The Gusau-service chiefs face-off

Barely one week in office as Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Aliyu Gusau, was rumoured to have turned in his resignation letter to President Goodluck Jonathan. Gusau was sworn in on March 5, this year. The rumour was given substance when the minister did not show up at the Federal Executive Council meeting some 24 hours after news of his purported resignation broke.

However, the Presidency through its spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, denied the rumour. Many believed the government’s side of the story. This is because in this country,ministers or top public office holders hardly resign jobs even when morality or propriety compels them to do so.

The reason given for the minister’s purported resignation was that the nation’s service chiefs stayed off the maiden meeting he convened two days earlier. Eventually, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh, surfaced at the minister’s office alone. When asked why the service chiefs were unavailable for the meeting, the CDS was said to have given some excuses on their behalf and told the ministerthat he was representing the absentees. The minister took exception to the excuse. According to a news report published in this paper of March 13, 2014, when the Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musliu Obanikoro, sought to intervene in the ensuing argument, the CDS shouted him down, referring to him as a “small boy” and warned him that the military was not going to be taking orders anymore from bloody civilians like him. These were weighty allegations.

The resignation smoke was not without fire. The Presidency promptly dispatched emissaries to Gusau to smother the fire and save the government from national embarrassment.Although the differences appeared to have been papered up with the tour of military formations in Abuja last week by the minister and his minister of state during which the duo interacted with the service chiefs and other military top guns, the unfortunate development was a bad augury for our nation that is grappling with security challenges, especially the Boko Haram insurgency.

More worrisomeis the alleged contempt shown to the minister of state by the CDS, which is contrary to the respect for seniority inherent in the military tradition.The minister, a retired Lt. General, had held several command positionslong before the current crop of service chiefs was commissioned into the military service.

Some security watchersblamed President Jonathan for setting the stage for the denigration of the minister and the minister of state. For close to six months after the former minister of state, Erelu Olusola Obada, left office, the Ministry of Defence, a very critical organ of government, was left under the supervision of the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, who must have endured a similar contempt. Then, there was the declaration by

Jonathan during one of his recent media chats at the State House, Abuja, that he could do without the defence minister and was comfortable dealing directly with the service chiefs. This might have massaged thelarge ego of the service chiefs to the extent that they now perceive the new helmsmen as interlopers.

The President must have his reasons for bringing Gusau back to his cabinet in a higher capacity. The acclaimed intelligence chief and spy master served briefly as his National Security Adviser (NSA) in 2010 before he quit to contest the last presidential election on the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

What the nation requires from its armed forces is unquestionable loyalty to the civilian leadership and total commitment to the onerous task of defending Nigerians against internal and external aggression. Anything less is unacceptable.

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