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Aliyu Gusau- The Secret Agent for President-TheNews/Saharareporters

May 27, 2006
His Eyes On The Presidency

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).

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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.

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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.

Central to Gusau’s scheme was that he would, by this effort, be well
placed to take over as the representative of the conservative north after
Obasanjo’s first term expired. In the resulting scenario, Gusau,
Obasanjo, Atiku Abubakar and Babangida were to be involved in a most
intricate, most unnerving and most dangerous power game, perhaps not
experienced earlier in Nigeria’s history. They all combine and separate at
intervals along different lines and in different combinations: Obasanjo/Atiku
against Babangida/Gusau; Obasanjo/Babangida against Atiku/Gusau; Gusau
against Obasanjo/Babangida; Babangida/Atiku against Obasanjo; Gusau
against Obasanjo/Babangida/Atiku; Atiku against Obasanjo/Babangida/Gasau,
etc. etc.

Why is Gusau central to all these schemes? He has a unique relationship
with each of the major players who all share an inexplicable interest
in clinging to power. Gusau, informed sources said, was “discovered” by
General Danjuma during Obasanjo’s first coming (1976-1979) and was one
of Danjuma’s boys in the Army. He later became one of the leading
“Babangida boys” when IBB started his warm relationships across the sectors
of the Nigerian Army preparatory to his future coup. When IBB took over
power, Gusau was made the chief of intelligence. They later fell out
after the Orkar coup and were reconciled much later. As for Atiku, Gusau,
being one of the most powerful Nigerians with a capacity to torpedo
virtually any political enterprise, is a necessary evil.

With Obasanjo back in the saddle, Gusau was made his NSA. Babangida was
hoping to use the man as a leash on Obasanjo’s feared propensity to
“derail”. But, all of Gusau’s former bosses have since realised that the
man is his own “god-father”. As a source in the Villa told TheNEWS,
“Perhaps the greatest error that anyone can commit regarding this man
(General Gusau) is to assume that he is somebody else’s man. Gusau is
masterful and calculating. As long as it helps him on his way to his ultimate
goal, he never minds pretending to be under anyone’s shadow.”
No one knows this as much as the bosses he has served. TheNEWS sources
said Obasanjo realised after a while in power who the real man that he
made his NSA was. Initially, the NSA’s security briefing for the
President was submitted directly to the President. But, when the latter came
to understand Gusau’s ambition, he decreed that Gusau’s report be
passed through the Chief of Staff, General Mohammed Abdullahi, another
retired general, who vets them before submission to the President. It was a
come-down for the NSA, one which would have provoked many others to
resign. But, not this accomplished power-monger. When some asked Obasanjo
during his first term to sack Gusau, the President reportedly told them
that it would be a most unwise thing to do. Why then, Gusau’s accuser’s
persisted, did the President take the NSA along everywhere he went?
Obasanjo was said to have responded that there were two people with a
capacity for unlimited mischief in Nigeria: Generals Babangida and Gusau.
It was impossible, Obasanjo volunteered, to monitor both men at the same
time in the game of self-preservation. What to do, as a military
tactician, was to keep one by your side, while you monitor the other. Hence
his resolve to always have Gusau by his side.

Gusau calculation, sources said, has been to ensure that he stays
within the Villa long enough to inherit power when Obasanjo leaves.
In this, he has been at secret loggerheads with Babangida who thought
Gusau had been fronting for him for years. The question that Gusau asks
very close associates is: Why does IBB want to be president for the
second time, when he (Gusau) has not even been president once? Yet, he and
IBB still have some meeting points. For instance, they were said to
have reached an agreement at some point that “if Obasanjo were to suddenly
resign, Gusau would govern for some months and then organize elections
for IBB to take over.” Where this left the VP can only be imagined, as
the soldiers thought less of rules and the decent order of things.

In 2002/2003, Gusau tried through various agents to have a go at the
presidential race under any of the emerging parties. In fact, some
sources close to Gusau revealed that the man had secured a campaign office in
Maitama district of Abuja and secretly printed posters to run the
presidential race in 2003, while Obasanjo and Abubakar were feuding over
whether Obasanjo should run for a second term or not. He had thought they
would both neutralize one another, so he could inherit the lost power.
Apart from that, he tried another plot. He, Babangida and Abdulsalami
had met the VP to persuade him to help stop Obasanjo. To ensure
“absolute confidentiality”, the threesome hopped into a car with Atiku one
night in 2002 and drove round Abuja to discuss Atiku’s ambition. They asked
him to support Dr. Alex Ekwueme for the PDP primaries on the
understanding that after two years in power, Ekwueme would resign due to “old
age” and let Atiku end the term. That would still leave Atiku with
qualification to run two-terms as president. They argued that the north needed
someone it can trust for 2003. Atiku turned down the request,
protesting that if he was VP to two different men in a life time, history might
record him as a “professional VP”.

