(L-R)Chief of Naval Staff, Ishaya Ibrahim, Chief of Army Staff, Abdulrahaman Danbazau, Chief of Defence Staff, Paul Dike, former National Security Adviser, Sarki Mukhtar and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, at the security meeting in Abuja yesterday.
A three and a half-hour top level security meeting presided over by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa; Abuja Monday ended the career of Maj-Gen. Sarkin Mukhtar as the National Security Adviser to the President. He was immediately replaced with his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Aliyu Gusau.
With the sack of Mukhtar, Nigeria’s Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is asserting his authority after the return of ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua as three major power contenders, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Generals Theophilus Danjuma, and Ibrahim Babangida seeks to stamp their influence on the fledgling Goodluck’s Acting presidency.
At issue is who will be the country’s president from 2011.
Gusau served as the national security adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo until 2006 when he left to contest the 2007 presidential election.
Yesterday’s meeting was attended by all security and service chiefs and heads of intelligence units, including Mukhtar himself.
At the meeting were the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, the Service Chiefs, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazzau (Army); Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinri (Air force); Vice Admiral Ishaya Iko Ibrahim (Navy); and the Director-General of the State Security Services (SSS), Mr. Afakriya Gadzama; the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo; and the Chief of Defence Intelligence.
Others in attendance are the Minister of Defence, Gen. Godwin Abbe, The Minister of Interior, Alhaji Mustapha Shettima, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Ahamed Yayale and the Minister of Police Affairs, Senator Ibrahim Lame, among others.
While the official version for the sack is the need to address a number of security lapses across the country in the last two and a half years that Mukhtar served as national security adviser, resulting in loss of lives and bloodshed, the most recent being the last two Jos crises and the Boko Haram episode, Observers did not fail to note the delicate balancing act Jonathan is trying to achieve among the congregating forces battling for the soul of the nation.
The reappointment of General Gusau as the NSA yesterday by the Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan, was aimed at two objectives: to stabilise the Jonathan administration while the acting president ruminates on whether to brave the devil and seek to become the country’s president in 2011.
Jonathan replaced Sarki Mukhtar, a powerful figure who was among the inner circle of Yar’Adua aides, with Aliyu Gusau, a retired northern general seen as a potential presidential candidate in elections due by April next year.
Gusau, who served as national security adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, was the main contender alongside Yar’Adua to be the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in 2007 elections, coming second in the primaries. He remains a powerful kingmaker in the PDP.
Gusau has also been tipped as a candidate in the 2011 elections.
“This is the first step towards reorganising the security apparatus and could suggest as possible vice presidential role for Gusau,” said a political analyst who asked not to be named.
“Expect further changes in the security apparatus in the coming weeks and then Jonathan can assert himself further in the political space with renewed confidence,” the analyst added.
Jonathan is trying to quickly stamp his authority on the presidency, last week chairing his first cabinet meeting since Yar’Adua’s return and appointing three new heavyweight committees to help advise him.
The main committee is chaired by Theophilus Danjuma, a respected former general whose closeness to the intelligence community, analysts say, means he is in a strong position to protect Jonathan against anyone seeking to undermine him.
With the appointment of Gusau as the new NSA, this makes him the de facto vice-president, though he has to contend with Danjuma, who has been appointed the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) – An inside presidential source revealed to Elombah.com that this PAC will henceforth be the de facto Federal Executive Council in all but name (a sort of clearing house for all government policies).
The source said despite the fact that the Peoples Democratic Party, the Governors Forum and other powerful interests from Northern Nigeria has warned Jonathan Goodluck to count himself out of the 2011 Presidential Election, the acting president has not really counted himself out.
In this, he has the support of former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
A source said with president Umaru Yar’adua incapacitated, Obasanjo sees an opening to reassert himself and control events. Sources say the former President is recalling his old clique preserve his legacy.
“The former President believes that he made a mistake of picking Yar’Adua for President ‘ and is intent in correcting the mistake”, he said.
He added; “Obasanjo no longer supports the rotational agreement in PDP’s constitution and wants to take over the Party and let Jonathan continue beyond 2011”
However, how Obasanjo intends to sidetrack Gusau, Babangida and his old foe, Danjuma intrigues observers.
Gusau, a well respected intelligence chief, was appointed NSA in 1999 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and left in 2006 to contest the 2007 Presidential election. Till date, he has never hidden his desire to rule the country.
He was the Director of Army Intelligence during the Second Republic and was later appointed Director of Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) by General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd).
Gusau was credited with the reorganisation and modernisation of the country’s intelligence apparatus in 1985. He later became the Chief of Army Staff in September, 1993 and left three months later.
Many believe that with Gusau’s reappointment as the NSA, Gusau is well positioned to become the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2011 election.
He joined the Presidential race under the platform of PDP but was frustrated by Obasanjo who hand-picked the Umaru Yar’Adua as PDP candidate who eventually became president of the country in 2007.
If ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua, who is still incommunicado, is declared incapacitated and impeached by the National Assembly, Gusau will further consolidate his position as de facto vice-president.
On the other hand, former president Ibrahim Babangida is presently marshalling his forces to succeed Yar’adua as the next president. But so far, nothing in the changes effected or contemplated by Jonathan shows IBB is in control of events.
On the other hand, sources say Obasanjo’s hand is evident in the firing of Mukhtar and hiring and bringing back Gusau .
Moreover, available information say Obasanjo’s former cronies, El Ruffai and Nuhu Ribadu and other reformers with the ex-president are in touch with Jonathan Goodluck.
Last week we published the contents of an email that shows the strategy of this group that continue to form the national and even international agenda of the acting Presidents’ administration as pressure continues to pile on Yar’Adua to either relinquish power or be forced to do so.
Sources insists the Acting Vice President himself is acting on a script composed by this group in Ottah farm and perfected in Abuja.
Yar’Adua’s secretive return raised fears that a “kitchen cabinet” of aides, including his wife and Mukhtar, were seeking to undermine Jonathan’s authority as acting head of state in a bid to retain their influence at the heart of government. He has still not met with Yar’Adua, whom presidency sources say remains in a mobile intensive care unit.
With these former military strongmen, Gusau, Danjuma and Obasanjo behind him, Jonathan intends to see off the challenge of the Yar’adua clique led by the first lady, Turai and the powerful former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida (IBB).
But will the personal of these former military strongmen devour him?
The struggle for the soul of Nigeria continues…