Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums With Maigani

by Musa Ibrahim

Nso Frolics

It is quite possible that many Nigerians will be very relieved to find out that the dreaded Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO) is turning its attention more towards outside the country than to chasing hapless and innocent citizens.

London in particular appears to be full of NSO people at the moment. Wherever you turn you bump into them. A friend of mine met 20 of them the other day. All young men, all with strange stories.

There are those among them who claim to have been sent with briefcases full of cheques drawn on foreign banks by people currently being held in Kirikiri and other prisons around the country. The story is that the politicians are being asked, or made?, to sign their foreign account cheques which are then entrusted to the young NSO operatives who then come to Europe to try and encash them.

It is not clear whether the signing of such cheques are the key to getting on to the release list nor is there any indication at all about where the monies, once cashed, are to be put. Would it be put back into the briefcases and sent back to Nigeria or paid into various other accounts in Europe?

But maybe I am being over enthusiastic. I am told by one of them that the banks here have not been very helpful. For example, they are refusing to cash such cheques under the pretext that the signatures are wrong or that they need to see the account holder in person. And some other banks are claiming that the accounts do not have enough money to enable them to honour the cheques. One cheque for £50,000 for example, was said to have been drawn on an account that had £17.50, according to the bank! All very frustrating for the NSO boys, but as they say, that is their palaver! But what about all the other NSO operatives, surely they all cannot be cashing cheques.

Here is Nigeria claiming to be so broke, ordinary citizens who want to travel are only allowed to take N100 in foreign exchange, hardly enough to sustain a person outside for more than two days. Yet foreign exchange is found for all these NSO boys to travel, live in luxurious hotels and generally have a nice time. What part of Nigeria's security are they seeing to in foreign parts?

Or could it be that another crate incident is in the planning and they are here to see to the support services to prevent the fiasco of July? In that case there must be quite a number being planned, for the NSO contingents are not only in London, my spies tell me they are in Paris, New York, Washington D.C., Bonn - wherever the bright lights are.

No wonder so many young people are said to be inundating the NSO headquarters with application letters. If you want to travel today in Nigeria, your best chance is to have an NSO identity card. They have foreign exchange to spend and the rest of the citizens are obeying the dictates of WAI and staying at home.

Of MIG-fighters and food scarcities

Again on the subject of scarce foreign exchange (these days the nairas are equally scarce). If our leaders are to be believed that the country is so broke, where did they find the money from to take delivery of all those new MIG- fighters? It is difficult for me to understand how come money is always found to meet the needs of the Armed Forces and the civilian population always has to be content with "there is no money"

They have found money to change the uniforms for all members of the Forces when water projects and road works in the rural areas are being abandoned for lack of money. There is money to buy MIG-fighters when there is no money to fund education for the future generations of Nigeria. Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon had defended the uniform change decision by stating that the decision had already been taken by the civilian administration before the advent of the military into government on December 31, 1983. Even if that were true, and one were to discount the power that the military had wielded on the civilian administration and by blackmail: "Look, Mr President, we have to get this, the boys are restless in the camps, the new uniforms will calm them down." Even if all that were true, one had thought that it was precisely because of such stupid and scandalous decisions by the civilians that the military felt compelled to intervene. It is not as though the uniforms were in the sewing machines at the time of the coup and the soldiers had no choice but to continue. The Supreme Military Council has not hesitated to overturn any decisions taken by the elected representatives of the people which are in the interest of the people, and yet when it suits them, they want to blame the decisions that suit their personal aspirations on the civilians.

Thus they can afford to buy MIG fighters when they say the nation cannot support free education of primary health care. Maybe the soldiers are aware of an impending war in which Nigeria will be involved. If that is so, why don't they tell the rest of us? If, as we all suspect, the new MIG fighters are only the latest addition the toy arsenals to keep grown up amused, then Maj-Gen. Buhari should know that he will answer for it some day.

talking drums 1984-11-12 tribalism versus nationalism - Nigerian press - PNDC economic plan