Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

The visitors on mission impossible

Between the lines

(Only for those who can see)

Normally, people of their age and experience will not merit any search-light on a visit to London. After all, many Nigerians come to London and go back to Nigeria as frequently as a person in Ikeja goes to office in the Secretariat in Ikoyi - daily trips perfectly normal, no one questions. But the presence of Malam Wada Maida and Capt Jakolo in London at the same time should not escape attention. This cannot be a commonplace occurrence because of their official proximity to Nigeria's Military Junta Chief, Major General Buhari.

First, Malam or Alhaji Wada Maida is the Chief Press Secretary to Buhari and Jakolo is his ADC. Now, these are people who work for Gen Buhari on a daily basis. Their offices are in fact inside Dodan Barracks itself and apart from his bedroom there is almost no place that Gen Buhari would go without his ADC. You can spell it out if you want and read it as Aide de Camp or you can abbreviate it, as we have, as ADC. Magnify it, dignify it, give it whatever sugar coating you may, it has one meaning to most people, especially the civilian population of Nigeria -The Head Servant, Le Garçon. His generally understood role is to be by his master's side at all times, to take care of his every need and of such matters private, personal or public as the master may direct. Yet ... Jakolo is from the Royal Family of Gwandu. Buhari is just from Daura?

The Chief Press Secretary - Alhaji Wada Maida - was specially selected. He, to be fair to him, was a journalist of some modest stature before December 31, 1983, for he was the London representative of the News Agency of Nigeria before being whisk- ed to Dodan Barracks to be the Chief Press Secretary. He is NOT a Military man, which is a little odd in these days when the Military in Nigeria no longer accept being part of the people and must have everything distinct from the civilians; for example they must have their own hospitals, shops, banks, their own schools and even University, maybe to award WAI degrees not medals. Like the Director-General of the dreaded NSO (note what is happen- ing to their counterparts in Sudan and Uganda) Alhaji Lawal Rafindadi, Buhari's Press Chief comes from Katsina. Not quite Daura but close enough, a mere fifty miles! So the man is from the right geographical area and can be trusted.

There have been serious complaints from Military quarters that the Director-General of NSO should be a military man, not a civilian, in a military regime, but so far no such complaints have been heard about the position of the Chief Press Secretary. This is not to say it might not come. Maybe the position is not seen as so im- portant in the light of power equation. Unlike the DG of NSO, the Chief Press Secretary has no power of arrest of open harassment. We may suppose that the power of the Chief Press Secretary is indirect; he has the ears of the powers that be and might be able to influence the arrest of an enemy or the release of a friend. His main role then lies in preparing and sending hand-outs to the Decree Number 4 controlled Press. The latter have no alternative but to publish what is handed to them unedited. To cut, to amend or alter in any way is of course an act of in- discipline and WAI will be invoked. The offending paper may be closed as Buhari has threatened often.

Alhaji Maida's one and famous statement to have reached the international press was made at the time of the Dikko kidnap when he offered that the gentleman organised his own kidnap… those who knew the soft-spoken NAN representative wondered what had got into him!

Anyway, the ADC and the Chief Press Secretary to the Head of Nigeria's Military junta are both in London. Who is accompanying whom is not important. What is important is their mission. What can it be, and if one may ask, who is behind it? They may have told their close friends the truth, or part of the truth or a completely different story. On the other hand, they may not have even discussed it with anybody. But there is a hypothesis: The trip to London can either be official or private.

One may add a third, though superfluous, possibility, that the trip could be official cum private. Let us examine the situation in which the trip is official: The Press Secretary will then have come to see the Press in London to beg for some favour or another; For example arranging some programme to be shown on TV or re- questing some journalists to take it easy on reporting matters on Nigeria. Alternatively he may have come with a bundle of the revised version of some opinions to seek publication abroad. Then could it be that the ADC has followed him to ensure that those who are to be seen, are seen correctly? Or is the ADC to give emphasis to the discussion or merely to observe and submit a report on return? The other possibility is that each is on a different assignment which must be carried out in London at the same time.

Now what would such assignments be? Do they have knowledge of each other's assignment? So they have been sent either on a single assignment or on different assignments. But then we must remember that the nature of their official duties is not the same! But there can be no doubt that they both must have come with the knowledge and approval of their boss. Can you see anything here between the lines?

Let us now examine, again briefly, the case where the trip is private. Then they could be in London on holiday (leave) or on medical grounds - "check up" as elites call it these days. On the other hand, they may have come to check up. Please note that the two check-ups do not mean the same thing. Alternatively they may have come for shopping or for some social occasion, such as a society wedding.. Incidentally, we learn that Abidina Coomasi has recently married and in addition to the ceremony in Kano, he invited friends to London to complete the show. So if they have come on a private affair, has it any relation to or the approval of their boss? In any case their visit is well timed and they are welcome. If we say more grease to their elbows, it is because we think that some Nigerian students and exiles may be "sprayed".

One thing is sure; on the day they are leaving, many Nigerians will want to be at the airport to check how many suit- cases they will be carrying back home. It is no use sending them as advanced luggage because the customs at the other end will also be waiting even if only to establish whether ordinary Nigerians are told to go by WAI and extra-ordinary Nigerians can go over WAI. Anyway WAI has many different meanings. In some quarters it is known as Wrong Army Image. Students in Nigeria call it War Against Idiagbon.

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