• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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Return of Aliyu Gusau, the security czar


In his address to the people of the United States of America, following the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, the then President George W. Bush, described the provocation as “war”.

 “On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars…Americans have known the casualties of war, but not at the centre of a great city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks, but never before on thousands of civilians,” Bush said.

 Although Nigeria is not in an outright war situation, the unprovoked killings in parts of North can be described as a “micro war,” or how else can anybody describe the level of carnage going on in different parts of North on a daily basis?

In the last two weeks, Nigeria lost over 300 souls to insurgents in Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna, Benue and other places within the Northern region.

The nation’s security situation

 Since 2009, and particularly from 2010 till date, killings and general insecurity have continued to dominate news headlines in the country. On a daily basis, various groups hiding under different names unleash mayhem on innocent citizens. The Federal Government has applied various means to rein in the national embarrassment to no avail.

 Last May, government imposed an emergency rule on three volatile states in the North East part of the country. The affected states are Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. After six months of partial occupation of the troubled states by the military, government extended the emergency rule by six months. Despite all these attempts, killings have continued in the North in such a horrendous manner that has attracted opprobrium to Nigeria and its leadership.

 In what pundits have regarded as a last ditch move by President Goodluck Jonathan, the Federal Government recently appointed Aliyu Mohammed Gusau as the Defence minister, with a mandate to end the orgy of bloody campaign of the Boko Haram sect, the Fulani herdsmen and others hiding under various names to kill and maim Nigerians.

Why he was recruited

Gusau’s qualities as a politician, a member of the Northern establishment, a man who has held security-related positions in the past and a web of connections across the country must have warranted his consideration for the job.

 It is believed that going by his training and connections, he will do well on his new beat. However, there are fears that in a country where everything is seen through the prism of ethnicity, his hands might be tied by some powerful influence in the North.

 A pundit, who craved anonymity, said, “If Gusau had not been a politician; or let me say, if he were not still nursing any political ambition, and remained only a professional soldier, though in retirement, he would have excelled on his current job, but because he will still go back to the people of North someday to canvass their votes for Presidency, he will definitely not bite with the venom expected of him to check the insurgency. What we are likely to see is a lukewarm attitude to the fight.  This may be a personal opinion, but at the end of the day, I may be vindicated. Do you know why? Buhari remains an idol to many people in the North because they see him as one who protects their interest. So, let nobody think Gusau has come to crush Boko Haram with a sledge hammer”.

 While he was taking the oath of office as the new Defence minister, Gusau had on March 7, 2014 acknowledged that he had a big job in his hands. He said: “The challenges are evidently daunting but surmountable; with the help of almighty Allah and our collective resolve and determination we will get to the destination that will give Nigerians the confidence that the country is indeed a safe place for everyone.”

 According to him, “reading through the handover notes, I carefully looked at the structure of the ministry of Defence, including the detail of its institutions, I have also studied the responsibilities of the various units and manpower dispositions both in the civil and military.”

 “The ministry has recorded remarkable successes in some areas and they can do much better in others, I applaud the achievements of the past and look forward to adding our modest contribution in the months ahead.”

 These renditions appeared reassuring, but Nigerians want action in a critical situation as the one at hand in the country.

He’s been around…and so what?

If you ask Gusau how he feels being appointed the defence minister in the 21st Century Nigeria, his answer may not be different from that of Philip Asiodu when he was brought in to serve in the interim government of Ernest Shonekan put in place by Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.

 Asiodu had told journalists that it was “a routine assignment.” Indeed, Gasau may be travelling on a familiar terrain, judging by his past experiences.

So, to some people, the Nigeria project is just a routine assignment. They have been there, and they have been doing same thing over the years. They know and understand the system very well, but Nigeria remains ever stunted in its growth.

 A pundit urged Gusau to approach his new job with every amount of seriousness he can muster, and must look beyond his past successes.

“One of the major problems in Nigeria is the ‘superman attitude’ people bring on their new job. The new minister must see his new job as a fresh challenge; at least, until his appointment this month he had not held the post before. He may have been many things in the past, but definitely not a minister of defence. The habit of many Nigerians is ‘Oh, I have done it before’ and as a result they forget to look at the new challenge being presented and how to rejig their operations for effective result,” the pundit said.

