9 March 2010

Nigeria: In a Major Game-Changer, Jonathan Fires Mukhtar

Abuja — Acting President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday moved to consolidate his hold on power with the removal of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Sarki Mukhtar (rtd), and the appointment of Lt. Gen. Aliyu Mohammed Gusau as his replacement.

THISDAY learnt that after the meeting of the National Security Council, Jonathan called Mukhtar to his office and thanked him for his service to the nation before informing him that he had been removed from office. Jonathan immediately appointed Gusau, who also served in a similar capacity under President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2006.

Mukhtar was a powerful figure in the Yar’Adua presidency and a member of the ailing president’s kitchen cabinet.
With his ouster, the political game in Aso Rock, the seat of power, is going to assume a new dimension as Jonathan tries to send strong signals that he is not only in government, he is also in power.

The Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the President Yufusu Tilde may now be forced to release President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s medical records to the new NSA through the office of the Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS) Afakriya Gadzama. The SSS DG reports to the NSA.

This will effectively put a stop to the hanky-panky going on over the President’s health since his controversial return to the country two weeks ago, a Presidency source told THISDAY last night.

It was learnt that Jonathan had requested on five occasions to see the President but Yar’Adua’s family, through the CSO, has always denied him access after making promises. After the last failed promise, Jonathan is said to have declared that he would no longer make any request, and that Yar’Adua should send for him anytime the President was ready to see him. Gusau, who is well respected in the military, security and international circles, is expected to be a counterforce to the interest blocs trying to undermine Jonathan.

Initial reports yesterday suggested that Mukhtar’s sack was not unconnected with the security failure in the Jos massacre of last Sunday, but THISDAY confirmed last night that it had nothing to do with it.

“It is true the Jos matter was discussed at the security meeting, but Mukhtar’s removal has nothing to do with it,” a Presidency source told THISDAY.
The inaugural meeting of the National Security Council under Jonathan lasted for about three and a half hours and was attended by the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, the three Service Chiefs, Abdulrahman Danbazzau (Army), Oluseyi Petinri (Airforce), Ishaya Iko Ibrahim (Navy) and Gadzama.

Others are the Inspector General of Police (IG) Ogbonna Onovo; Chief of Defence Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Babagana Mungonu; Minister of Interior, Alhaji Shetima Mustapha; Police Affairs Minister, Senator Ibrahim Lame; Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Godwin Abbe (rtd); Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Prince Adekotumbo Kayode (SAN); and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed.

Fielding questions from State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, Senior Special Assistant to Jonathan on Media and Publicity, Mr. Ima Niboro, declined explanations on the outcome of the meeting, insisting that because it was the inaugural meeting of the council it was agreed that the media should be kept out of the outcome.

Pressed further on whether the issue of the Jos crisis featured at the meeting, Niboro said: “The issue came up for discussion and adequate measures have been put in place to contain the situation.” He then walked away, declining to answer further questions posed by the reporters.

A statement issued shortly afterwards by Niboro read: “The Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, has appointed Lt. Gen. Aliyu Gusau (Rtd), as National Security Adviser.  He replaces Maj. Gen. Sarki Mukhtar (Rtd). Dr. Jonathan thanked the outgoing NSA for his services to the nation and the present administration, and wished him well in his future endeavours.”

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