Dasuki as NSA: Issues below the Surface, By Garba Shehu

In the euphoria that normally accompanies public appointments, people tend to lose their heads and consequently overlook other factors below the surface. No doubt, the appointment of Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retired) is bound to create excitement among the North-west politicians and disappointment among the Niger Delta people who may feel that one of their own has been humiliated out of office.

Officially, President Goodluck Jonathan explained on his media chat on the NTA network that General Andrew Oweye Azazi, the National Security Adviser and Defence Minister, Dr. Bello Halliru Mohammed were fired because they kept using the same strategies (that didn’t work) at a time the tactics of Boko Haram militants were changing. That presupposes that they lost grip with the challenges of security and they had to go. In fact, they were blamed for giving the President an over-optimistic assessment of the security situation, which led the Commander-in-Chief’s declaration that Boko Haram attacks would end in June (this month). On the contrary, we have witnessed a dangerous escalation with attacks on Churches for two weeks running, leading to fears of a religious war. 

There is a school of thought that holds that the appointment of Col. Dasuki was essentially an appeasement gesture towards the North because Boko Haram is largely a northern security challenge. Another school of thought even questions the wisdom of appointing an army officer who is not remarkably steeped in core intelligence activities in his military career to be a National Security Adviser. Dasuki has had a distinguished career in the army artillery corps. 

By the time he was removed last week, it was clear to many that the former NSA had found the shoes too big for his foot. He was apparently overwhelmed by his predecessor, General Gusau’s larger than life image not only in Nigeria but in global security circles. Going by the type of ethnical, religious and media battles he fought, it was thought by many that Azazi had become obsessed with the office of the NSA and was apparently doing more to protect himself in office than the job for which he was hired. The direct consequence of this is that from a gang engaged in street fights with security operatives in Maiduguri township, the Ahlus-Sunnah group (Boko Haram) has, under Bello’s and Azazi’s watch grown to become as potent and formidable as Al-Shabab in North Africa and the Al-Qaeda in some of its formations.

Let us examine the strengths and weaknesses of the pros and cons of Dasuki’s appointment as NSA. If indeed, the appointment of Dasuki is an appeasement policy towards the North, then it may produce the direct opposite result. The Boko Haram terror movement is dominated by Kanuri boys, despite the recruitment of volunteers from areas outside Borno and Yobe States. The appointment ignored the historical rivalries between the Kanuris and the North-west or more directly, the Fulani hegemony. The old Borno Empire, now made up largely of Borno and Yobe States in Nigeria and parts of Niger, Cameroon and Chad Republics was never really conquered by the Fulani jihadist movement. These areas, not only take pride in this, but also the fact that they contacted Islam much earlier than what is today’s North-West geo-political region in Nigeria.

Can a scion of the Fulani royalty, even though a Northerner cultivate the trust and confidence of the Kanuri boys against the background of these historical rivalries? Can a Fulani Northern National Security Adviser conduct negotiations for disarmament with Boko Haram in the face of these historical rivalries? This may be Sambo Dasuki’s biggest challenge. His perception as Generals Babangida and Gusau’s protégé also creates the feeling that President Jonathan is reaching out to Northern politicians as a pacification gesture through Col. Dasuki’s appointment as National Security Adviser.

It is argued that the Jonathan administration is lopsided with his Ijaw kinsmen dominating key appointments, including the office of the National Security Adviser. With Dasuki’s appointment as Azazi’s successor, how far can the President fight off that perception effectively?

Whatever theories may have developed around Sambo’s appointment, the Kanuri factor in the appeasement policy should not be ignored. No confidence building strategy can succeed which ignores the undercurrents of historical rivalries between the Kanuris and the Hausa/Fulani of the north.

It is doubtful if the North-East or Borno State in particular, lacks credible retired army officers who can do the job. Former GOC Third Armoured Corps in Jos, Retired Major General Maina and the former Commander of the Brigade of Guards, Brigadier Monguno are among the officers the government could have appointed for the office of the National Security Adviser. Now that this position has gone to Col. Dasuki, government can still remedy itself by naming a new defense minister from the North-East or specifically the Kanuri. General Munguno in particular has had a career that was unblemished by scandal, controversy or partisan affiliations. He commanded the Guards Brigade and headed the most sensitive of this country’s defense and intelligence departments. In these men, the President has a good pick for defense minister.

Lest one misunderstood, there is no begrudging Col. Dauski with his new position. We should not however, ignore complex issues below the surface. Psychologically, even in the United Nations code of humanitarian negotiations, terror groups tend to deal with persons or parties they can trust. Another worry is that Dasuki’s appointment may produce a sting in its tail. If his tenure produces de-escalation in terrorist violence or attacks, it may produce new theories about why the security situation is improving.

His success may play into the hands of those who believe that Northern leaders have blackmailed Jonathan into submission and that, with security situation returning to normal, these Northern leaders must have real connection to the terror groups. Col. Dasuki cannot run away from this scenario if it does happen in the end. It is a real catch-22 situation for the former ADC to General Babangida.


