Nigeria:I Know How Past Leaders Got It Wrong – Aliyu Gusau

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Gusau Aliyu‘My background is what Nigeria needs now’ Insists being firm as a leader is very important

He is the best in his trade. He almost single-handedly re-sold Olusegun Obasanjo to both the political, intelligence and military elite in1998.   For a man who hardly talks but whose dexterity is unique, it is very difficult to read the mind of General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (rtd).

But he remains a survivalist.  Perhaps, that is a testament to the “several seminars on intelligence, security & strategic studies, in Nigeria & abroad” that he has attended as stated in an abridged CV. Born on 18th May, 1943, in Gusau, Zamfara State, this disengaged four star Army General has been working for the state for all of 40 years, a career which started in 1967 as Commanding Officer, 126 Infantry battalion, January 1967 to December 1967and Commander, 1 Platoon, B Company, 5th Battalion, Nigerian Army, March 1967 to December 1967.

At the mention of Gusau’s name, a feeling of nostalgia is what immediately imbues many people.  His is the stuff of legends in the intelligence community – and that, in fact, is the reason why countries like Germany, Korea and South Africa would honour him. Between fact and fiction, there are many tales about the person of Gusau, some, even bothering on the queer or unbelievable.

He served twice as Obasanjo’s National Security Adviser, NSA, and was again, earlier in the year, re-appointed by Acting President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as NSA. Today, Gusau is gunning for the presidency on the platform of the PDP but he has the likes of incumbent President Jonathan, former military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Kwara State governor, Bukola Saraki.

In this interview, Gusau’s very first, he speaks about his agenda for Nigeria and why he believes that his background should be a plus for the nation.

Gusau says he is running because, “I have done so many things in this country and I have achieved results.  I have served quite a number of Presidents and I know where they went right and I know where they went wrong.  And I think the time has come for me to put together all the experiences I have gained and to put together all the technocrats that I know together for the benefit of Nigerians to move this country forward.  That is why I’m running”.

On the economy, Gusau says he would focus on security, agriculture, the power problem and Niger Delta, while not leaving out inflation and the monster of joblessness.

But to contest for the presidency on the PDP platform, Gusau would have to scale the hurdle of who becomes the consensus candidate of the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, even before the PDP presidential primaries and the contest proper in April next year. You will find Gusau an interesting read. Excerpts:

If you are to capture the essence of your participation in this presidential contest, what would you be telling the average voters?

Well, I have done so many things in this country and I have achieved results.  I have served quite a number of Presidents and I know where they went right and I know where they went wrong.  I think the time has come for me to put together all the experiences I have gained and to put together all the technocrats that I know together for the benefit of Nigerians to move this country forward.  That is why I’m running.

With your experience and background, what would you consider the most pressing problem we have in this country today?

There are many problems but the most immediate problem today is security.  Security is the most important thing.

Then we have the decaying infrastructure.  We also have the problem of the Niger Delta.  These are the three most critical issues now.

You’ve talked about three pressing problems.  We’ve heard people talk about seven-point agenda, five-point agenda and so on, for us to narrow it down because it is easy for people to talk in general terms.  How are you going to do the things you’ve mentioned as the critical problems?

Now, what I want to do differently is simple.  From 1973, I have been in government and I have worked with heads of states and Presidents.  What I have discovered as the major problem is that good decisions were taken, but the implementation has always been lacking.  That is where I am going to be different.  I will make sure that we do what we have decided and I will make sure that what we have decided would be good decisions and they are in the best interest of this country.  For me, it is about putting this country first.

Some people say you have achieved a lot as a military man but that is quite narrow. How would you sell yourself?
I have also been in governance.

I was the military governor of Ogun State between 1977 and 1978 and I dealt with civilians and how to relate and work with them in that line.  I was also a member of the National Security and Defence Council, NSDC, I was a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council, AFRC, and even as a young major in the Nigerian Army, I was accompanying General Alani Akinrinade and General David Ejor to the meetings of the Supreme Military Council, SMC, during their own days so the question of governance, I am quite at home with it.

