Aliyu Gusau: Spymaster and mystery man

THE SUN Newspaper- Femi Adesina

There are some people you know and yet you feel you really don’t know. They are always there, but then they are also not there. They are with you, yet they are also far away. Gen. Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, current National Security Adviser (NSA), is one of such. Gusau wishes to be president. It’s his right under our constitution. To advance that ambition, he took part in the primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in December 2006. Olusegun Obasanjo got the better of him, throwing official support behind the then Governor of Katsina State, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. From all indications, however, Gusau’s ambition is still intact. In fact, only on Monday, one Abdullahi Umaru Ladan of the Youth League Democratic Forum of Nigeria told the media that the NSA would run for president next year. He is quite welcome, as long as he fits the bill of the leader we need at a time as crucial as this.

Last week, I began this series, in which I promised to appraise those aspiring to rule us from the North, whether they’ve unveiled their interest or not, so that we do not fall into the Umaru Yar’Adua trap this time round. In 2007, Obasanjo imposed a candidate on the North, foisted a president on us all, who turned out to be a dud, a man not physically prepared for the arduous task of leadership. It should never happen again. So, is Gusau the man? Is he the best foot the North can put forward, as Nigeria heads for another presidential election next year?

A digression. I think Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan made a mess of eating an egg in his celebrated interview with the CNN in America last week. He had been asked: “Will you run in 2011? Will you present yourself as a presidential candidate?” The answer: “For now, I don’t want to think about it, because the circumstances of the day are quite worrisome. I came in as the Vice President to run with President Yar’Adua. Of course, getting close to period of election, he took ill. And I have to take over under somewhat controversial circumstances… so let us see how Nigeria will move forward first. If the country is not moving, what will I tell Nigerians I want to contest for? Yes, I’m a politician and I would be interested in politics, since I’m still relatively young.”

Typical Nigerian politician, speaking tongue-in-cheek. Simple question. Will you run? Followed by rigmarole. “How much is this pot?” “My kids are fine.” “How is your husband?” “I can’t sell it for ten pence.” I recall that Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, chairman of PDP had declared the position of the party after Jonathan emerged acting president. The North would still complete its remaining four-year tenure by fielding a candidate in 2011. Thereafter, power can then shift to the South. So, Jonathan should simply have told the CNN that he stood by the position of his party. Now, with his ambivalent answer, willing persuaders eyeing free money will be appealing to him to run next year, “because of the great work he has done in stabilising the polity.”

I do not care for the PDP, in fact, I’m usually happiest whenever the party gets a bloody nose at the polls. But I also recognise that for now, we are bound by the power rotation configuration they have designed for the country. The North, I believe, should produce the president in 2011, though the candidate does not have to necessarily be from the PDP. Back to Gusau. He’s there, he’s not there. You feel you’ve known him since forever, yet you think he’s a stranger. An intimate stranger. Do we know him, though he seems to have been part and parcel of our national life since the 1970s?

From 1979 to 1983, Gusau was Director of Military Intelligence. From 1985 to 1986, he was Acting Director, National Security Organisation (NSO), and General Officer Commanding 2 Mechanised Division, Ibadan from 1989 to 1990. Briefly, under Gen. Sani Abacha, he was Chief of Army Staff, retired, and went underground till he emerged as National Security Adviser to Obasanjo in 1999. He held the position till 2006, when he left to run for president. As they say, the rest is history.
Something is significant about Gusau’s life, and I wonder if that is why he wants to be president.

He is a contemporary and close colleague to four former heads of state. Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was coursemate to many or all of these people at the Nigerian Defence Academy. They have been co-travellers in the journey of life, sharing the same background, professional calling, experiences, successes, failures etc. Why should the four others have ruled this country, and he, the odd man out? I hope this is not the force driving Gusau, because as they say, fingers are not equal. I hope he is actuated by love for our country, and desire to serve and make a difference, rather than personal aggrandisement. He does not appear a vain man, but as they say, looks can be deceptive.

Gusau and Babangida had always been in the same political camps, but it appears a parting of ways has come. Both are poised to run, and no quarter will be asked, none given. It’s survival of the fittest. Both will have to run the race of their lives. In case Yar’Adua is eventually declared incapacitated and removed from office, Jonathan would need a Vice president. Gusau’s name often features in the possibilities. If he gets the position, it puts him at an advantage to run for president in 2011. So, could the mysterious spymaster be our next president? Does he fit the bill?

My fear is that we do not seem to know the reticent, almost taciturn man enough. Yes, he’s our own J. Edgar Hoover in Intelligence circles, but is that enough to entrust the fortune of the land into his hands? And how is his health? Knocking hard at 70, he must come clean and tell us the status of his physical well -being. Even if he suffers something as mild as jedijedi, we should know. McCain and Barak Obama did that while asking Americans for their votes. When questions were raised about Yar’Adua’s health in 2007, ‘Dr’ Obasanjo certified him fit, saying those who called the man unwell were the sick ones. We saw how it all ended.

By and large, Gen Gusau appears to be a good foot forward from the North, but then, we need to know him more. Warts and all. Once he begins to sell himself to us, it would be our duty to probe into all the recesses and crevices of his life. He is the spymaster who does the probing rather than being probed. But the shoe must be on the other foot. He must be ready to lay his life bare for us all to see. Any dark corners, and we immediately cry foul.

And I daresay there are candidates in the race whose lives cannot bear diligent and rigorous scrutiny, as the corners are littered with skulls and crossbones. Their lives are like open sepulchres, full of dead men’s bones. I won’t mention names now, but each has his day of reckoning, including decapitators of democracy, now masquerading as reformed democrats.


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