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  • Abut20

    COL DASUKI (RTD) WAS AN ARMOUR OFFICER, MONGUNO IS NOW A MAJOR GENERAL AND HE HEADS ARMY LOGISTICS CORPS.

  • OPA

    Col. Dasuki was abacha’s ADC and not General Bababngida’s

  • Aliyu A D

    @OPA, Col. Dasuki was IBB’s ADC not Abacha’s. He was retired from army by Abacha in 1995 when he was implicated in Abacha’s phantom coup that involved General OBJ and late General Yar’adua.

    The author has gotten it wrong, the idea and intelligent reasons that settled for Dasuki was

    1. to get somebody that can speak religion to boko haram

    2 somebody from the north

    3 somebody from crises free state

    4 somebody less political

    Col. Dasuki is a muslim, that puts him at vantage point to understand their believe. Given this a northern issue, Dasuki as northerner can easily have access to every part of the North unnoticed and trust. Having come from Sokoto a crises free state, having his immediate kith and kin involved in Boko Haram is not likely. Therefore, devoid of sentimental judgment. Dasuki is not a politician. Well, I don’t have to explain what that means.

  • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

    another tribal junk. yawn. wake me when you have something to say about Nigeria.

  • Mani_Kay

    Most Nigerians have been misled to think that the greatest problem confronting Nigeria is CORRUPTION. I disagree completely and would argue that the greatest problem confronting Nigeria today is INCOMPETENCE. A great number of Nigerians are misfits and incompetent at what they do or are assigned to do. Just like corruption, this problem of incompetence is traceable to the Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani. For example 90% of the Federal Civil Service are made up of Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani men and women who are poorly educated with very low IQ and completely uninterested in challenges to excellence, innovation and Research; they do not have the requisite management and technical skills for the (top) positions that are usually assigned to them. This problem is made worse by our forced consent to accept and accommodate the culture of incompetence associated with Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani and kept alive via Quota System, Federal Character, Zoning and others. As far as I am concerned appointing Dasuki or not appointing Dasuki is all in the vicious circle of incompetence forced on Nigeria by the Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani.

    • Sanibuba

      You always hate Hausa-Fulani, and Northern Muslims. There is nothing you can do about us. You either bear with us or drop dead. Your so called Ijaw man cannot even speak well during media chat, no focus for Nigeria, and corruption has escalated in Nigeria more than 200% during his tenure. GEJ has extinguished the political future of the south-south forever in Nigerian history.

      • Mani_kay

        Corruption is Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani; Incompetence is Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani. These are the two critical problems facing Nigeria and they are embedded in the DNA of the Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani. There is not much Jonathan can do about corruption and incompetence until the Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani are kicked out of Nigeria to go and die in their pervasive diseases: corruption and incompetence.

    • Dogloin

      Your father Dr. Competent was running naked as an animal when the northern Hausa Fulanis were running an empire. North is Nigeria! check your history books. Nigeria is not desirous of shallow minded people like both you and the writer of the article. For some curiousity if important to your Ill mind, make a research on the level of Trustworthiness and that of IQ in NIgeria. You will be shocked! I think you float on a cool slow tide of ignorance and may never awake inspite of your Dr-in-competence. Note also that not for those impeccable innovations as the Federal Character, You would otherwise be a third class citizen in this country. Thank the north for the good conscience that made them trust the amalgamation. An feel lucky that they did.

  • Beegee

    Please somebody tell me, was this appointment based purely on tribal sentiments as this writer is adducing?..
    also, we would rather have the a de-escalation (sic) of the BH than worry about some conspiracy theories that might arise as a result of the ‘de-escalation’ pleasseee!!

  • AbiodunSalma

    Very shallow! Not worth reading!

  • Fkekere

    Honestly, I’m disappointed with this write up. All along I had thought that Garba Shehu, the Atiku media consultant, is more than this. Does it makes sense to bring forth the primitive and parochial kanuri/Fulani feud at this time when we should all be concerned about combating the security challenges facing the country?

    • Mani_kay

      So this Garba Shehu is the kind of person Atiku would have brought to Aso Rock as Media Consultant…….God forbid……no wonder Atiku’s speeches hurt him badly and his image was so poorly projected; the climax of his poor handling was reflected in the speech that doomed his aspiration in the Eagle Square on the day of the PDP primaries.

    • Babagordy

      Shehu Garba’s take may sound primitive and parochial but he has really dealt with the core issue at the heart of the matter. One of Boko Haram’s main objective is to undermine the authority and influence of the Sultan of Sokoto as the head of all muslims in northern Nigeria. This was information the SSS obtained during the interrogation of captured Boko Haram fighters.

      Dasuki is a potential Sultan of Sokoto, therefore he belongs to class of members of Northern Oligarchy Boko Haram group has sworn to reduce to non entities. I disagree with Shehu Garba’s idea that one of those officers he suggested should be considered for the position of defence minister. The north has taken the position of National Security Adviser, therefore the position of the defence minister should go to candidates from South or West. I consider former Ecomog commander General Tunji Olurin most suitable for this position politics apart