In a demonstration of presidential authority, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, a year on the saddle as elected president and shortly after returning from a much criticized trip to Brazil, recently fired the National Security Adviser (NSA), retired General OwoeyeAzazi and the Minister of Defence, Dr.Haliru Bello Mohammed. Subsequently, he sacked the NNPC boss Austen Oniwon alongside top management of the corporation. LOUIS ACHI examines the implication of the interventions in two most strategic sectors of the Nigerian project
A year after quietly marking the first anniversary of his democratic election as president, it is clear that the stakes currently are extremely high.
Nigerians are mindful that a failure by President Goodluck Jonathan to achieve democratic stability, security, meaningful reduction in corruption and economic prosperity may imperil the country’s future as a coherent state.
To add to the intensity of the unfolding issues, calculations on who becomes president in 2015 are taking centre- stage - rightly or wrongly.
From this fog, the emerging consensus is that President Goodluck Jonathan’s determination to deliver on his transformation agenda could not have been immune from the sense of uncertainty that has shrouded governance in the first year of his presidency.
This uncertainty clearly derives from the extreme security challenges fed by the agenda of the militant Jama’atuAhlisSunna Lidda’awatiwal-Jihad, commonly called the Boko Haram sect.
Outside the security arena, perhaps the other most strategic theatre is the extreme corruption in the petroleum sector, an arena which provides the funds to drive the Nigerian economy and bears the prospects of spearheading accelerated human and infrastructural development.
Problems in these twin sectors clearly translate to an endangered throne, which is President Jonathan’s defining dilemma today. It is perhaps from a clear-eyed appreciation of the need for definitive action that informed his strong action to reposition the security and petroleum sectors.
Although many analysts are holding that the president must go the whole hog, others insist that the current presidential actions in sacking key arrow-heads in the security and petroleum sectors signal a new footing by Dr. Jonathan.
Without question, the key areas of challenge remain security, anti-corruption war, physical and human infrastructure development, and constitution re-engineering to address several areas of anxiety and concern in the Nigerian project.
Today, security almost dwarfs all other key areas of concern. The much criticized jumbo security budget in Jonathan’s 2012 proposal to the National Assembly tacitly recognizes this. But the listed areas do not exhaust all the challenges but merely capture the kernel.
Biting The Bullet…National Security:
In terms of the fundamentals of governance - philosophy, reform and leadership – Jonathan’s style of leadership marks a major departure from his two immediate predecessors in office –retired General OlusegunObasanjo’s tempestuous rule and late AlhajiUmaruYar’Adua’s health-challenged, halting footing.
Clearly, showmanship is not Jonathan’s forte. But then, a president must from time to time stand firm, be presidential and assert his authority. This was what Jonathan did last week.
Given the scope of the bloody swath cut by the Boko Haram sect members in Northern Nigeria and allegations that foreign terrorist groups have joined the fray, the implication of incoherent and disorderly engagement strategies in tackling the group became much clearer.
Against this background, it was not surprising that immediately he returned from the Rio earth summit in Brazil he sacked the National Security Adviser, General OwoyeAzazi and the Minister of Defence, Alhaji Bello Haliru Mohammed.
Azazi has been replaced with SamboDasuki while the replacement of Mohammed is yet to be announced as nomination has to come from his state and screened by the Senate for confirmation. “The NSA has been dropped SamboDasuki has been announced as his replacement.
The Minister of Defence has also been dropped,” Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati had tersely announced. The development followed a National Security Council meeting convened by the president.
It could be recalled that during last Sunday’s presidential media chat, Jonathan had alluded to his plans to try a new strategy in fighting terrorism. According to him, Azazi and Mohammed’s “removal was not because they were incompetent, but as a change of strategy necessitated by the need to adjust the nation’s security architecture in response to the changing tactics of Boko Haram.
Those who have held these offices have done well but if you look at the evolution of Boko Haram, the interest of the terrorists is to destabilise government and if that doesn’t work, they use another one and they have continued to change their style, change their strategies.”
At press time, Jonathan is weighing all options in his new-fangled approach to fighting terrorism. LEADERSHIP WEEKEND gleaned that the president has intensified the search for erstwhile Minister of Defence Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed’s replacement.
It was gathered that the race for the ministerial job has now been narrowed down to between former NSA, Lt-Gen. AliyuGusau (rtd), a military intelligence veteran, and former military governor of Kaduna State, Colonel AbubakarDangiwa Umar (rtd).
But as the president considers his options, LEADERSHIP WEEKEND learnt that stakeholders from the South-south geo-political zone are raising issues that the positions of NSA and defence minister should not both go to the north.
