Nigeria has often been described as a country where “anything can happen”, a country where “a dog can kill a lion”. Some of these descriptions have been attributed to the ways in which those in power discharge their duties. Over the years, the country has become a true reflection of the saying, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. No thanks to the aides of the powerful elite. Power is wielded in most places in Nigeria without the slightest thought about caution.
In most spheres within the government, power is misused on a daily basis. For years, Presidential aides have been among those who are believed to abuse power the most. It has also been unanimously agreed that it has almost become a norm. it was power that made army Generals lie prostrate, begging a Major for mercy in the days of General Sani Abacha. Major Hamza Al-Mustapha was not only influential but well respected as the Chief Security Officer to the “C-in-C. ” Even the then number two man said it openly that “Major disallowed me from seeing oga”.
In Nmandi “Andy” Uba’s days as the Special Assistant to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on Special Duties and Domestic Affairs, he wielded so much power that no one dared cross his path, instead everyone courted him. No one came to the Villa to speak with Obasanjo without first seeing Andy.
Many still remember that he was accused of transporting $ 170,000 cash to the United States aboard a presidential jet and not a cent of it was declared to Customs. Street Journal’s findings revealed that even after leaving office, he remained in his official quarters within the Aso Rock vicinity till November 2009. He had been the occupant of 19, Ibrahim Taiwo Street, opposite the NBC from 1999 when he was appointed. The house was converted to a guest house for the Chief Security Officer to the President only after Uba moved out.
One other former aide that came under serious criticism was Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. Though till date, many still see him as an incorruptible Nigerian, there wer criticisms that bordered especially on his time as the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises. Reports stated that the period was characterized by lack of proper internal audit arrangement on projects as well as the inadequacy of transparency in some transactions. Till date, reference is still made to the time he spent as Minister of the Federal Capital. Allocation of land under his administration generated so many hues and cries. In one of the probe sessions in the National Assembly, el-Rufai made it known that Obasanjo approached him for land in a particular area of Abuja to rear chickens “and I obliged him”, he told the committee. Findings also revealed that two of his cronies bought guest houses attached to the then Vice President, Atiku Abubabakar at ridiculously low prices. When he was also asked how land was allocated to a person whose documents revealed was just 2 days old at the time of the allocation, the former Minister put up a defence that he should not be blamed for a civil servant’s failure to do his job properly as it was not his duty as Minister to check the files.
In July, 2003, Femi Fani-Kayode became the first Nigerian to be appointed as the Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs. He no doubt did a “damn good job” of fighting anyone who dared go against his principal officer. That of course got him into the bad books of many, including those who screened him in the Senate chamber when he was nominated for a Ministerial position. Being the first occupant of the position, he has successfully blazed the trail for successors.
The present Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati has made Nigerians believe that indeed, power can change a lot of things. Abati, who was the Chairman of the Editorial Board of The Guardian before his appointment was one of the fiercest critics of the Jonathan administration. Dr Abati however has started seeing things from another angle, and some of the things he once criticized are already being overlooked.
And as the President’s spokesman, his job seems to have put him in situations where he has to say things that would be disproved later by his boss. Suffice to say Abati has lost some of his admirers since he took the job and he is being used as an example of the saying “everybody has a price”.
Oronto Douglas, the Special Adviser on Research and Strategy too found himself in the news recently. Douglas, who carved a niche for himself as a Human Rights cum Environmental Rights lawyer was one of the lawyers who defended the late Ogoni activist, Ken Saro Wiwa. Though many still see him as an activist, a number of comrades however can no longer confidently talk about his stand in the “struggle”.
Talking about power and its usage, it was at his father’s funeral in Bayelsa that a Navy helicopter was used to transport civilians and the chopper eventually crashed killing a serving Governor, a former National Security Adviser, two pilots and two aides of the VIPs.
One of the most active aides of the President in recent times is Reno Omokri, the Special Assistant on New Media. He has made a name for himself as the man who takes on the President’s critics on social media. He has found himself at the receiving end of internet aggression. Though Omokri battles real and perceived enemies of the President, he tries to provide information at times, not without some gaffes however. One of his recent blunders was his misleading tweet in which he commiserated with the people of Taraba State over the “demise” of Governor Danbaba Suntai minutes after he was involved in a plane crash.
Those who knew Dr Maryam Ali, the Special Adviser on Intergovernmental Affairs before her appointment have continually testified to her temper. Many never had a feel of what she could do until they saw her live on television during the PDP Delta North Senatorial primaries. Dr Maryam Ali, wife of a former National Chairman of the party stormed the venue and tried to disrupt the conduct of the shadow election. Senator Ifeanyi Okowa will forever be grateful to members of the constituency who stood their ground.
Yahaya Yusuf, a Director of the Department of Control of the FCT too has been at the receiving end of DR Ali’s rage. After the demolition of the fence of her residence, Dr Ali stormed the office of the Department and as the Director was trying to explain that the exercise was ordered by the Minister, he was given a resounding slap. It seems office has however taken its toll as she has been a little quiet lately. The last time she was in the news was when she volunteered to stand as surety for one Augustine Taylor who was arraigned alongside her son for fuel subsidy fraud.
For Dr Doyin Okupe, the discharge of his duties as Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to the President has won him more enemies than friends. Many wondered if he was hired to take on specific critics of the Government. He seems to be towing the path created by Fani-Kayode for which the big framed Doctor has been tagged the President’s “attack dog”.