Is it Watergate or Ikejagate? -By Lekan Sote

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Is it Watergate or Ikejagate? -By Lekan Sote

 

If you’ve heard the TV advert pitch, “Is it live, or is it Memorex,” you would likely understand the query, “Was it Watergate, or was it Ikejagate?” That’s after you’ve gone though the following tale about a Nigerian political animal that has “web feet, flies a little, and quacks,” and therefore was a sitting duck that the Department of State Service swooped upon in a pre-dawn raid, a few Saturdays ago. The opposition All Progressives Congress, you’ll agree, is gaining national spread, some steam, and very much “in-your-face.”

The APC’s swag earned it a DSS Delenda operation, that some insinuate must have been inspired by the Peoples Democratic Party government of President Goodluck Jonathan: You remember the fatwa-like Delenda by the old Rome to utterly savage and destroy Carthage? The DSS went to the Data Centre of the APC, and destroyed or went away with the party’s database, a cache of computers containing the directory of the party’s membership. The APC contends that its membership drive earlier in the year, was so successful, that it had to establish six data centres nationwide, to maintain directories to save, retrieve, and process data about its members.

The APC alleges that the DSS’ raid of its data centre disrupted and destabilised its plans to maintain a database. The dander of the APC presidential aspirant, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), is up, and he is demanding an investigation to determine who ordered the invasion, especially when you realise that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the number one customer of the DSS.

The DSS “sarata,” Marilyn Ogar, has said her organisation took the action because intelligence reports indicated that the facility was allegedly being used by the APC to clone voter cards. Ah ha! But it does look like someone is simply interested in verifying if the APC indeed ramped up a membership in excess of 16 million as recently claimed by Senator Bukola Saraki.

The Lagos State Chapter of the APC challenged the DSS to produce the voter cards it claimed to have recovered. This is a grave matter of security, and the DSS must urgently respond to that demand. The mouth of the PDP PR machine is also waxing syrupy over this matter. In a cheeky and unnecessary attempt to show that the PDP’s voice of Jacob had nothing to do with the DSS hands of Esau, the party’s publicity secretary asked the Independent National Electoral Commission to prove that it is not in cahoots with the APC in the alleged cloning of voter cards.

The trading of words between the DSS, the APC, and the PDP calls forth the theory that the raid was like that of the Watergate scandal sometime in America of the 1970s: In the night of June 17, 1972, five individuals came with cameras and wiretap equipment into the offices of the National Committee of America’s Democratic Party. This was their second clandestine visit. They bungled it, and were caught. It was established that they had ties with incumbent President Richard Nixon, who was seeking re-election. One of them, James McCord, was an employee of the National Committee of the Republican Party.

The Committee for the Re-Election of President Nixon came up with the explanation that the break-ins were to obtain information to establish that Marxist President Fidel Castro of Cuba was financing the campaigns of the Democratic Party! The burglars were well-known anti-Castro activists, who had been involved one way or the other in the American-government sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion, anchored by some disgruntled Cuban exiles to topple Castro’s iron regime.

Many years later, a former Nixon aide, claimed to recall that the break-in was to retrieve compromising photographs of the wife of John Dean, Nixon’s White House Counsel. Dean’s wife was thought to be a call girl. Another theory is that the break-in was to obtain compromising information about the Democratic Party and its Chairman, Lawrence O’Brien. The Republican Party may have been led to think that the Democratic Party had documents to prove that maverick billionaire Howard Hughes contributed to Nixon campaign funds.

Nixon, who claimed to be ignorant of the authorisation for the beak-in, had been identified in an earlier break-in of the liberal Brookings Institution to steal some files. That’s probably what earned him the sobriquet, “Tricky Dick.” He took steps to cover up the Watergate break-ins by providing “hush money” for the burglers, prevented the FBI from investigating the crime, destroyed some evidence and let some uncooperative members of his White House staff to go.

Washington Post correspondents, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, tipped off by a certain “Deep Throat,” an FBI Deputy Director, broke the story. The unfolding saga led to the Watergate scandal that eventually led to the disgrace and resignation of President Nixon. Some of the President’s men were prosecuted and jailed. Some later died of frustration and depression, and the Republican Party lost the 1976 presidential election that brought Democratic Party’s President Jimmy Carter into the White House.

The Department of State Services, one of the successor agencies of the dreaded National Security Organisation, is the primary domestic intelligence agency of Nigeria, with responsibilities to gather internal intelligence, and protect the President, governors, former Heads of State and Presidents, other senior government officials, and their families. Information from a website says that the DSS should protect and defend Nigeria against domestic threats, and uphold and enforce the criminal laws of Nigeria.

The DSS, under the office of the National Security Adviser, should regularly provide data, analysis, and security briefs to the President. The enabling law, structure, doctrine, and mode of operation make the agency an omnibus security outfit that requires big budget. A rule of thumb suggests that it generally takes about five to seven years to train, and bring an intelligence recruit to full performance, to be able to expertly use sophisticated weapon and equipment, and study relevant procedures, even other languages, and cultures.

It therefore amounts to a sheer waste of resources that could have been expended in containing the Boko Haram insurgents, the renegade Niger Delta militants, and the kidnap gangs that harass Nigerians on a daily basis, for the DSS to send such highly trained personnel to go collect a mere list of members of a political party – a job that a police DPO, and his team, could have done.

The DSS could probably have invoked the Freedom of Information 2011 Act, and the APC Data Centre operatives would have brought the data on their own. But one would like to know if the DSS went to the APC Data Centre with a court-issued search warrant.

After the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, a Senate Committee was set up to confirm if America’s Central Intelligence Agency had a hand in the burglaries. In like manner, the Nigerian Senate should set up a bi-partisan committee, to investigate the why of the raid of APC’s Data Centre by the DSS.

It just happens to be that the DSS operates from the Office of the President, who is a member of a political party. Considering that electioneering for political offices has commenced, a ruling political party should not be able to use state organs against other political parties – as it seems in this case. And if the APC knew its onions, it could make great hay out of this our own version of Watergate I call “Ikejagate”.

 

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