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Much ado about nothing


Bayero University

Each time I am boxed to a corner with a choice to say the truth or be damned, I have always found solace in the words of the iconic writer, William Faulkner: “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”

What this means is that it is our bounden duty to pitch our tent with progressive elements, especially when brazen lies and distortion of facts have been unfurled to becloud their way. In Nigeria, today, there seems to be a thin line between falsehood and truth, for falsehood has been made to wear a shiny cloak in public domain.

For some of us who have known him for years, right from the Bayero University, Kano, the appointment of the president’s former Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, as the new Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on January 10 did not come as a surprise. A golden fish, it is said, has no hiding place.

However, what is hard to fathom is the level of infamy some Nigerians have descended when it comes to pulling down anybody whose face we don’t like.  Instead of applauding the president for the savvy exhibited in appointing Abubakar, a former diplomat and intelligence technocrat, into the strategic position befitting of his genius and experience, I have been appalled why enemies of progress should take it upon themselves to rubbish his image, nay paint him as a square peg in a round hole.

The Abubakar I know has never been an opportunist. Lest you forget, Abubakar was appointed to replace Ambassador Ayo Oke, who was relieved of his appointment after the well-documented discovery of huge sums of money alleged to belong to the agency in a private Ikoyi-Lagos apartment last year, which created a buzz all over the country.

To borrow the words of the legendary playwright, William Shakespeare, the hoopla against the new NIA D-G on social media and conventional media is much ado about nothing. Let’s look at the merits or otherwise of this smear campaign.

Part of the illogic being sold to the public about the new appointee is that he has twice flunked promotion exams while working with the agency, leading to his forceful retirement as an Assistant Director. Another tissue of lie is that he was a Chadian dual nationality and married to a Moroccan, hence he wasn’t Nigerian enough to hold such a sensitive security position.

I was prompted to react immediately the news drifted to my ears before I read the intervention of the president’s senior media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina, who stated categorically that the Abubakar did not retire as Assistant Director but a Deputy Director. That, to everybody, was the first confirmation that Abubakar was merely a victim of hatchet writers.

On the allegation that the president appointed a Chadian with a Moroccan wife as the NIA boss, it flies, from all indications, on the face of imperial evidence. The truth of the matter is that Mr. Abubakar’s parents, at a certain point, were domiciled in Ndjamena, Chad, and he also had his primary education in that country; but I don’t see how that is a crime. Aren’t there Nigerians raised and educated in America or Britain by migrant parents? Does that make them less Nigerians?

But young Abubakar merely spent a fraction of his schooldays in Ndjamena, as he returned to Nigeria for his secondary and university education, graduating from Bayero University, Kano in 1984. Besides, the Katsina indigene has, since his graduation, served the country in different capacities, and has excelled in all.
Abubakar’s academic records show that he obtained a Grade II Certificate from the Arabic Teachers’ College in Katsina and a B.A. in French Language and Literature from BUK, Kano. He was to earn an M.A in Francophone Maghrebian Literature. A highflyer, he soon found himself in academics, first, as a graduate assistant and, later, assistant lecturer with BUK before working with the Katsina State Government.

Abubakar has had a meritorious service in public service, serving within and outside the country. He was, between 1993 and 2005, a Foreign Service Officer. In that capacity, he represented the Nigerian government in the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) missions in Addis Ababa, Morocco, Darfur, Quatar, Sudan, Dakar, among others. Above all, he functioned as the head of Chancery at the Nigeria Embassy in Morocco for years.

His vast experience was to worm him into the heart of Nigeria’s president, who, in 2015, appointed him as Senior Special Assistant, where he brought his expertise to bear by providing technical support to President Buhari on matters relating to foreign policies and affairs, as well as international relations.
Abubakar, who is fluent in English, French, Arabic and Hausa languages, was present at all important bilateral meetings between the president and foreign leaders both home and abroad, doubling as his interpreter in French and Arabic whenever officials of French and Arabic nations visited, while working as a senior assistant. What this goes to show is that the president did not appoint a tyro to head such a sensitive national office.

Needless to say, can a former Deputy Director in NIA be said to be a misfit in the job of which he knows its workings to the letter? Assuming he retired an Assistant director in NIA, which his traducers have been insinuating, is that a junior position? Can anybody compare it with a Lt-Col Sambo Dasuki, a far junior officer, who succeeded late Gen Owoye Aziza as the National Security Adviser?

Assuming Mr. Abubakar didn’t have a towering profile in international diplomacy; assuming he had not served the president diligently and meritoriously before now as a senior adviser detailed with handling intrinsic foreign affairs; assuming he had no managerial experience with the NIA before now; assuming he hadn’t been involved in peace support operations and mediations across the continent and beyond, I would have stifled a yawn and go to sleep. But here is a man whose competence is without any blemish.

One thing some of us fail to understand is that Nigeria is not a country where anything goes at the level of intelligence. Appointing an individual as the D-G of the NIA is not like appointing a personal assistant. For you to be appointed the NIA boss, background checks have already been done. Since 1993, Abubakar has been on the employ of Federal Government moving from one appointment to another. Is it possible that the so-called Chadian with a Moroccan wife could last this long without being fished out? Please, give me a break!

As Czeslaw Milosz once said, “In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.” I have elected to shoot this pistol. The stark reality here is that President Buhari appointed the best man for the job. We should rally round to give the new D-G the much-needed support.
• Haruna Yusuf, a public affairs analyst, is based in Kaduna.

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