By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
The indictment of the ruling party in Nigeria, PDP, by the National Security Adviser (NSA), General Andrew O. Azazi, was the misfortune President Jonathan least expected when he woke up from his bed last Friday, 27 April 2012. The statement must be causing the him enormous pain. It jas placed him in a predicament, with the party on one hand requesting for the head of Azazi and his kinsmen on the other hand asking for his pardon. To understand the predicament of the president, we need to recast how the two once stood together as comrades in their lifelong ambition of emancipating the Niger Delta.
A Nigeria Army Intelligence Corps (NAIC) inquiry into the gunrunning activities of Sunny Okah at the Kaduna and Jaji military depots when Azazi was the GOC 1 DIV led to the sacking of the latter as Chief of Defence Staff and his premature retirement from the army in 2009. Azazi, as the Chief of Defence Staff, in collaboration with Lt. Col. LKK Are (then and now DG, SSS) and Maj. General Adekhegba (then DMI), did all he could to cover up the theft and protect its perpetrators, particularly Sunny Okah. The sacking of Azazi was definitely part of “punitive measures …. against prominent figures involved in the theft” which the NAIC report recommended. To be more specific, the report advised “government to sanction Gen Azazi appropriately.” (Full text of the NAIC report can be accessed at http://saharareporters.com/sites/default/files/uploads/Azazi.pdf. For my full commentary on the report, read http://fridaydiscourse.blogspot.com/2010/11/discourse-310-nigeria-cannot-trust.html)
If Azazi was punitively punished for his failure to stop the theft from the depots under his control, the people who the report referred to as “senior politicians in this issue” escaped because investigation into their involvement was overtaken by events. But who were these “senior politicians”, anyway?
The committee found out that Governors James Ibori and Dipriye Alamiyeseigha were purchasing weapons stolen from I DIV and handing them over to Niger Delta militants. Jonathan, which the report shied away from mentioning because he was already the vice-president by the time it was submitted, cannot escape implication since the theft and purchases continued during his tenure as the Governor of Bayelsa state. Also, when the report was submitted, we must remember, James Ibori was the most powerful adviser to late President Yar’adua. Which politician could have been more senior?
Now, we need to know why the NAIC report found it imperative to recommend the investigation of these politicians. Come with me:
“At least the names of two senior politicians… have been mentioned in this investigation. There may be many more. These two politicians are mentioned as the financiers for the arms acquisition project. Certainly, they would not have provided large sums of money without knowing the source of the weapons. Simply put, a serious breach of security of this magnitude deliberately masterminded by the state governors. This gives a serious political dimension to the case. It is therefore important that care is taken identifying all possible political linkages to this case with a view to uncovering all the politicians behind this project. Politicians can aspire to any position in Nigeria. One wonders what would happen if Nigeria ends up with a president who does not believe in the entity of the Nigerian nation, and a record of involvement in cases like this. Identifying politicians with complicity in this or similar case will help in ensuring that they are blacklisted and prevented from vying for or taking higher offices because of the implications that could arise.”
One of the biggest misfortunes of Nigeria today is that the above warning from the NAIC was not heeded to or “Baba go slow” could not act fast enough. One of those senior politicians, Jonathan, became the acting president barely two years after the report was submitted. What he did after assuming office speaks volumes of his complicity.
Who did Jonathan pick as National Security Adviser after General Aliyu Gusau has resigned in 2010? He returned General Andrew O. Azazi! Who did Jonathan and Azazi found most befitting to run the SSS? They retirned Col. LKK Are! Where is Sunny Okah, the chief gunrunner? He is in the villa assisting the President, especially in the prosecution of his brother who mastermined the Oct. 1 bombings in Abuja. To whom has Jonathan and Azazi contracted the security of our maritme domain? Niger Delat militant Tampolo.
From the above, it could easily be discerned that the relationship between the President and his chief security adviser is long standing and strong. How then could the adviser turn around now and blame the ruling party and the President for escalating violence in the country? Let us try and understand what Azazi said. His arrow was direct in its target:
“The issue of violence did not increase in Nigeria until when there was a declaration by the current president that he was going to contest. PDP got it wrong from the beginning. The party started by saying Mr. A can rule, and Mr. B cannot rule, according to PDP conventions, rules and regulations and not according to the constitution. Is it possible that somebody was thinking only Mr. A could win, and if he did not win, he could cause a problem in the society?”
