There was confusion Wednesday over the reported resignation of the newly-sworn in Minister of Defence, Lt-Gen. Aliyu Gusau (rtd), following an alleged disagreement with the military top brass.
The Ministry of Defence, however, quickly debunked the report as untrue, insisting that the minister never resigned his appointment.
According to a statement signed by the ministryâ€™s spokesman, Mr. Shehu Maikai, the story was simply a rumour, affirming that Gusau was still the substantive minister .
Maikai said: â€œOur attention has been drawn to a media report to the effect that Gusau has resigned as the minister of defence; and I wish to state categorically that the minister has not resigned his appointment.
â€œWe thank all those who have called to clarify the rumour and I reassure you all that Gusau remains the minister of defence.â€
Similarly, the presidency debunked the resignation claim, which it said was based on the fact that Gusau was absent from the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting Wednesday.
A statement issued by the Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said: â€œThis is to let you know that that story is untrue. Gusau remains the minister of defence. He was absent from todayâ€™s meeting of the FEC and this particular online medium sighted this in support of its allegation that he had resigned.
â€œWell, he was absent from todayâ€™s meeting with the permission of President Jonathan. So the story is not true, he remains in office and he (Gusau) has already dismissed the story as untrue. But I think this further clarification is necessary before we are confronted with a situation where all kinds of wild speculations begin to come up and the story begins to develop and grow various branches.â€
However, sources within and outside the ministry who spoke with THISDAY confirmed that Gusau did resign but was persuaded to rescind his decision following the intervention of President Jonathan who refused to accept his resignation.
â€œHe did resign as we have not seen him today because he felt that the conditions he tabled before accepting the ministerial role are not met,â€ a source said.
Another security source went further to explain that even though there was a disagreement between the minister and Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Vice Marshal, Alex Badeh, it was never confrontational and dramatic the way it was being reported online.
The source admitted a simming cold war between the former National Security Adviser (NSA) and the military top brass over fears that the former is overbearing.
Another source added that following the intervention of the president, there are indications that heads might roll in the ministry as those who cannot obey duly constituted authority would be relieved of their jobs for acts of insubordination and disrespect.
It was further gathered that crisis started when Gusau assumed office at the ministry and most of the service chiefs were absent including the Chiefs of Army and Naval Staff.
The source said matters came to the fore on Monday when Gusau was to meet all the service chiefs at the Defence Headquarters, only to find that just the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshall Bardeh, attended the meeting.
Bardeh allegedly insulted the Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, asking him to â€˜shut upâ€™.
Gusau was said to have been infuriated and wrote his letter of resignation directly to the Senate President, David Mark.
It was gathered that the Senate President sat on the letter, hoping that the matter would be resolved.
According to the source, â€œThe truth was that Gusau resigned, but the president has intervened and the matter was resolved. There must be respect for duly constituted authority. Gusau is the minister of defence and therefore must be respected as the head of defence.
â€œHeads must roll. Those who are not submisive to him must give way before it sends a wrong signal to the system,â€ the source said.
The source said when Gusau resumed office, in order to avert disagreement, it was agreed by the military hierarchy and other security agencies to quickly close ranks and mend their differences.
â€œThe disagreement was over the insistence of Gusau to have an expanded meeting with all service chiefs, General Officers Commanding (GOCs) and other commanding officers, which the Chief of Defence Staff, Badeh, did not subscribe to.
â€œYou know how the military value and respect orders and hierarchy, and preferred that discussion at that strategic level be first handled between the CDS and the ministers before the service chiefs.
â€œIt was not true in the manner it was reported that the military chiefs expressed insubordination towards Gusau, who was their senior even if he retired.
â€œWhat I see is a simple disagreement and the minister capitalised on it to extract some concessions from the president,â€ the source added.
Gusau, a former National Security Adviser (NSA) only resumed work last Friday as the minister of state for defence.