Wednesday Column by Michael Egbejumi-David
I first saw Ms Ogar on London’s BEN Television a couple of years ago. I can no longer remember what it was she was pushing on BEN then, but I remember that it was a phone-in show. In my view, on that occasion, Ms Ogar did quite well speaking for the Department of State Security (DSS) and for Nigerian security agencies in general. Oh, she veered off into non-answer and banalities once or twice – especially when asked tough or searching questions – and tried to pass those off as responses, but callers to the programme wouldn’t let her. Her feet were held to the fire with robust questioning and counter arguments – you know, the type that Bishop Mathew Kukah absolutely loathes.
But, overall, Ms Ogar acquitted herself very well and I went away thinking here was a lady who knew her job. However, it is a whole different Marilyn Ogar that I see on Nigerian TV stations these days: overbearing, patronising, impatient, condescending, pushy and intolerant – the quintessential overzealous civil servant who ignores the demarcation between the state and a political party. The Marilyn Ogar I see now is full of hubris, has the penchant to sermonise, and talks down to people. She also seems to regard anyone who has a contrary view an enemy of the state.
So it was true to form when MsOgar showed up on Channels TV about a couple of weeks ago bristling about lack of bombing after the APC won a governorship contest in Osun State. Ms Ogar was practically frothing at the mouth. She was at her acerbic best. Her body language was something to behold. She was basically throwing a hissy-fit. Initially, I was confused by her general angst. I thought that as a spokesperson for the DSS and as a Nigerian, the lady would be glad that mad people did not bomb anywhere, but her countenance and her delivery suggested otherwise. She sermonised that every time the APC loses an election, bombs are let off in Nigeria.
Until Ms Ogar made this assertion, I didn’t realise that this was the case. I didn’t even know that there had been that many electoral contests in Nigeria since Boko Haram declared war on Nigerians and began bombing us almost on a weekly basis. As far as I could count it, there have been 5 recent gubernatorial elections. Of the 5, the opposition won 4 (Osun, Anambra, Edo and Ondo) while the PDP won just Ekiti State. So where is this link between APC electoral losses and the ongoing bombings in Nigeria?
Ms Ogar then went on to claim that a political party tried to make her organisation an offer prior to the election to influence its outcome. Incredibly, there the story ended. Can you imagine Nuhu Ribadu in his hypocritical heydays refusing to mention the name of an Obasanjo opponent that tried to bribe him or the EFCC? Trying to unduly influence electoral outcome is an offence under our laws. Is Ms Ogar content to just let this slide? Should serious security matters be politicised like this – especially by a civil servant?
Quite palpable was the distaste on Ms Ogar’s face as she discussed APC’s victory in Osun. Clearly, the fact that there was no bombings post-election was added merely for effect to make a larger point, to wit: how dare these people win this election? I do not know how and why a civil servant employed by the Nigerian state would be so unhappy about a local election outcome – unless Ms Ogar also doubles as a PDP spokesperson too but nobody has informed the rest of us yet. I have plenty of distaste in my mouth from APC’s victory in Osun. This is because Rauf Aregbesola, an apostle of made-in-Nigeria Sharia, won. Apart from forcing religion down the throat of a decent, secular society, Aregbesola has the temerity to look like Shaggy of Scooby-Doo fame. But I am a private citizen with no official role or responsibility in the civil service.
Nigeria’s unsavoury past is littered with governments using security agencies to fight the opposition. Since then it has become fashionable for overly ambitious and ubiquitous civil servants to overreach themselves. This is why Ms Ogar is quite happy to tell Nigerians who should be and who shouldn’t be at electoral events due to their State of origin. A PR person for the DSS is ready to redefine how electioneering should be conducted in Nigeria. You see how some people take themselves too seriously?
A civil servant actually came to the public space and made very weighty accusations against people, some of which bordered on state treason without presenting any proof, facts or evidence, just mouthing a few inelegant innuendoes and wink, wink, knowing full well that there would be no reprisals; that is how low things have sunk around here. In our country, professionalism is eagerly sacrificed on the altar of sycophancy and ugliness. MsOgar even called the opposition ‘bad winners.’ We are talking about a civil servant in a sensitive post here!
Back in July, Ms. Ogar labelled the ‘BringBackOurGirls’ campaigners a franchise (meaning that they belong to a larger organisation). She also claimed they were carrying out smear campaigns against government officials. Again, no proof, no facts, no evidence.
The DSS is supposed to be one of our most discreet intelligence agencies, unfortunately now, it is its own PR person that is hanging a shabby image around the agency’s neck. There is no gain-saying it: for a long time, Ms Ogar has become the news. She has been very unprofessional in the discharge of her duties. She’s courted too many controversies and there have been too many instances of lack of decorum and lack of discretion. What is on show is just plain recklessness, and frankly, I’m embarrassed for her. She misuses information that may or may not be in the possession of the DSS. Furthermore, the line between serving the state and serving a political party has been completely erased in her mind. She needs help, she needs a break.But don’t hold your breath; usually, nobody resigns in Nigeria, and we know that her bosses won’t reassign her. They are probably wishing they had the platform to say half of what she says so the ruling politicians can notice them too.
And you can bet your bottom dollar that if an opposition party comes to power tomorrow, Ms Ogar will turn up on NTA and plot another graph that blames the PDP for all the bombings. She will do this without batting a crooked eyelash.
Michael Egbjumi-David via firstname.lastname@example.org