Usman: How Dambazau Resisted Pressure to Topple Jonathan

•Says he made a promise to international community he wouldn’t 

•Ex-army chief proposes drastic reform of entire security sector  

•Declares size of military, police inadequate for Nigeria’s population 

•Buni cautions against hate speech, says nation’s interest uppermost

Chuks Okocha and Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja

Former spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Brig.-Gen. Kukasheka Usman (rtd), yesterday, spilled an untold story that would shock many Nigerians, as he revealed how ex-Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd), was pressured to topple President Goodluck Jonathan following the passing of President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2010.

Usman made the disclosure in Abuja at the 2022 Blueprint Newspapers Annual Public Lectures and Impact Series/Award. He said Dambazau not only resisted the pressure from people the former army spokesperson described as enemies of Nigeria, but he also promised the international community, which got wind of the development, he would do no such thing.

The revelation came as Dambazau suggested a drastic reform of the entire security sector after the 2023 general election.

Relatedly, Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni warned that no individual or collective interest was worth plunging the country into war for in order to win the forthcoming election. Buni cautioned against hate speech, saying Nigeria’s interest must be uppermost at all times.

Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello also said those responsible for the country’s security crisis could not be trusted to find a lasting solution to it. Bello said with serious commitment, the security challenges could be successfully tackled within six months.

Recounting how Dambazau resisted pressure to overthrow the Jonathan government, Usman said, “One thing Nigerians do not know is that if we are counting champions of democracy in this country, there is no way you will not mention Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau, and I will tell you why.

“Way back in the days when President Umar Yar’Adua was sick, he was the Chief of Army Staff and I had the privilege of being public relations officer in the office of the army chief. I had the privilege of moving with him. We always moved together and I knew.

“Even though he is a prolific writer, he is yet to come out with his memoir and part of that memoir should be an expose of those people that undermined democracy in this country.

“I am saying this with every sense of responsibility, because that time the same group of politicians were the ones lobbying him to take over government unconstitutionally. We have the records and when he started writing the memoir, with due respect to him, I told him that he had to mention the names of the individuals so that posterity will remember them for who they are.

“Up till now, we are still contending with that issue and I know that the international community showed concern, to the extent that they had to meet with him, where he promised that he will not take over government.

“We still live with the flaks, where in some parts of the country, they call us women, because an opportunity came and we did not take advantage of it to take over government. Now, what am I driving at? All these issues that we are talking about lack focus on critical issues, discussing mundane issues; they are threatening the very corporate existence of this nation.

“When we visited 44 Reference Hospital, Kaduna, people were asking when is the announcement going to be made about taking over government. I’m so happy Gen. Akinyemi, the GOC 3rd Amoured Division (Jos) is still alive. You can ask him.

“A simple phone call to him to roll out the tanks and Gen. Dambazau would have been head of state, but he resisted that temptation, simply, because he had the interest of this nation at heart and he knows that democracy is the best form of government for this country.”

Recall that Dambazau was at the time accused of ordering troops to Airport Road, Abuja, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport without Jonathan’s authorisation at the death of Yar’Adua. It was also alleged that the then Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike (rtd), once restricted Dambazau’s movement to his residence as army chief over his suspected “ambitious moves”.

Dambazau was later replaced while he was in the United States with Jonathan.

Delivering a lecture on the topic, “2023 Politics: National Security and Nigeria’s Stability”, at the Blueprint Newspapers event, Dambazau proposed a drastic reform of the security sector post 2023 election.

 According to him, “A significant part of security sector reforms is security governance, centred on strengthening the effectiveness of security institutions. One of the areas we need to focus our attention on is emergency response planning and coordination.

“National response to emergencies must be robust and people-centric, taking advantage of the unique competencies and resources of each entity at all levels. If we had effective and integrated system that responds to national emergencies, the terrorists would not have had the audacity to conduct their Abuja-Kaduna train and Kuje prisons attacks, and even left the scenes without trace after spending hours conducting their operations.

