breath, in fact, for a greater part of the interview, he heavily indicted the same people, going ridiculously as far as alleging that their successors, the present service chiefs, have told him they have not seen ANYTHING (emphasis mine) on ground, as far as weapons to fight the war against terror is concerned.
Monguno would easily have gotten away with this fabrication, if the world, or in particular Nigeria, was not, unfortunately for him, peopled by very intelligent, very smart people who could decode any message, however difficult it might be. If everyone was daft and the only intelligent person was the NSA, no one would have noticed that the man, intentionally or inadvertently, made a good use of the interview to hit at the very people he reportedly came to hate with a passion,
It has since been in the public domain that Monguno was never on good terms with at least one of the former service chiefs, the one from his own state of Borno, General Tukur Yusufu Buratai. We cannot understand the politics behind that BBC interview unless we throw pretense to the dogs. The only choice is for us to say the truth, however bitter it might sound.
Hard as he tried to appear genuinely concerned about the issues he raised, the only way Monguno could escape the big hammer was if he were a new appointee to that sensitive office, or if he were altogether a rookie intelligence officer, but he is neither. As many correctly posited, he knew what he was doing, and the whole damage was caused intentionally.
Knowingly or otherwise, Monguno has succeeded in creating a school of thought that holds the view, rightly or wrongly, that he said what he did to force President Buhari to give him the attention he desperately craved without minding the fact that he would in the course of so doing tragically bite the hand that feeds him by falsely creating a narrative that would dog the Buhari administration all the days of its life, and perhaps long afterwards. At least we have seen the much-maligned opposition PDP latching on to Monguno’s tales by the moonlight to mercilessly attack the government of the day, portraying it in deeply unsavoury colours.
The other school of thought holds the view that the man wanted to use the interview to force the government to withdraw the ambassadorial postings it is almost set to announce for the immediate past service chiefs. None of these lines of thinking, including the one that specifically accuses him of cruel vendetta against Buratai, is good for Monguno.
Now, let us dissect the meat of the interview and see the serious national security threat and ridicule it has exposed Nigeria to.
It is possible, as Monguno alleges, Nigeria is presently short of weapons to effectively fight the war against terror. But no NSA worth the name should go to the marketplace with that sensitive information. By doing so, he succeeded in opening the flanks of our troops and also boosting the morale of terrorists, who would now push harder, knowing that the Nigerian soldiers are ill-equipped. If The NSA said that knowingly, then he should hasten to submit his letter of resignation, and if he did it unknowingly, it means he is not deserving of that high office. Either way, the man should get the boot for exposing our beloved troops who are putting their precious lives on the line to defend all of us from terrorists and bandits.
There are a few people who argue that the NSA should be commended for courageously bringing to fore an issue they erroneously think is a fact. But by admitting that he doesn’t know the whereabouts of the $1 billion earmarked from the Excess Crude Account in 2017 for purchase of arms, the only path of honour remaining for Monguno is to quickly tender his resignation and apologise profusely to Nigerians.
There is the saying that, if you don’t want the heat, you should not stay in the kitchen. If Monguno was using the interview to show that he was not being carried along in the governance of our security architecture, then he is seriously ridiculing himself remaining in office as NSA, since his main statutory responsibility is coordination of our national security architecture, a task in which he is found severely wanting.
A case in point was the complaint openly made by the governor of Niger State recently, to the effect that the federal government had left him to his own devices when bandits kidnapped some students at a public school in his state. Perhaps, the governor did not realize or even know that the person he was indicting was Monguno who, as NSA, should be the one assembling the security team needed to help in rescuing the victims.
In the entire length and breadth of that interview, the one main thing that proved Monguno was up to some grand mischief was his claim that he didn’t know what was used for the $1 billion earmarked for purchase of weapons, and that the service chiefs told him they have not seen the weapons purchased.
If many ordinary Nigerians know the answer to that poser, how come our NSA doesn’t know? At least we know that half of that money was used in a government-to-government, non-contract and non-commission transaction for the purchase of Tucano fighter jets from the United States of America, none of which has yet arrived, though the order was made two years ago. How can someone calling himself our National Security Adviser claim not to know that the money was used in purchase of military hardware that is not available off the shelf, meaning they are being produced, and only very few have been supplied to the country?
Similarly, how can a whole NSA fail to know that he was just giving the former service chiefs a bad name, since even ordinary Nigerians know that the contract for the military hardware ordered with the money in question was being handled by the Ministry of Defence, and not the former service chiefs?
A lot of people with a modicum of decency would readily throw in the towel if they truly do not have the answer to the posers above, while they are supposed to know, if the office they are holding is that of the NSA.
It is shocking that the man has not yet at least apologized openly to the former service chiefs whose integrity he spuriously called to question by the very wild, very irresponsible allegations he made. As the NSA, he should be discussing such issues as the unprecedented feats attained by the former service chiefs who resiliently fought the twin war against terror and banditry with a meager half per cent of our GDP, when the minimum standard globally is 5 per cent.
Also, Monguno, being a man of knowledge that I think he is, should call on Nigerians to continue to show more understanding and patience, just as Americans are doing, even though about $4 trillion of American taxpayers’ money has thus far been spent without any concrete result in that country’s 20-year plus war against the Taliban.
(To be concluded next week)