 Whether Gusau has done his job creditably as he was supposed to is a different thing altogether. In the Obasanjo regime as the National Security Adviser (NSA), one of his special assignments was to recover public funds stolen from the nation’s treasury by past governments. One of the special assignments he handled in the Obasanjo administration was to go after the public funds looted by past governments from treasury. But it is still doubtful if he carried out that assignment with the sincerity it deserved. This is because it remains a secret if the fund recovery assignment included or extended to the ones allegedly looted by the Babangida administration (1983-1993). But he pursued the Abacha’s to no end.

 A commentator noted that one of the problems that occupied Gusau in those days came from the same complications that follow anyone who ever dined with the devil. So, rather than dine with long spoon, he did with a short spoon. However, a defence has been made that his term of reference for the loot recovery did not stretch to other regimes, but only Abacha’s.

How he can succeed

The only way Gusau can succeed in his new appointment is to develop a thick skin and determine to be courageous enough to show no respect to any untouchable. Everyday, Nigerians are inundated with atrocious stories of the Boko Haram insurgency and allegations that they are politically-motivated and sponsored by mischievous merchant politicians even in Jonathan government; the defence minister, in fighting the enemies of the people, must wear the toga of ruthlessness that was won by Abacha (against real and imaginary foes).

In his brutal nature, the late sunglass-wearing, Kano-born infantry general showed no respect for the untouchables. He dethroned Ibrahim Dasuki as Emir of Sokoto. Nothing happened.  He put Obasanjo in jail- a dream, some pundits alleged, Babangida secretly nursed. He also put Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua in jail, a move that even shocked Yar’ Adua himself. And he succeeded in replacing the old untouchables with his cronies whom he later “devoured”, as he deemed fit.

For Gusau to make any meaningful mark in his latest post, his first goal must be to battle with the untouchables. The belief is that the Boko Haram insurgency may have proven to be a hard nut to crack as a result of inability of some elements to do the needful. These elements are those who criticise the sect in the open, but dine with them at night fall. He must also unravel the mystery behind the serial killing of innocent persons in Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa and other states by some faceless persons masquerading as Fulani herdsmen.

 At a time when the carnage is accelerating, and government appears to have failed or is failing in counter-terrorism strategy, Gusau must restore the confidence of the citizens to government’s ability to protect their lives.

 To succeed in this onerous task, he must be given a free hand to operate; reorganise the security architecture, including the military, and if possible, regardless of what the law says about the independence of the military service chiefs, should work in harmony with them. He also needs adequate funding from the Federal Government to explore other avenues of putting the enemies of the people to rout. Government must guard against a repeat of the ugly incident of last week that gave rise to the rumour about the disagreement between the Defence ministry and the military top brass. There must be collaboration by all the necessary organs of government to ensure the war is won.

What if he fails in his new job?

It is worrisome that the Presidency’s mantra is that the present administration did not create the Boko Haram. This may have accounted for the alleged half-measures being employed in the fight against the monster. Pundits are of the opinion that constant repetition of “I was not the cause” story by government might infuse in Gusau the same defeatist attitude, thereby weakening his fighting spirit. Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary, All Progressive Congress (APC), said the Federal Government needs a counter-terrorism policy to combat the insurgents. According to him, “What they are doing all along is uncoordinated, chaotic and ad-hoc; you must have a well-defined policy on how to go about it.”

 A legal practitioner who asked not to be named alleged that the fight against Boko Haram had been feeble, and doubted if Gusau would be able to win the war.

“Something tells me that what government has done by employing Gusau is just to divide the North. The North as we all know, no longer speak with one voice. There are those, because of what they gain from the present government, would not want a change of government; so, they are solidly behind Jonathan. Even the traditional institution in the North has bought into Jonathan’s second term ambition. What they are looking at is 2019; not 2015. So, whether Boko Haram is killing 1,000 people daily, it will not affect Jonathan’s re-election chances”, the legal practitioner said.

 According to him, “If you look at the recent development in the PDP where five governors decamped to APC, the two governors who were at the forefront of the agitation for which they staged a work out at the party’s special convention in August last year, are they not still in PDP? Did they join others to APC, am talking about Aliyu Babangida of Niger State, and Sule Lamido of Jigawa. This is politics, personal interest first.”

Returned for a hatchet man’s job?

It is being said in some quarters that the primary reason for Gusau’s return is President Jonathan’s last ditch effort to placate Babangida and Obasanjo, all friends and allies of Gusau. With Gusau in place, he hopes to also assure the North that their interest will be taken care of while he runs out the clock for another four years when power will definitely return to the North.

Zebulon Agomuo