You talked about implementation of policies but we have seen how government officials have always introduced waste with a view to corruptly enriching themselves – the one leads to the other: waste/corruption?  How do you plan to tackle this?

In this case it is all about involving the private sector.  When you involve them, they’ll build, operate and then they’ll transfer.  That way, there’ll be no waste because it is their money.  If you involve them, for instance, in generating electricity, you involve another company in the distribution and then you involve another company in the collection of revenue, the man collecting the money would know how much he is collecting and the man in charge of distribution knows what it is generating.  That is the way to go.

I’ll give you an example again.  Lagos State was collecting pittance in terms of taxes but once the state government decided to involve a private company in the collection of taxes, the state government started getting 50, 60 times more than what it used to collect in the past.  So we also have to look at the bureaucracy itself.

What you’ve said now relates to the issues of doing something about the numbers in the civil service?

The population of the country has grown considerably and, therefore, every sector is growing and bloated so one has to do an audit.  If you look at the federal budget for example, about two thirds of it goes for recurrent expenditure – that is a waste.  So we have to do an audit of the personnel and their allowances and so on and to cut the waste.

But this issue of audit is funny.  When the Nigeria Railway Corporation decided to carry out an audit of pensioners, the programme ran into a hitch because of corruption and an audit had to be carried out on those who were supposed to carry out the first audit.  Now, all these people are Nigerians.  What would you say is wrong with the average Nigerian such that the spirit of nationalism is no longer there?

My government is going to concentrate on Nigerians as a people and it would be a collective government.  Everybody will be a stake holder and once you involve everybody in what you are doing then you are bound to get results.  Ethiopian Airlines is the best run airline in Africa for the simple reason that even a cleaner there has shares in the airline so everybody works to ensure that the airline runs efficiently.  My government will involve everybody from the ward level to the centre so that we would all be stakeholders.

The consensus issue: All the four of you subscribe to the arrangement but assuming you fail to get the ticket, will your presidential ambition come to a halt?

My word is my bond.  I am a party to the selection of these nine wise men.

I am also a signatory to the decision that whoever emerges the others will support the person.  If it is the wish of God that I get it, no problem I will give him all the thanks but if it is the wish of God that I do not get it, I will abide by what we have agreed on.

Talking about leakages, it naturally leads to corruption and some people say if you want to make progress, you have to assess what is on ground and look back.  If you get there, are you going to likely institute a probe?

Accountability is one thing and I will make it very clear that I will be accountable at all levels to everybody and that nobody is above the law.

Going back to start probing this or that would not be why the people of Nigeria would have voted me into power.  I would be elected to run the country and put Nigeria first and manage the resources of the country very well.

However, if anybody has anything, any concrete information on any public official or former public official, no matter how highly placed such individuals are, the courts would be the best place to go and prosecute the cases and the courts will determine whether such an individual is corrupt or not and, therefore, mete out the necessary punishment commensurate to the act of corruption.

As an intelligence personnel, what do you see as road blocks to the actualization of the 2011 elections?
Well, I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I read this morning that the contract for the data capture machine has been awarded and I also read that the training of the people to operate these machines is on.  The registration itself will start in January and as at now I do not foresee any problem and I believe in the leadership of INEC and they are on top of the situation and I am not a prophet of doom to say that they are not on top of their game.

This zoning issue, yourself and the three other aspirants have your reasons for insisting on participating via the consensus arrangement.  Universally, it is natural for an incumbent to seek re-election but your party, the PDP is saying zoning stays but the president can contest?  What does this mean?

We should follow the constitution of the PDP because it is the PDP that will produce the president and then the president operates the constitution of the country.  If I don’t join the party, I can not aspire to be elected and if I am not elected on the platform of the party, I can not even begin to talk about operating the constitution of the country.  So, the party headquarters is the one to clarify this because the chairman of the party himself is a product of zoning.

Two weeks before he assumed office, his predecessor was removed and nobody went to the South West of North East to bring a replacement for him.  The party went to the same zone to pick a successor.
But many people see your party as the problem of Nigeria because with the numerical strength of the party and its control of everything.  Some people are of the view that if only PDP could get it right then Nigeria may just be on the road to good recovery?
PDP is not the problem.