When Atiku disclosed the details of the meeting to Obasanjo, the
President asked him to continue to play along with the Generals, to enable
him monitor them. The VP later found out that before they met him, Gusau
had ushered the other two into Obasanjo’s home to discuss the “Atiku
problem” with Obasanjo. The plots failed as Obasanjo and Abubakar
reconciled and ran under a joint ticket. At this point, sources hinted that
IBB saw Gusau’s long-term plans in bold relief. Now, while the schemes to
ensure Babangida’s or Atiku’s presidency subsists, Gusau oils his own
machine behind the walls, but not totally away from the prying eyes of
the other three most powerful interested persons – Obasanjo, Abubakar
and Babangida. Between the foursome there is dangerous, hire-wire
treachery elevated to high art.

The greatest psychological asset that the NSA has, analysts of the
power game in Abuja told the magazine, is that he believes fervently that
politics is military conspiracy without the need for political
structure. This is why, while he has no political structure, he relies on his
conspiratorial network to deliver power unto his laps someday. While this
has failed even when he was in uniform, it remains to be seen how it
will succeed in the political terrain. However, any good student of
Nigerian history would know that Gusau might be right. In reality, no one
has become the civilian head of the Nigerian state because he won the
elections. A small clique headquarter-ed in the conservative north of
Nigeria has always decided who to “give power”, after which the shambles of
elections are organized to give it the veneer of legitimacy. Any such
anointed has never lost the so-called elections in Nigeria. Therefore,
Gusau might have a chance.

TheNEWS learnt that many within the political circles wonder how Gusau
can proceed with his ambition without IBB’s support given his assumed
lack of the financial war-chest. “This is yet another great error people
make concerning the NSA,” said a source in the Villa. The source
disclosed that given his many years in the corridors of power and the pivotal
role he has played under the Obasanjo presidency, Gusau has an awesome
financial war-chest that some even fear might be fatter that
Babangida’s. But, because he is such a silent operator, he is not often mentioned in the stories of the amazing riches of the Nigerian retired
militariat. “The saving grace for the NSA,” our source continued, “is that the
man is a Guinness-Book-of –Records miser; I mean a miser of the finest
grade. Except for a few functional things, you can hardly catch him
spending money. So, he must have tonnes and tonnes of it in all major
currencies, because, unlike Babangida and Atiku Abubakar who are big
spenders, Gusau does not spend his own, there is a joke around our circles that
Gusau’s money is lame; it cannot walk at all, so it can not walk away.”
A top source in Abuja told TheNEWS that while most people thought that
only IBB’s “heavy investment” in the late scion of the Sokoto
Sultanate, Aliyu Dasuki, the billionaire brother of the former Sultan, were lost
when the man died, the truth is that much of the “investment” in Dasuki
were Gusau’s too. Indeed, a source vowed that the NSA inherited much of
what Dasuki left and married the man’s widow. He was practising an
African proverb which says that whoever owned the slave also owned the load
that the slave carries, and vice versa. These investments are said to
be in Morocco and other parts of the Arab world.

The few functional monies that Gusau spends obviously suffice for the
man. For now. He is said to oil his friendships in the media, by
regularly funding some ex-media chiefs in the west of Nigeria any time they
needed to go abroad. These top journalists were his eyes and ears in the
media while Babangida was in power.  When and if he rolls out his
presidential ambition, these former media chiefs are expected to be his
media campaign managers, even though one of them is said to be working
fervently for IBB currently. One of the people in the service of the NSA’s
ambition disclosed that when the man is ready, he knows how to
appropriate and use the media because he had done it before under IBB.
Gusau is said to have founded and funded a newsmagazine, which later
had a weekly newspaper in the 1980s. The accomplished intelligence chief
that he is, he reasoned that a regime which was in it for the long haul
like IBB’s would need its own voice, but one not identified with it.
Also, he wanted a media outfit that could be used for intelligence
gathering in the West African sub-region. He, therefore, raised some security
funds for the magazine and asked Aliyu Dasuki to provide the balance.
They asked a credible, radical activist to operate the magazine as if he
were the founder and owner. The magazine was eventually used in some
intelligence work in Cameroun and Thomas Sankara’s Burkina Faso, among
others. When Dasuki died, the managers of the estate asked the magazine
for information on his investment. The “proprietor” asked Gusau to call
them to order, which he did. The magazine has since become defunct.
With Gusau’s ability to network the Nigerian political elite, his
current bid for power may be feasible. Indeed, if his calculation works, he
will be on his way. His conclusion is that Obasanjo, particularly after
the disgraceful defeat of his ploy to hang on to power was defeated by
Atiku Abubakar and Babangida working together, will never let the
latter two take over power after him. In that event, Gusau can then be
presented as the candidate of the conservative north.

