Aliyu Gusau and the dynamics of security and politics

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I have met General Aliyu Gusau Mohammed only once; and that was sometimes last year. He was an aspiring presidential candidate; one of the four vying to be the Northern consensus candidate.

Segun Babatope had invited me, along with other journalists, to meet a very upbeat Mohammed, who felt that his years of service in the military as well as his much-vaunted expertise in security matters, with its concomitants, provided him the background experience, to cope with the cloak-and-dagger intrigues of politics, to be Nigeria’s president.

I asked Gusau just two questions. I wanted to know why he persistently kept running for presidency, when he almost always fell by the wayside. Secondly, I wondered how he was going to sell in Northern Nigeria, a candidacy which carried the baggage of being a close security friend of Zionist Israel. I am not sure that my questions endeared me to the famous general. As it turned out, the Northern PDP elite settled for Atiku Abubakar; and as they say, the rest is history.

But Aliyu Gusau Mohammed continues to be a permanently recurring presence in our national life. There must be something about his ability, connections and long standing surety that continue to speak for him.

Yet, Aliyu Gusau is not given to expressing his views in the public space; as is the wont of a spook, he has operated for long, under the radar, for guaranteed effectiveness. It was therefore a rare privilege that we got an insight into his thought process two weeks ago, when he presented the first memorial lecture in honour of the late General Shehu Musa Yar’adua.

It was significant in many ways. The ruling class has incrementally lost its soul and become devoid of elevated ideals just as it has become alienated from the Nigerian people; is discredited and lost legitimacy.

Shehu Musa Yar’adua has therefore become a potent symbol around which ruling class politicians are constructing props of idealism; the dead general is being deployed as what they all aspired to but can never be, lost as they are in the most obscene kleptocracy Africa has ever witnessed, since 1960.

The celebration of Shehu Musa Yar’adua has offered the richest access into the mind of one of the greatest defenders of the troubled ruling class hegemony of modern Nigeria. Aliyu Gusau’s paper was entitled “Actualizing Nigeria: The dynamics of Power, Politics, Enterprise and Security.”

The 27-page lecture provided a most thought-provoking insight into Nigeria, as only a spymaster could have. Gusau wondered like many have, why Nigeria continues to lag behind peers, despite its ‘natural endowments and huge potentials’. He argued that ‘a universal vision of what Nigeria is and what it ought to be has been difficult to nurture’, with the country remaining in his words ‘an unfinished task and work in progress’.

Underlining has been the National Question, which has, since the 1999 transition ‘focused on the struggle for resource control, fiscal federalism, ethnic nationalism and religious activism’. He said the current struggle has been brought about by the failure of the rulers ‘to manage our diversity to ensure fairness and equity’ as well as ‘bad governance’ associated with ‘the recent rapid growth in rabid nationalism and religious activism’ and ‘the problems of extreme poverty, mass unemployment and brazen corruption’ which ‘lead to social unrest’.

Gusau argued that ‘it is the equitable distribution of power that brings harmony’, while ‘the responsible exercise of power with justice and equity breeds peace’. Unfortunately, the ruling class has been deficient in these virtues which are the most enlightened platforms to secure hegemony.

The brazen corruption of the years of civil rule since 1999, and the examples of the PDP’s inability to manage power as well as the weakness of the institutions of governance have affected political development. The Fourth Republic has seen the most brazen prebendalism; ‘the emergence of godfathers and mega sponsors who bankroll the aspirations of potential candidates. In return they expect a direct access to the treasury through juicy contracts and other forms of patronage’.

Gusau said the quest for public office is for self-enrichment, just as money politics has made it difficult to enthrone a decent political culture. It is instructive that Gusau is aware of the place of youth in the national process underlining that a 23% official unemployment rate poses serious risk.

He similarly decried food insecurity quoting the minister of agriculture that ‘Nigeria spent N98trillion ($628billion) between 2007 and 2010 on importation of food’. For the economy to be sustainable, he said ‘it must be rooted in agriculture, as well as possess a solid industrial and manufacturing base while leveraging appropriate advances in technology’.Nigeria’s economy and security, in his view, are intertwined.

For an individual whose professional life has been lived as a ‘securocrat’, it is no surprise that Gusau linked the issues of politics, governance and the economy to the overall security framework of the Nigerian state.

To make Nigeria safe and secure, is the essential condition for actualizing its destiny and that must be premised upon sound security strategy and investment in the requisite security infrastructure. It is strategy, from that perspective, which ‘will determine how we employ the various elements of power to make the country safe and secure. It is interesting that President Jonathan allocated N921.9B to security in the 2012 budget.

Yet Gusau warns that ‘security cannot be considered in isolation but as part of the overall framework of governance’. As we have all experienced, the overall framework of governance has continued to fail the Nigerian ruling class and that failure has equally led to the emergence of serious internal, anti-state challenges making it difficult to achieve the ‘actualizing’ of Nigeria.

The question to ask General Aliyu Gusau, as perhaps the most important person in Nigeria’s security framework over the past thirty years, is why the state has refused to make use of the type of insight he has canvassed in his paper? Or could it be that he did not make them available?

It is important to know, especially as he also noted that ‘most times, bad policies create security challenges which the security system is then required to contain or countervail. This can be avoided.’

Unfortunately, as we have also the numerous security challenges facing Nigeria today, our rulers just do not do what is right for the nation’s progress. These challenges have strengthened the forces delegitimizing the country and helping to fuel the predictions of imperialism that Nigeria might disintegrate.

Where Nigeria goes lies largely in the hands of its ruling class, unless its oppressed classes can become a counter-hegemonic force able to initiate new platforms of national liberation. Aliyu Gusau Mohammed nevertheless remains an enigma; his historical role has been helping to secure the hegemony of the Nigerian ruling class.

That he has done, to the point where he became the reference point in security. People like him must be very worried about the sorry pass the ruling class has taken the country. It is also intrinsic in this scenario that even he cannot escape from collateral responsibility for the state of Nigeria today.

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