In every organization, there are always intra-party problems but because of the size of the PDP you people point to PDP.  It happens in CPC, it happens in ACN.  We were just talking about individuals not endorsed by their parties but they went out to contest as independents and won.
In Nigeria, we do not have that, so no matter what happens, you stay in the party and continue.
As a contestant today, in the event that you win, you’ve said before that you intend to spend just one term of office?
Yes! Because that is the gentleman’s agreement we reached in the party.

A term of four years is what I intend to serve for.

I asked that question because in this same country, we have heard politicians speak glowingly about what they intend to do before any election and when they get there or towards the end of their terms of office, you discover that they have done nothing to show.  So, why should Nigerians have hope that an Aliyu Mohammed Gusau presidency would be different, in concrete terms?

Well, if you follow my career, you will discover that all the assignments that I have been given I have carried them out successfully to the satisfaction of the people who put me there so when I say I will do only one term I mean I will do only one term and there will be a benchmark – people will know what time lines we have set for the achievement of set goals to which we can be held accountable.  Nigerians can even judge me by those time lines that we would set.

I am not going to promise heaven and heart because I want to become president because, for example, I know it would take years for us to solve this problem of electricity so I would not promise that it would be solved in months.  But I will do something to make sure that I am on the right track and it will be visible for Nigerians to see.

One thing I will also do is to build the institutions such that even when I am no longer in charge, the institutions that we have built will remain positive to the dictates of their calling.

Let’s even clear this rumour that has become so rampant, that IBB, Abacha and you had this agreement or oath or something about leadership succession?

(General laughter) First of all, when Shonekan was removed, Abacha became head of state, I was the chief of army staff the first person to be fired by Abacha was me.  So, if we had such an agreement, then he wouldn’t have fired me.

It is even unfortunate that people are thinking like that and it is insulting to Nigerians for people to suggest that three people sat together and decided how they would rule the country turn by turn.

Secondly, 2006 and 2007, I contested, IBB, too, picked the form but later he withdrew.  Now, if there was any such agreement, why should IBB seek that office?  Even now, we are both in the contest, if such an agreement had existed, all IBB would have said is that look, I am not interested because Aliyu is contesting because there was an agreement.
In any case, how could we have sat down to reach such an agreement when it is only the Almighty God that can give life and take it.  Who knows who will reach next year or not?  I do not even know how this story got out there, how people concocted the story and started believing it.  It beats my imagination.

On the economy,what specific things can you do to tame the monster of unemployment?
First of all, one has to do what is within one’s power to reduce inflation and to generate employment, you must get two or three things right.

The first is security:  People should be able to go about their legitimate businesses without the fear of being kidnapped or robbed.

You also have to get the power situation right so that people and industries can begin to utilize power effectively and even direct the expenditure on fuelling and maintenance of generators to other productive things.

Then, agriculture is also very important because it employs about 60% of the population.  Government should go into agriculture as well as open roads for the transportation of whatever is produced for processing – not just sent out as raw materials.

How policy instruments would you put in place to tackle inflation/Agriculture, what specific things would you do?
I have seen other people who did it and succeeded and that is the path I will take.


Firstly, when we talk about agriculture, we guarantee a farmer a market of what he produces.

There is no country that leaves its farmers without subsidy – USA, Europe and Asia they all do it.

We can, for example do this through insecticides, pesticides or even fertilizers, although fertilizer is being abused.  We can send people round to come and assess the farmland and tilt it for you.

We would also need to improve our dams so that they can serve for fishing, hydro power generation and irrigation.  It is being done in other parts of Africa and we can copy it from them and get it right.

Your medical history; Are you sure you are medically fit to run the affairs of this country?

I am  medically fit.  I can testify to that and I am ready to appear before any medical panel to test my health condition.
What would be your foreign policy focus? Should we expect a shift?

The foreign policy of my government will be Nigeria first.  Whatever we can do to put Nigeria first we will do.

You said you’re ready to submit yourself to a medical panel, why not suggest that to Nigerians that it should be taken that anybody aspiring to that office should submit himself or herself before a medical panel?