According to the position they are canvassing, the retired Azazi is from the South-south zone, while Mohammed is from the North-west, as such, the defence minister should come from the South-south since the north has produced the NSA.
LEADERSHIP WEEKEND further gathered that if Umar, also from Kebbi State, as the sacked minister, he accepts to serve, he will be favoured as there are indications that Gusau is not disposed to becoming a minister. But at press time, neither the president nor any government official had contacted Umar over the job offer.
Many analysts believe that Jonathan must have a good reason for prefering somebody with a military background to head the Ministry of Defence. A presidency source said the new approach was part of efforts by the Federal Government to change its strategy towards combating terror.
According to him, Jonathan favours somebody with a military background as his defence minister now because such a person would wield the necessary clout to provide direction for the armed forces and will drive the new anti-terror strategy that is being worked out.
Shortly, the associated intrigues will play out and the shape of Jonathan’s new security infrastructure will become clearer.
The Petroleum Sector…
The petroleum sector is the key driver of the nation’s economy. It is also one that has drawn considerable flak for many of its opaque operational modus. On Tuesday, 26 June, President Jonathan fired the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Austen Oniwon, and other top officials of the corporation.
The NNPC management has been involved in several scandals including the petroleum subsidy payment scandal. Part of the recommendations of the Farouk Lawan committee report by the House of Representatives is the removal of Mr. Oniwon and the NNPC management. Andrew Yakubu, an engineer, was been appointed Mr. Oniwon’s replacement.
According to presidential spokesman Abati, “To further strengthen the ongoing reforms and transformation of Nigeria’s Petroleum sector, and in furtherance of efforts to achieve greater transparency and accountability in government, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has approved the re-composition of the executive management team of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The presidential move is seen as a welcome development given the alleged depth of institutional corruption in the sector.
Although at press time, many are insisting the president should wield the big stick further.
The strong presidential actions have been received favourably by a distressed public anxious for stability in the polity. But many other stakeholders ask that the president widen his recent firm interventions to other sectors .
State Of Emergency
It could be recalled that earlier in the year, in one of the most significant and forceful reaction to the dangerously deteriorating security situation in the country, Jonathan bit the bullet and declared a state of emergency in four northern states. At press time, over 1,500 lives have been lost to the activities of adherents of the Boko Haram sect.
The president then directed the Chief of Defence Staff, in collaboration with other Service Chiefs, to set up a special force unit within the armed forces, with dedicated counter terrorism responsibilities, explaining that the details of his proclamation will be transmitted to the National Assembly in due course.
For good measure, he also ordered the closure of Nigeria’s international borders with Niger Republic and the Republic of Chad.
The president’s move then came a week after 43 worshippers were killed and over 80 wounded at Saint Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla in Niger State, on Christmas day in a deadly bomb attack executed by adherents of the militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
Affected in the presidential crackdown are - Borno State: Maidugiri Metropolitan, GamboruNgala, BankiBama, Biu and Jere Local Government Areas; Yobe State: Damaturu, Geidam, Potiskum, Buniyadi-Gujba and Gasua-Bade LGAs; Plateau State: Jos North, Jos South, Barkin-Ladi and Riyom LGAs; and Suleja LGA in Niger State.
In all, the president’s new footing will send the clearest signal to forces behind the bloody depredations that threaten continuation of the Nigerian project that a president widely seen as weak can actually bite.
His accompanying directive to top security chiefs to set up a special force unit within the armed forces, with dedicated counter-terrorism responsibilities within the context of shifting to a more forceful footing and honing related skills in anti-terrorism warfare will signal to an uncertain international community that the Jonathan presidency has indeed taken his brief very seriously.
His recent stern action in the all-important petroleum sector is seen as a master-stroke, notwithstanding that stakeholders are asking for more. This is reassuring.
A fractured political intelligentsia has hardly helped matters. This scenario has generated a considerable level of lack of trust and common purpose. With the current changes in the defence sector and intervention status of the anti-terrorism action, several foreign countries may feel more comfortable to provide specific assistance in prosecuting the battle.
As Jonathan retools, reconceptualises his governance strategy - a footing becoming increasingly apparent - and succeeds, history will judge him fairly as the 14th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The emerging consensus is that political leadership should not just be a matter of coping with the political challenges of the moment, or doing well at getting elected, or even meeting immediate problems the right way.
Pushing new thinking, analysts hold that political leaders must approach governance according to an understanding - according to a set of principles - that reflect a sense of the permanent destiny of the nation. That is the key challenge facing Jonathan. His most recent moves signal a positive tactical change. Nigerians watch.