“The second area of focus, also relating to our experience, is defence material needs identification, procurement, and acquisition procedures and processes. Who has the mandate for defence procurements? We are aware of the controversies following allegations of diversion of funds meant for arms procurement for the North-east operations by the Office of the NSA, during the administration of former President Jonathan.

“As far as I am aware, the business of the NSA office in defence procurement process is to issue end-user certificates only. Is defence procurement not the exclusive mandate of the Ministry of Defence? Or do the individual services also have the mandate for not only needs identification, but also procurement and acquisition? What are the processes and procedures in a democratic environment like ours?”

The former army chief said, “Answers to these questions should provide clear guidelines that would streamline aspects of defence procurement for better transparency and accountability. Inadequate oversight, lack of transparency, and poor accountability allow corruption and abuse to thrive, thereby weakening the capabilities of the armed forces.

“The misplacements, underutilisation, and misuse of civilian security agencies and personnel are issues of interest for security sector reforms. The Nigerian Customs Service, for example, aside the revenue it makes for the government, what informs the positioning of such a strategic border security agency to be under the supervision of Ministry of Finance?

“Likewise, why should a public safety agency, the Federal Road Safety Corps, be under the supervision of the Office of the SGF, when it is clearly the mandate of the Ministry of Interior? Or the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, a health security outfit, not under the supervision of Ministry of Health? These are only a few examples.”

He stated that with such misplacement of supervision and oversight, “We cannot guarantee effective and efficient performance, neither can we guarantee accountability and transparency.”

Dambazau said the police were both underutilised and misused, stressing that this situation poses difficulties for efficient law enforcement.

He explained, regarding the Nigeria Police, “With a strength of about 400,000, a significant percentage are deployed for private security for individuals, organisations, and institutions.

“The best example for an agency being underutilised is the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), and they could serve same purpose as the US National Guard, thus, creating a force between the military and the police.

“If my push, as then Minister of Interior, for the establishment of the Agro Rangers unit in the Corps had been funded to take off, most of the attacks on farmers and cattle rustling would have been checkmated, thereby protecting our food security.”

Buni, who was the chairman of the occasion, said, “As patriots with the zeal to ensure the unity of Nigeria, there is no election or interest of any single individual that is worth sending Nigeria to war.”

He said the theme, “2023 Politics, National Security and Nigeria’s Stability”, was apt in view of the security threats that usually accompanied national elections and the already existing security challenges in the country.

“The success or otherwise of the 2023 elections hugely depends on us, the politicians, the political parties, candidates, and their supporters, and, of course, the political umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),” the Yobe State governor stated.

He added, “The need for peace to conduct the elections and to have good governance and development cannot be overemphasised. It, therefore, becomes obvious for all of us to make sacrifices and consider national interests above personal interests for a free and peaceful election in 2023.”

Buni said Nigeria had had many experiences of unfortunate events, under various regimes, from the civil war to ethno-religious conflicts, bloody border clashes, and lately, the Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, and secessionist pressures.

He said these conflicts robbed the country of rich and valuable human and material resources, stressing that Nigeria cannot afford to have any more of such skirmishes.

Buni said, “Therefore, for us to succeed, we must, as a deliberate policy, avoid politics of hate, and the promotion of religious and ethnic sentiments that are gradually eating deep into the fabric of our nationhood.

“The government, with the collaboration of stakeholders, should create the required awareness among our supporters and the people of Nigeria, generally, to condemn and discourage inciting propaganda for a peaceful and successful election in 2023.”

The governor said the choice of Dambazau as main lecturer on the topic of discussion, was most appropriate, as he was an accomplished and brilliant professional.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Blueprint Newspapers Limited, Alhaji Mohammed Idris Malagi, in his remarks, advised the federal government to do more to protect lives and property across the country.

The Kakaaki Nupe, who commended all the security agencies in the country, however, called for synergy between the government and the people to tackle insecurity.

He stated, “I, therefore, use this opportunity to call on the Federal Government of Nigeria, on whose shoulders rests our national security, to do more to protect lives of citizens from terrorists, bandits and other militias that are rampaging our cities, forests and creeks. Our security challenges must be overcome at all costs. Critically, we must not allow the issue of insecurity to define the debates of 2023.”

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