Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums With Maigani

by Musa Ibrahim

Rafin Dadi's NSO

"Oh it is excellent to have a giant's strength

But it is tyrannous to use it like a giant"

- Shakespeare in Measure for Measure
In this thankless, wild-goose-chase game of ours saddled with the responsibility of washing society's dirty linen in public, those on the other side of the fence will never have an idea what a drag it is being in the game. Nobody likes it, not even us. It is for what we do that the ever mindful and alert public take offence at us. They say we meddle in things that do not concern us. They say we are not competent to talk about politics, business, sacred institutions, people and human nature. But because we insist on talking about these things, the public brand us as being cynical, unpatriotic, arrogant and self-righteous. And as if that is not enough, the damn job demands one's presence at odd places, at odd times in order to fish out certain odd events. Like the story I am about to tell you now. I was in an odd place at an oddly right time when this odd event happened. Now consider this.

When all else started failing with the Buhari-Idiagbon regime in Lagos after being in office for six months, they became desperate, and it was this desperation that drove them to start churning unnecessary and unlimitless decrees as solutions to Nigeria's problems. Themselves tutored in no act of law-making other than to "obey before complain", decrees or military laws ranging from the simplistic to the absurd have now become the country's stark fact of life. At the last count, there are over thirty of them. One of such decrees prevents the importation of any electronic gadgets and equipment, motor cars and other such non-essential commodities into the country. And to discourage those who might try to circumvent the law and act contrarily, heavy custom duties or tariffs have been imposed on any of these things coming into the country. Failure to pay the duties by any individual could lead to the immediate confiscation of the goods and a possible jail sentence. Such is the law.

It was Thursday the 20th day of September in the blessed and prophetic year of our Lord 1984 (thanks to George Orwell). Prior to this day, I had got a telephone call from an old chum of mine in Lagos. His sister was in London and would leave for Nigeria on this fateful Thursday September 20 and would I be kind enough to buy a grey safari suit for him and meet the sister with it at Heathrow airport before her departure? Part of the problem of keeping friends for long. Anyway, I ruminated and grudgingly consented to do as my friend had requested. I bought the suit (it was outrageously costly fifty pounds!), took the tube and went searching for my friend's sister at Heathrow. My friend and his sister obviously came off the same block, thus, Maggie was easily identified. Her flight, Nigeria Airways WT 853 was to take-off from Heathrow airport at 9.30pm to Lagos via Kano and Port Harcourt. We exchanged pleasantries and as I turned to go, something immediately caught my attention.

At the First Class check-in counter occupying most of the floor were nearly two dozen cartons of various sizes. In this era of journeys by crates, my journalistic instincts were immediately aroused. As I moved closer to examine the cartons, the following hand-written inscriptions stared at me:


To cut a long story short, I finally discovered (from the manufacturer's labels on each of the cartons) that eight of the large crate-sized cartons contained one "26 inch portable remote- controlled colour television set" each, while eleven of the smaller cartons had one video cassette recorder each. Six of the video recorders were VHS models while five bore Betamax labels.

To calm down my suspicious mind, I confronted one of the men busy putting Nigeria Airways stickers on the cartons for details of ownership, and why the NSO would need all these. He stonewalled and launched into an extraordinary flood of polyglot obscenity. I gave up and went to telephone our correspondent in Nigeria. I told him to be at the arrival hall of the Murtala Muhammed airport Ikeja

OCTOBER 1,19% when Nigeria Airways WT 853 a from London and intimated to with what I had seen. The idea was to see how the cartons would through customs and who would claim ownership. He was there when the plane landed, and hours later, he was telling me even stranger things. Yes, the cartons did arrive but they did not pass through customs or immigration or anybody for that matter. For soon as the plane landed, he told me, four white Peugeot 504 station wagons drove to the tarmac and parked at the tail of the aircraft where all the cartons were loaded into them. Soon after, the cars were whisked at top speed to some unknown destination. Like in the movies, just like that. He has since then been to the NSO headquarter twice to see whether there are any new television sets or video recorders. There are none.

While still on the mystery of cartons addressed to DG NSO, I want you to again consider this. Hardened and die-hard supporters of capitalist America and Communist Russia will tell you that there is nothing at all similar about the two world super powers. And for good reason too. But they might well know that both systems and both countries rely on each of their three- lettered institutions for survival. For America it is the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and for Russia they have the KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnoti, ie. Committee for State Security). Both very sacred and sanctimonious institutions indeed, and both, three lettered. The heads of each of these institutions oversee an intricate network of espionage and information-gathering operations that further the political objectives and fortunes of both countries. Both heads have an intricate network both at home and abroad. One head, Yuri Andropov of the KGB steadily rose to become his country's President or Leader and today, a former CIA director, George Bush, is America's Vice-President, a position that is a heartbeat away from the White House, as the Americans are wont to call it. Ambition and patience and skill go with being the head of any institution such as these two.

Alhaji Mohammed Lawal Rafin Dadi is Nigeria's Director-General of the National Security Organization (NSO) - another three lettered word like the CIA and the KGB. Until he became the head, the NSO as an information gathering machinery was an institution that was sacred, respected and unknown to many ordinary Nigerians. Abroad, their image was very enviable and impeccable. But since Buhari forcefully seized power and made Rafin Dadi the NSO boss, things have not been the same again. Through some subtly ingenious means, Rafin Dadi has successfully turned the NSO machinery into an instrument of revolutionary justice that is now synonymous with terror, coercion, intimidation, fear, and worst of all, that famous crime said to be committed by politicians alone - corruption.

Take, for instance, the period immediately after the coup when people were being bundled to Kirikiri. Rafin Dadi's men were let loose. They went asking relatives of politicians who had been arrested or were in the process of being arrested for "dash" so that their relatives could be cleared of any allegations of misuse of office or public funds that might be brought against them. There was this bizarre incident concerning a former governor and some NSO men. They had gone to the ex-governor's house to check what money he had in his house.

They reported they had found six million naira cash in the house. The governor said they were lying and that he had eight million naira in the house and not six. The three men were instantly arres- ted for stealing. But their heads did not roll. At the international airports, they are now in league with the customs men. They openly ask for bribes so that one's luggages are not checked. Through the mastery of Rafin Dadi, the military leaders have been trying to influence public opinion in their favour. The technique here is by out- right deception. Working closely with the NSO boss is Group Captain Samson Omeruah the Information Minister. Together, they have made many Nigerians drunk with a danger- ous drug called "coup-phobia". Thrice, Omeruah has told Nigerians about mercenary invasion, fugitive destabilization and coup attempt against their regime. In their blind and myopic conception, they have forgotten the fact that it is the likes of Omeruah that stage coups and not civilians.

Today, Rafin Dadi is reported to be the most powerful man in the Buhari- Idiagbon regime (after all, Buhari dem rely on Rafin Dadi for their protection, not so?). As head of the NSO, Rafin Dadi has enormous powers and in just eight months, he has used these powers like a giant thus polluting and desecrating one of Nigeria's most sacred and important institutions. That is tyranny. Now you know why I am dizzy and un- patriotic, UNWAI and mad as hell.

talking drums 1984-10-01 Nigeria at 24 nothing to celebrate - Cameroon why the april coup failed