by Sam Omatseye
Those who hate history and have discouraged our schools from making it a compulsory course of study in our secondary schools should follow the interplay between Sambo Dasuki and Buhari’s men.
For many, it has gone beyond whether the DSS had warrants, or whether the former NSA had 12 vehicles and five armoured cars, or whether Dasuki had a right to wrap soldiers around his home, or whether his driver spirited away five million dollars, or whether he was guilty of treasonable felony, or whether he clucked peevishly at Chatham under Jonathan.
For many it is a story not of 2015, but of 1985. According to the story, Sambo Dasuki, then a dashing and ambitious army officer, led a group of soldiers to pick up then military leader Muhammadu Buhari. It was IBB’s coup. Sambo was IBB’s boy. The mission was to stop Buhari from firing IBB and a few other soldiers whose conducts were out of sync with the perceived moral gravity of the Buhari junta.
Buhari, then as now, was a fatalist, and knew of the plot but reportedly did nothing about it. When Dasuki burst into Buhari’s presence and told him his reign was over, the tall, gaunt and defiant leader still demanded Dasuki and his men to give him the military salute as he was still their superior officer. They obliged before arresting their quarry.
Buhari spent a long time in captivity. When he walked into a free air, he waltzed back into politics. He dueled IBB over June 12. Later, his body language and speech cadences reflected an unfinished match with the man who truncated him, and he ran for president several times. Some said he had to triumph over IBB, and the marker of that triumph was to take back what IBB took from him. His honour lay in returning to the throne.
In the course of this epic duel, Dasuki materialised, sword in hand. He broke the first lance in Chatham House, and according to newspaper reports, he subsequently urged all means necessary to stop Buhari and his whirlwind of electoral change.
Dasuki’s failure is common knowledge.
So when DSS attacked, the temptation was to reconstruct the standoff as comeuppance. Buhari sought his pound of flesh, it is alleged. Whatever the truth of this matter lies in the speculative realm. And all we urge is the adherence to the rule of law. Dasuki is not above the law, and if he has questions to answer, his historic war with Buhari should take a backseat to the preeminence of the law of the land.
What fascinates me further though is the irony of the Dasuki family. They are royalty, and the first hint was when his father mounted the throne as sultan. Some in the royal porch thought he had no right to the preeminent seat of the caliphate. In not many words, they called him an impostor. But he soldiered on as the first feather of the royal cock. Questions about his legitimacy haunted him, until the Khalifa, the goggled tyrant, swept him aside. Earlier in his career, Sambo had left his precious perch as a senior officer and ADC to IBB as well documented in Debo Bashorun’s book, Honour For Sale. Things did not seem to work. It was a duel between two eminently undemocratic forces seeking the public to adjudicate on who was legitimate. It is as though it was anticipated in Soyinka’s dark and cynical play, Kongi’s Harvest, where the king and the dictator provide the Hobson’s choice.
Neither Abacha who ousted him nor the Dasuki family had any legitimacy on the streets, just as Kongi and the oba, and the result was a yam harvest that nourished no one in society.
It took several years and Boko Haram for a revival of the Dasuki name. GEJ appointed him NSA, and the justification lay in his royal roots. He, a prince, was asked to work the paupers, Boko Haram, to a berth of peace in the Northeast. This column warned that Boko Haram had contempt for princes, and a Dasuki provided an antithesis of the militant’s dreams. It was GEJ’s capital misreading of the conflict of philosophy and social hierarchy of the northern cauldron and conundrum.
His stewardship stumbled and fell, and Boko Haram became another manifestation of the royal family’s failure. Just like Mark Twain’s famous novel, the prince could not abide the pauper and vice versa. It was partly because of the prince’s failure that voters swept GEJ out of power and Dasuki floated along in the epic gale.
The DSS standoff is the latest of the Dasuki epic, and something tells me we have not heard the last of it. It is stories like that of Dasuki that provide resources for imaginative novelists to tell tomes of stories of big families, slaughtered ambitions, hubris, intrigues, capitalist acquisitiveness and how such theatrics reflect and prey on the rest of the society over generations. Such books include Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, John Updike’s Rabbit trilogy, Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks etc.
Since the Dasuki family tasted the throne, it has lost its innocence. It is like Anton Chekhov’s famous short story called The kiss, when a man lost all concentration for a long time after an unknown lady kissed him in a dark room. He could not replicate the experience and spent the rest of life in despair of that magical moment.