Nigeria’s defence minister, Aliyu Gusau, has eventually held a meeting with the chiefs of army, navy and airforce, after a dramatic week-long standoff between the minister and the Chief of Defence, Alex Badeh, who blocked the meeting, questioning Mr. Gusau’s authority.
Government sources said the meeting held Tuesday following the intervention of the presidency which tried for days to reconcile the defence minister and Air Chief Marshal Badeh who had insisted last week that Mr. Gusau would be overstepping his powers by directly issuing operational directives to army, navy and airforce chiefs.
Details of Tuesday’s meeting were not clear but our sources said Messrs Gusau and Badeh agreed to bury the hatchet and work together to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency ravaging Nigeria’s northeast.
The embarrassing row between the minister and the defence chief triggered speculations of the minister’s resignation barely a week after his appointment.
A mediation meeting scrambled on the instruction of President Goodluck Jonathan last Thursday ended in a deadlock after Mr. Badeh refused to withdraw his objection and declined to offer an apology; and the minister insisted on meeting with the service chiefs directly.
Officials briefed about the controversy, told PREMIUM TIMES Mr. Gusau had his way shortly after the stormy session, and was finally allowed to have a meeting with the military chiefs on the instructions of the president.
“Yes, the minister was able to meet with the military chiefs and everybody at the meeting agreed this is no time for Nigeria’s military brass to bicker while Boko Haram continues to strike,” a source familiar with the matter told PREMIUM TIMES. He declined to be named, saying he was not authorised to speak on the matter.
It is not clear whether the defence chief apologised or withdrew his earlier comments.
Officials briefed about the first meeting said Mr. Badeh stuck to his guns, insisting that the minister should route all comments to the service chiefs through his office.
The meeting, convened by the president’s Chief of Staff, Jones Arogbofa, had in attendance Mr. Gusau, Mr. Badeh, Minister for State, Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, and the permanent secretary of the ministry, Aliyu Isma’ila.
The sources said when the defence minister, Mr. Badeh, was asked to apologize to Mr. Gusau, he said that could only be done to the extent that he did not make his position clear. But he vowed not to apologize on the substance of his stand.
In his letter to President Jonathan, which stirred speculation of his resignation, Mr. Gusau described the chief of defence staff as being “rude”, insiders said.
According to the officials, while Mr. Gusau did not expressly submit a resignation letter, he told the president he was not prepared to work with military officials he considered “insubordinate”.
Under the Nigerian law, only the president-who is the commander-in-chief, and the chief of defence staff, are empowered to pass directives to the service chiefs.
But analysts have also referred to a constitutional provision that delegates presidential powers to ministers, like Mr. Gusau, a retired general and a former National Security Adviser.
Many Nigerians have expressed concerns over the likely implication of the rift on the government’s effort at foiling an increasingly bloody insurgency by extremist group, Boko Haram.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999