Is this cabal more powerful than Nigeria?
By EDITORIAL BOARD, Published: Thursday, 4 Mar 2010
The intrigues of a handful of presidential aides over President Umaru Yar’Adua’s illness have become too dangerous to condone any longer. With the connivance of elements within the army, the clique deployed troops on Wednesday last week in Abuja as they smuggled the ailing President home under the cover of darkness.
Completely ignoring the person and office of the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief, the clique deployed soldiers from the Brigade of Guards in the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, where in something close to a coup manoeuvre, they switched off the power supply, transferred the ailing President from an air ambulance to a waiting land ambulance, and took him in a long convoy along a route lined with armed sentries to the presidential villa.
Executed entirely under the cover of darkness, it amounted to the most brazen security breach in the nation since the return to civilian rule in May 1999. Some knowledgeable commentators have already likened it to a coup or, at best, a dress rehearsal for one. It is alarming that troops could be deployed for any purpose in any part of the country, much less in the federal capital, without the knowledge of the Acting President and top defence chiefs. Even the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, was reportedly kept in the dark about the troop movement.
Since the President’s long-standing ailment took a turn for the worse, necessitating his controversial evacuation to Saudi Arabia on November 23, last year, some presidential aides, allegedly supported by the President’s wife, Turai Yar’Adua, have used his predicament to deny access to him and used his name to promote their own private interests. In the process, they have heated up the polity, created a constitutional dilemma, promoted divisions and threatened democracy.
The troop deployment is one intrigue too many. This dangerous clique of power mongers and insubordinate security officials should be stopped forthwith. Who authorised the Brigade of Guards commander, Brig. Gen. Abdul Mustapha, to seize Abuja airport and the villa? What role did the Army Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Abdurahman Dambazzau, play? If Mustapha did not inform him before the exercise, what action did he take? If he did nothing, then he has lost grip of the army and should be shoved aside promptly.
If, as is widely believed, he was privy to the conspiracy, then he is unfit to continue as COAS. Jonathan should sack him if investigations reveal that he connived in the treasonable act. The argument that the guards have some autonomy in their professional task of protecting the President and his family is self-serving and untenable.
Acting President Goodluck Jonathan should not treat this grave security breach with levity or with his usual can’t-hurt-a-fly approach. There are indications that an investigation is under way. All the officials who conspired to smuggle the President into the country without the Acting President’s knowledge should be brought to book. Those still holding ministerial offices should be sacked. There is no point being C-in-C if troops can be deployed with no reference to him or the CDS.
It is tempting to say Jonathan is not safe until those who deployed troops illegally are punished and flushed out of the military. The ensuing investigation should also unearth the role of the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Sarki Mukhtar(rtd). It has become obvious that the re-professionalisation programme of the armed forces begun in 1999 has suffered a setback. All the efforts made in the last 11 years to insulate the military from politics are being eroded by the unscrupulous clique that is manipulating the President’s unfortunate situation. The clique is reducing the President to a sectional leader and seeking to suck some senior military officers into its deadly gamble.
The officials privy to the Wednesday infamy — Col Mustapha Onoyvieta, the Aide-de-Camp; Yusuf Tilde, the Chief Security Officer; and Mustapha of the Guards Brigade — all report to various security agencies. Their various bosses, those who have not compromised their positions, should query them or replace them forthwith.
Dike should also, on his part, demand an explanation from Dambazzau for the Abuja insubordination and recommend appropriate punitive action to the Acting President.
The Acting President should also order officials to stop telling lies about the President. For three months and more, aides and ministers have lied shamelessly about his health and embarrassed the nation before the international community. Who, for instance, is giving Segun Adeniyi, the President’s Special Adviser on Media, the instructions to dish out the statements and comments he makes from time to time since he has also admitted to not seeing his boss?
Nigerians will not forget also that it is the refusal of the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly to do their patriotic duty by invoking relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution to deal with the cabal’s shenanigans since November last year that has brought the country to this pass and emboldened the clique to more brazen actions.
It is commendable that the Acting President has sought to douse the heat unnecessarily foisted on the nation by the power-mongers, using the physically-incapacitated Yar’Adua, by empanelling a 26-member broad-based advisory board of eminent persons. Such moves are welcome as the nation rallies to confront the rascals toying with our collective destiny.
FEC has run out of excuses to avoid invoking Section 144 of the Constitution that empowers it to declare the President incapable of continuing to govern on account of his health. But it is not too late for the Council to free itself from a cabal that has so far prevented it from performing its role under the Constitution. Apart from dirty politics and sentiments, a President who had to be returned secretly in an ambulance after three months of intensive care abroad is surely unfit to remain in office.