By NBF News

Second coming of Gusau: Whose interest?
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
In a decisive move on Monday, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan further cemented his hold on power with the appointment of Lt. General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (retired) as the National Security Adviser (NSA). He replaced Major General Sarki Mukhtar (retired) who ironically took over from Gusau as the NSA in 2006, thereby making it a second coming for him. Zamfara State-born Gusau had served in the same capacity for seven years (1999-2006) during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Appointed by Obasanjo in the twilight days of his administration, Mukhtar grew in power and influence under the succeeding government of President Umaru Yar'Adua and was widely touted as a member of the cabal that virtually ran the show, particularly during the long months of indisposition of the president. But he later fell out with other members of the kitchen cabinet following his alleged scheming to be vice president under Jonathan. At a stage, he was said to have cultivated the habit of writing several security reports against some members of the cabal in a last ditch bid to enter Jonathan's good books.

His ambition, along the line, put him on collision course with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, who was equally speculated to be eyeing the same number two slot. But the latest northern permutation on Jonathan's acting presidency cancelled the clashing ambitions of the two top appointees.

Unlike Mukhtar, Gusau's eyes might be set on some far wider interests beyond unraveling the myth around sick Yar'Adua and security espionage. Investigations by Daily Sun show that it is virtually impossible to pigeon-hole the spy-master, Gusau, to a particular interest or direction. He is rated as a versatile and brave operator that can stabilize any government and at the same time unhinge and hold it on the jugulars if he so desires.

Gusau, who was said to have played a pivotal role in the re-launch of Obasanjo from prison to the presidency in 1998/1999 was thought to be an intimate ally of talismanic former President Ibrahim Babangida. In fact, he was alleged to be Babangida's Man Friday through whom he perfected many political and intelligence moves – including helping him in 1998 to sell Obasanjo's second coming to the retreating military regime led by General Abdulsalami Abubakar. It was widely believed that Gusau was one man who could do Babangida's bid any day. It was claimed that Babangida helped Obasanjo back to power based in 1999, on the understanding that he would in return hand over to him at the end of his tenure and Gusau was one man said to be privy to the entire deal. But if that agreement ever existed, then it was broken by Obasanjo who instead strove to elongate his own tenure via a failed third term bid and when that did not work out, hoisted Yar'Adua on the country.

Not a few Aso rock watchers suspected that Obasanjo removed Gusau at the time he did in 2006 because of one of two things or a combination of both. First and more overt, was the need to allow him full freedom to ventilate his political ambition to be president of the country. Second was the reasoning by another group of observers that Obasanjo encouraged him to join the presidential fray as a way of easing him out of the Abuja power circle after he had decided to shut the return door to Aso Rock against Babangida, the presumed godfather of Gusau. Gusau being genuinely desirous of ascending to the presidency, fell for the bait and made a futile bid for the presidency on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He, alongside others were forced by Obasanjo to step down for new entrant, Yar'Adua.

From the above summation, it may be incorrect to describe Gusau as an Obasanjo man or agent. Ditto for Babangida. As President, Obasanjo treated Gusau as a friend you need to have on your side and as an enemy you need to cross. Based on Obasanjo's understanding of the reappointed NSO, anybody in power dealing with him would have to do so with a long spoon due to his nimbleness and psycho-intelligence. Perhaps, this explains why any time Obasanjo was travelling abroad during his presidency, he pulled Gusau along in order to be sure that all was well.

Why then did Acting President Jonathan decide to bring on board a known sphinx like Gusau? The reasons are not far-fetched. The immediate need is to help him stabilize and anchor the cascading ship of state. Late last month, troops were deployed at the Abuja international airport in the dead of the night without the faintest knowledge of the Acting President while only last Sunday, Fulani pastoral marauders and snipers defied military battalions and a dusk-to-dawn curfew regime to unleash mayhem in the outskirts of Jos, the Plateau State. When the haze cleared over 500 persons lay dead. So, Jonathan needed whoever is deemed capable to help arrest the slide into lawlessness and bestiality. In the circumstance therefore, issues like ambition and idiosyncrasies of the man coming on board became secondary considerations while security and peace assumed the front burner.

The truth of the matter is that, for a while, especially in the beginning, Gusau is going to work for Jonathan and help him to checkmate his adversaries and find some bearing. Thereafter, it would not be out of place that he might begin to assert and promote his personal and group's interests. In taking the job, he pledged to help the acting president steady the polity. But he would be doing so in a scenario in which his immediate boss, the Acting President is daily being stalked by the shadow of an excused ailing President who is from Gusau's own zone of the country. That way, Gusau may soon be tempted to position himself as the alter ego of his indisposed kinsman's camp. In other words, in a situation in which Jonathan's acting role becomes indefinite, as the mainstream northern interest bloc wants it, Gusau may end up as the real power behind the throne.

Gusau could be able to do that because he is highly regarded as a man of experience and influence not only in military intelligence matters but also in political, security and diplomatic issues. Thus, he would not only serve as the needed buffer between the acting president and the contending interests, but also possibly push through the northern political agenda in 2011, especially as it concerns the presidency remaining in the region till 2015.