In the above statements, which I quoted from nationalmirroronline.net, there is sufficient understanding on the motives of the security chief: Zoning is the culprit. Power was expected to reside in the North for two terms. But Jonathan, coming from the south, jettisoned that rule and declared his intention to contest. This, according to Azazi, is what increased violence to its present state in Nigeria.
Again, Azazi was not expecting the Northerners that lost to Jonathan – namely, Atiku Abubakar, Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Aliyu Mohammed Gusau – to let the contravention go Scot free. They must cause “problems”. Three things can be gathered from this:
One, had PDP not adopted zoning as a power-sharing principle, according to Azazi, the level of violence would not have reached this unmanageable level.
Two, had the President restrained himself from vying from contesting in 2011, the increase in violence would have been averted, still. Or had Buhari – the northern candidate – won, that too would have silenced the guns of the northerners.
Finally, “the (security) problem in the society”, according to Azazi, is caused by northerners who lost to Jonathan in the PDP, or put in another way, in reaction to Jonathan’s intransigence, Atiku, IBB and Gusau, in reaction, are using Boko Haram to get at Jonathan. Mhm. Nigerians are divided on the Azazi’s statement and person. The PDP and its supporters have made statements that portray the security chief as an ingrate, or one that bites the finger that fed him. PDP, they argue, rehabilitated him when it provided the platform on which he is currently serving as the NSA.
The opposition, this time, is raising its thumb for Azazi. He provided it with a powerful ballistic for deployment against the ruling party. And attacking they did, from all fronts. The ACN, CNPP, CPC, etc., are all over the waves enjoying their vindication.
The president must have felt embarrassed by Azazi’s statement though he tried typically to cover him initially by finding excuses in semantics. Azazi, claimed the President, might have had an idea but which he could not express clearly. He referred journalist to Azazi for clarification. That clarification, however, is not forthcoming, so far.
But honestly, could Azazi absolve himself of Jonathan’s violation of the PDP zoning principle? Not at all, in my opinion. He was in the best position, as the NSA, to advise the president on the security implication of his contest, if that is what he believed then. As far as I can recall, nobody then reported that he did so. Neither did he follow his conviction and supported any northern candidate. But granted that he advised the President accordingly, why did he continue as the NSA and even travel to Washington to lure the Americans into believing that Nigeria is under a serious terrorist siege beyond its capacity to contain? Happily, the Americans did not buy the dummy. They said, “Mumu. It is not terrorism. It is poverty. Simple.”
The fate of Azazi is on the balance. The ruling PDP is turning the heat on the president to do something with the NSA. It wants him dismissed. Of course, does the president have a third option, apart from sacking him or keeping him? The choice would not be as easy as Ringim’s. In this situation, the President will be torn among three things: fear, parochial strategy, and his not so much celebrated nerves.
If the President would listen to Niger Delta elders and militants whom he dreads so much, who have turned him into a hostage and who are milking the Nigerian cow dry with the support of Azazi, then he will move to protect the NSA and absolve him of any blame. Let PDP go to hell, he will say. This one has the strongest possibility.
Again, if the President would look at the strategic role of NSA Azazi in the Niger Delta Republic project or his importance to Jonathan 2015 presidency, he will be more inclined to pardon the NSA than to “Ring” him. This option has a good probability.
If, however, he has the mental capacity to understand that the statement is the gross contempt for the President and the ruling party ever uttered by a beneficiary of PDP, then his nerves, if he has any, are likely to persuade him to bid his old comrade farewell. In that case, the Boko Haram missile that hit Ringim would have returned to hit Azazi. The security chief would have nobody to blame but his tongue, which betrayed him under the intense heat of Boko Haram. This one has a weak likelihood.
So, the chances, in my assessment, are strong two against a weak one. Whichever choice the president takes, Nigeria will remain the same – corrupt and insecure.
Bauchi 30 April, 2012