For me, I am volunteering, others can do whatever they like.

For all you achieved in your career and people out there look at you and say this mystery man, it is bad enough that he has been a NSA for so long, all his over four decades in government was in the intelligence community, if he now has to combine executive powers as president, wouldn’t we have a monster on our hands?

I have been Director, Military Intelligence, Chief of Defence Intelligence, Acting Director-General, Nigeria Security Organisation, NSO, Co-ordinator, National Security, NSA, NSA, NSA.  If you look at that record, tell me about any Nigerian that can say I either blackmailed him or that I tortured him in the process of doing my job, or that I subjected him to humiliation in the course of my job.

The information I have about myself, about you and about other people is given to me in trust and I keep it in trust. I don’t use it against my opponents.

If I invite you and talk to you about any issue, it is because that issue concerns the security of this country.

We have to start from somewhere.  George Bush, Snr. was Director, CIA, did anything change?  No.

So, that I held a certain post should that be a limitation to my ability to attain a greater height.  In fact that should be a strength for Nigerians and Nigeria and say this man can pick his telephone and call the Director of CIA and say ‘I am Aliyu and the man would say yes, we attended a course together sometime ago or that we worked together on some issues before’. Or I can pick my telephone and call somebody in ASIA with whom I have attended maybe Commonwealth Security Conference and so on.
Even the criminals would say ‘ha! This man is there now, we have to be careful’.  They would have to abandon whatever it is they’ve been doing.

The corollary to that is that people who know you will say good things about you but those out there would ask, haven’t you been one of those who ruled this country? You’ve been part of it and if Nigeria is not growing, then you must be part of it. And then this issue of being able to adapt and open yourself up to criticism, having operated from the shadows?

I am already campaigning.
I am open; even this interview, for me, for the first time, I am opening myself to anybody and I have to take the criticism, too.
I want to serve Nigeria back.

I know I participated in those regimes and I am not dissociating myself from those regimes and that is why I say I know where we went wrong.

Now I want to come back and serve and right the wrongs.

You were at the top level of governance during the June 12, 1993, election annulment, what roles did you play?

The principal actors of June 12 are there.
It is inappropriate for me to start talking about June 12 because I might be accused of playing mischief, especially since one of those involved is also contesting.  I was in government at that time, I can not deny that.  I was NSA then I became Chief of Army Staff.

What, in brief is the problem of Nigeria?

So many things but it is principally the leadership and the followership.

The leadership has its own share of the blame and the followers too have their own.

Take the followership, people just violate traffic rule and you fail to stop them, it is in our laws and you can play your part.

We seem not to have a political culture?

That is something we are trying to build and that is why I am a founding member of the PDP and I served for seven years with Obasanjo as NSA to ensure that democracy survives and even when President Jonathan came on board he invited me again and I also did my best for the sustenance of democracy.  We are building it.

National Security Adviser, The Presidency
February, 2010 to September, 2010

National Security Adviser, The Presidency
29 May 1999 to 1st June 2006
Chairman & Chief Executive, Alpha Public Affairs
Consultancy Ltd
December 1993 to May 1999
Chief of Army Staff, Nigerian Army
August 1993 to November 1993
National Security Adviser, The Presidency
January 1993 to August 1993
Commandant, Nigerian Defence Academy,
February 1992 to January 1993
Chief of Administration, Defence Headquarters, Lagos
August 1990 to February 1992
General Officer Commanding (GOC), 2 Mechanised Division, Ibadan
December 1989 to August 1990
Coordinator on National Security, State House
Annex, Lagos
August 1986 to December 1989
Acting Director-General, National Security
Organisation (NSO)
September 1985 to August 1986
Director, Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA)
September 1985 to August 1986
Director of Military Intelligence (DMI), Nigeria Army
November 1979 to December 1983
Director of Personnel Services, Army Headquarters
October 1979 to November 1979
Adjutant General, 2 Mechanised Division
July 1978 to September 1979
Commander, 9 Infantry Brigade, Abeokuta
April 1976 to July 1978
General Staff Officer, Grade 2, Army Headquarters

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

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Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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