Based on this thinking, he had set Prof. Ango Abdullahi, his political
associate to work, to break the Yar’ Adua group, on which Abubakar’s
power rests. The break-away group led by the professor is the nucleus of
Gusau’s political group. Indeed, the ‘break-away’ group, at least as
far as the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) – that is the Yar’ Adua
group – is concerned, is made up only of Ango Abdullahi. While the PDM may
deride Ango’s political following, they cannot dismiss that he was one
of their greatest assets as a political strategist. Therefore, Gusau
has a great asset on his hands. Perhaps, it is this asset that has
ensured the rumour making the round in important quarters in Abuja that
Obasanjo has resolved to use Gusau as his fall back position, in case
Obasanjo has no option but to leave power and hand over to a northerner. But,
sources close to Obasanjo claimed that this is a “terrible lie” because
the President and his NSA are not even on good terms. This was
complicated by the fact that the NSA didn’t lift a finger in the “recent
humiliation of the President by the National Assembly”.

TheNEWS gathered that it was to impede Gusau’s ambition that Obasanjo’s
strategists encouraged the Governor of Zamfara State, Sani Ahmed
Yerima, who is a sworn enemy of the NSA, to run for the presidency.
Beyond all this, the most crucial question is not being asked by
Gusua’s supporters. Why does the man want to be president? But, one of them,
in one rare instance of candour confessed: “Because the man wants be
president, pure and simple.” No ideology, no programme, no vision of
society, no conception on the national challenges - just for the sake of
power’’, said one of his supporters.

The major worry for some of Gusau’s supporters, as even they admit, is
that the man seems to have very modest abilities in expressing himself
in the English language - which, some say, is why he keeps quiet most
the time. But, some other supporters counter that, it is not inability
to speak good English that keeps the NSA quiet; for them, no serious
intelligence chief would be talkative.  In the months ahead, Gusau might
be forced to start talking, as even the taciturn Atiku Abubakar

The Essential Gasau
The historic city of Sokoto was in a mournful mood on 23 October 1993,
when the Interim National Government (ING), headed by Chief Ernest
Shonekan, still held sway. It was the funeral of Professor Halim Bingi, a
famous Islamic scholar. Many notable Nigerians were present to pay their
last respect. General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, then Chief of Army Staff,
also showed up in company of General Ibrahim Babangida, the immediate
past military leader who had just been forced out of power by the
Nigerian public over the annulled 12 June 1993 presidential election.
Babangida ambled into the arena, fully turbaned like an Islamic cleric.
Retailing his trademark infectious smile, Babangida introduced himself
as the Madaki of Minna, the Emir’s consul.

Everyone present exchanged glances, even as Gusau who stood behind him
maintained an expressionless face of a sphinx. A greater shock was
exhibited days later by the ING Defence Secretary, General Sani Abacha,
that Gusau, despite his strategic position as ING Chief of Army Staff,
could be loyal and hobnob freely with a former leader, without informing
him. To Abacha, it was a case of divided loyalty for which Gusau would
pay later.

Beyond creating a wedge between him and Abacha, Gusau who is currently
the National Security Adviser, is, to many Nigerians, an enigma. He is
regarded as a faceless silhouette who, like a Don in the Sicilian Cosa
Nostra, operates behind the curtain, pulling all strings and
manipulating different levers for past and present governments. As a sleuth,
politicians in agbada and military uniform can only ignore him at their own
peril. He demonstrated his great influence during the administrations
of Murtala/Obasanjo, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Generals Mohammed Buhari,
Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Shonekan, General Sani Abacha and Olusegun
Obasanjo, the current Nigerian president. Having been schooled in the subtle
nuances of power politics in Nigeria, many analysts wager that he may
become president. What reinforced this belief was an off the cuff
diclosure by a source in the US State Department that  “the US may not mind
Gusau taking over from Obasanjo.” Gusau, Nigeria’s spy boss, may end up
being Nigeria’s Vladmir Putin, the Soviet KGB big shot who now rules
Russia. Gusau’s foray into public life started when Obasanjo was still
military Head of State. As a Lieutenant- Colonel in 1975, Gusau was
commander of  Infantry Brigade, Abeokuta, for two and half years. He acted
as military Governor of Ogun State for nine months within the period
Obasanjo, then a military leader, was about handing over power to a
civilian regime.

Gusau was, for a period, an Assistant Adjutant General of the 2nd
Mechanised Division, Ibadan. He was later transferred to become the Director
of Personnel Services at the Army Headquarters, a position he held till

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