His Eyes On The Presidency


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His Eyes On The Presidency




Ademola Adegbamigbe



culled fron THE NEWS, May 30, 2006


It was Ramadan in 2005, the month-long period when Muslims give up food, drink, smoking and sexual activity during the hours of daylight in the observance of Sawn (fasting), the fourth pillar of Islam. The acrimony between President Olusegun Obasanjo and his ambitious deputy, Atiku Abubakar, had reached a height in this period, with the President having earlier denounced Abubakar as a liar over the matter of Obasanjo’s vow to respect his constitutionally scheduled exit in 2007. All sorts of political and personal manoeuvres were going on in Aso Rock Villa among the leading players.

Perhaps in want of more allies or sympathy among the key players, the Vice-President decided to break his fast in the official residence of the National Security Adviser (NSA), General Aliyu Muhammed Gusau, perhaps Nigeria’s longest surviving spy-master, a man who, as sources close to him confessed, operates like a military submarine. There was no love lost between the two men of power, but the one knew as much as the other that they couldn’t ignore each other. But, more important is the fact that the month of Ramadan, being a time for spiritual reflection, prayer and doing good deeds, teaches Muslims self-discipline, self-restraint and generosity.

The Qur’an commands: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint...Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So, every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting...” (Chapter 2, verses 183 and 185). Therefore, it was not surprising that Abubakar and Gusau were sharing the iftar (meal after sunset).

As the two men enjoyed their meal, President Obasanjo was also hosting Muslims and others to iftar in his presidential quarters. This was part of Obasanjo’s promise of goodwill to men of all faith. Some of Atiku Abubakar’s aides, particularly Prince Olusola Akanmode, his Deputy Chief of Staff, attended Obasanjo’s feast. In the jolly mood that pervaded the sharing of meal, Akanmode stood up to speak. He thanked the President profusely for hosting them and for his “exemplary leadership”. He noted that the last few weeks had been quite testy in terms of the relationship between the retired general and his deputy. He asked that in the spirit of the Ramadan, particularly the challenge of forgiveness and charity that the month required, the President should forgive his deputy and reconcile the divided Villa.

The Ota farmer broke into Akanmode’s ‘homily’, and asked him to shut up. What manner of “stupid reconciliation and forgiveness” was he preaching when, as he spoke, his boss, Atiku Abubakar, was in Aliyu Gusau’s house, with both men planning to destabilise his (Obasanjo’s) government and displace him from power? Every person present was shocked. Akanmode was nonplussed. First, that statement revealed that Obasanjo monitored the veepee’s every movement, because even Akanmode was unaware that his boss was with Gusau. This, for goodness sake, Akanmode must have thought, was a month in which all obscene and irreligious sights and sounds were to be avoided, while purity of thought and action should be paramount. But, as usual, Obasanjo would not stop. He went on and on, accusing Akanmode of complicity in the whole conspiracy against him. At a point, Akanmode, who was initially on his feet, sank into his seat. When the insults became too intense, Atiku’s DCOS burst into tears. Here was a man who had given the greatest benefit of doubt to Obasanjo on the
sit-tight plan, so much so that his loyalty was doubted among the VP’s crowd.

Some had thought he was Obasanjo’s secret informant. Perhaps, indeed, Obasanjo wanted that, but Akanmode never obliged. And what was worse was that the man had, unknown to him, chosen the most inauspicious time to broach the issue of the bitter relationship between Obasanjo and Abubakar, at a point when the VP was assumedly meeting the dreaded Gusau to map out strategies to end Obasanjo’s conceited presidency. The act of fasting was supposed to redirect the hearts men and women away from worldly activities, towards the Divine. On the contrary, the three men – Obasanjo, Abubakar and Gusau - were focussing their minds on the most dangerous, but most tantalising, of all worldly possessions: Power.

Atiku Abubakar was enough worry for the President. But, that Gusau was being added to the list must have scared Obasanjo. Why was the President so livid about the meeting between his deputy and his security chief? Informed sources within the Villa told TheNEWS that, given Obasanjo’s fear of Gusau’s “endless mischief” and the man’s “capacity to wreak maximum havoc on anyone that he targets,” it was understandable that Obasanjo would fret at the possibility of the two teaming up against him. Atiku was easier to handle alone; but, with Gusau in the equation, the President would be dealing with a most accomplished man in the deadly game of power in Nigeria, and one who has an enviable network both within and outside of the military.

General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (retd.) has been everything that any accomplished soldier in Nigeria’s largely odious history can be, except head of state. He was the head of the Nigerian intelligence network under General Ibrahim Babangida. He was the General Officer Commanding the Second Mechanized Division of the Nigerian Army and therefore a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council. And he was the Army Chief under General Sani Abacha. More important, top students of Nigeria military history told the magazine, is the fact that Gusau had always wanted to be the head of state too, in the “Turn-By-Turn Nigeria Limited” that was the military incursion into politics in Nigeria. But at every turn, fate had cheated him.

The last time was when he and General Oladipo Diya and others were thinking of how to end the political crisis following the annulled June 12 election and terminate the life of the Interim National Government (ING). Then it was said that Diya preferred to work with Abacha than Gusau, because he feared that given that the latter was an intelligence chief and one of Babangida’s “old boys”, it would be very difficult for him (Diya) to work with, or “handle”, Gusau. Gusau was later retired by Abacha who was also aware of his ambition to become the commander-in-chief. Diya was to rue his decision. Gusau was said to have enjoyed Diya’s eventual terrifying experience with Abacha, given how the Odogbolu General denied him of an “Allah-ordained destiny” to rule Nigeria.

Despite the setback and his retirement from the Army, Gusau, sources said, oiled his awesome machine across the country, particularly in the north, that spans the military elite, the traditional elite, the political class, the business elite, the media, the intelligentsia and others, preparing for another encounter with his destiny. When Abacha’s experiment collapsed, he swung into action as General Abdusalami Abubakar prepared to hand over power to civilians. TheNEWS learnt that contrary to popular view, it was not Babangida, but Gusau working with General Theophilus Danjuma and Justice Alfa Belgore who rallied the retired military and the northern establishment behind Obasanjo in 1998/1999 for the coveted presidency.




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