Thomas Sowell, an American economist and social theorist believes that “it is usually futile trying to talk facts to people who are enjoying a sense of moral (and even academic) superiority in their ignorance.” While true human development and growth come through learning and understanding, many people successfully block out any avenue for learning. The worst of it is that in their ignorance, they seek to ‘enlighten’ others and offer unsolicited pieces of advice and opinions that are products of their feeble minds or deliberately fabricated to cause harm. Whereas such people are everywhere in our society, discerning minds have to vigorously counter their ignorance and falsehood with facts for the greater good of society. As much as they try to malign national institutions and cause distrust, men of goodwill must not be tired of constantly diffusing the darkness that comes with their unwarranted provocations with the light of truth and fairness.
On the 31st of December, 2022 when Nigerians were thanking God for the successes of 2021 and looking forward expectantly to the new year, a certain Professor John Egbeazien Oshodi of Nigerian origin deemed it fit to launch a malicious campaign of falsehood and misinformation against the highly revered Department of State Security Services (DSS). While this piece does not in any way seek to sing the praises of the number one security outfit in Nigeria, it is pertinent to note that yours sincerely is appalled by such a witch-hunt and would not want to remain silent as, according to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Somali-born Dutch-American activist once said that there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.
To put the records straight, the DSS is the reason why Nigeria is still standing today and will remain one united country forever. No nation, no matter how strong militarily could have survived the onslaught Nigeria as a nation suffered on all fronts without the professional and determined efforts of an institution as the DSS. The intelligence gathering and sharing mechanism of the DSS under Bichi are legendary. Through the instrumentality of the DSS and the synergy it forms with other security institutions, Nigeria has precisely and promptly too, nibbed in the bud so many security threats that would have consumed the nation. This must not be undermined by anybody regardless of their ignorance of the complex security situation of the country. The context of Nigeria is different from other countries just the same way as the challenges she faces security-wise. Differences in operational tactics are, therefore, not supposed to be a source of moral proselyting by people who are not abreast of even political happenings in their council wards.
It is true, as the author of the misleading pieces pointed out that the DSS is ‘supposed to prevent and detect threats of destabilisation, terrorism, espionage, major inter-group disputes, and threats that undermine internal national security; and ensure the safety of the president, the vice president, and their respective families. That the DSS exists to protect high-profile government officials, sensitive government offices, conduct sound and thorough security clearance of potential high official candidates. As well as protecting visiting foreign heads of state, former presidents and their wives, and events of national consequence as well as investigating and preventing financial crimes relating to the nation’. This and more are exactly the things the DSS has been doing to ensure that Nigeria remains one and indivisible entity. Knowing all these and then pretending not to know that the DSS is professionally living up to its mandate is uncalled for and malicious.
The arrest and deportation of foreigners especially those with questionable characters are one of the proactive steps the DSS is employing to keep Nigeria safe. The case in 2001 involving Pakistani nationals affiliated to a radical Muslim NGO in Lagos as well as several other operations in the northeast and northwest that have taken out several foreign terrorists and bandits are worth commending. The fact that the DSS does not sing its praises does not in any way take away the fact that the institution is top-notch and the mother of all security institutions in Nigeria.
Through intelligence gathering and collaborations with international security outfits like Interpol, the DSS has severally intercepted a huge cache of arms that would have turned Nigeria into a war zone akin to the Second World War. The recent interception of more than one thousand automatic rifles by men of the Nigerian Customs Service was only possible through the information supplied by DSS. One can only imagine what would have happened if those weapons ended in the hands of terrorists and bandits.
Whereas no security agency has been able to combat the activities of kidnappers in Nigeria, the DSS has taken the fight to the doorsteps of the criminals making them abandon their captives. Several rescue missions have been successfully conducted and kidnapers eliminated in their numbers even in places where they once held sway. The agency has also successfully thwarted and arrested criminal elements involved in the impersonation of politicians and highly placed Nigerians, blackmailers and internet fraudsters. The facts are there for anybody to cross-check. Giving the DSS a bad name and painting it as an incompetent and unprofessional security agency is false.
It is misleading to insinuate that DSS operatives are behaving like ‘mafias, gangsters, mobsters, native doctors, juju operatives, and errand boys/girls for people in authority. Security is dynamic just as the response to security threats. Different security threats require different measures. Besides, it’ll be counterproductive for the DSS to divulge their operational tactics to Nigerians as that would be as good as giving criminals information beforehand.
There’s a concept of psychological warfare with applications in intelligence gathering as well. It is simply an attempt to exploit people’s emotional state as well as their belief systems in understanding the motives behind their actions. The Cat story referenced in that confrontation with Sunday Ighoho’s loyalist could be nothing but an attempt to use the man’s context since he was an apostle of man who took pride in his charms and amulets. Dada Ifesooto’s narrative is one-sided and can’t be the basis for an informed opinion. Keeping him for six months is the prerogative of the DSS since the information they required was not yet known or even to protect him from harm since many people were enraged with their secessionist attempt. Security is not Nollywood and the criminals are always trying to outsmart state actors. Even if certain moves don’t make sense, they’re certainly within the limits of the law.
Dragging DSS into the unfortunate incident that happened to the formal Emir of Kano Mallam Sanusi Lamido is needless. The Kano Emirate has guards and if they’re not enough, the regular police would have been involved. Since Sanusi was not a common criminal and lawbreaker, there is no way the DSS would have been involved in his incarceration, at least not the manner presented in the ill-motivated writeup. Separating facts from fiction is very important especially when the security of lives and property is at stake.
Casting aspersions on the recruitment process into security organisations in the country is unfair. Employments in security organisations and military units in Nigeria is thorough and rigorous. It is unimaginable to think that with all the successes recorded so far, there are incompetent and corrupt personnel in Nigeria’s security architecture. Nigerian security personnel are amongst the best trained in the whole world. Whereas mistakes are human, insinuating that these mistakes are deliberate is unpatriotic as many security personnel fight and pay the ultimate price for the greater good of the nation.
The successes recorded in the war against Boko Haram and ISWAP as well as IPOP led by Nnamdi Kanu and the Oduduwa Republican agitators led by Sunday Ighoho should shut up people like Professor Oshodi whose lack of knowledge on domestic challenges is glaring. The American context and operational requirements can’t be the same as those of Nigeria and should not be compared. The DSS is doing excellently well and needs the support and encouragement of Nigerians and not their unfounded criticisms.
Semaka is a public affairs commentator and writes from Abuja