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As Kebbi fights over who becomes Defence Minister
Kebbi State is at war within itself over the nomination of Brigadier-General Bulus Ushe from the state as Minister of Defence. North-West Regional Editor, Hassan Ibrahim, writes on the issues at stake.
During former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s first term in office, the appointment of Generals Theophilus Danjuma and Ibrahim Ogohi from northern minority groups as Defence Minister and Chief of Defence Staff respectively had incurred the wrath of the North-West zone. From the unfolding events in recent times, the same scenario has started playing out again, with the recent nomination, by President Goodluck Jonathan, of an indigene of Kebbi State, Brigadier-General Bulus Ushe, as the new Defence Minister. The office had been vacant since Dr Bello Haliru Mohammed was relieved of his appointment some months back.
Incidentally, General Bulus is from Kebbi State, where Mohammed hails from. Although many Nigerians had expected the entire people of Kebbi State to welcome the nomination and rally round the nominee as a true son of the state, the reverse was the case as the ruling party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP), kicked against it. To the Kebbi PDP, Ushe is not a card-carrying member of the party and has allegedly “not contributed to the development of the state.’’
The appointment of a Defence Minister is quite critical and political, a development which compelled the Presidency to shop around for an ideal candidate, who is not only eligible, but also a prominent indigene of Kebbi, with a view to filling the ministerial slot reserved for the state as a result of the exit of the former minister.
Kebbi State governor, Saidu Dakingari, had reportedly forwarded three names to the president as ministerial nominees. The nominees included Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, a former gubernatorial candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), who had since defected to the PDP; Isa Mohammed, erstwhile Water Resources minister and national chairman of the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party and Bello Usman Maitambari, a retired permanent secretary in the federal civil service.
Surprisingly, all the three names were rejected by President Jonathan, who insisted that that he wanted a suitable candidate, who was not just from Kebbi State, but must have had relevant military background. Others being speculated as possible appointees such as former National Security Adviser (NSA), General Aliyu Gusau (rtd) and Colonel Abubakar Dangiwar Umar (rtd) have not yet been screened. It is, therefore, very likely that barring any last minute unforeseen circumstances, the president will soon forward Ushe’s name as his nominee to head the Ministry of Defence.
Expectedly, this development has created upset, as the PDP in the state has threatened to truncate the process of Ushe’s nomination, exploring democratic means at the Senate to scuttle the arrangement. They said they were in a position to nominate credible, experienced and popular ministerial hopefuls from the state who had contributed to the success of the PDP at the national level.
Keen observers of political developments in the region were puzzled and wondered whether the choice of the Minister of Defence should be left at the whims and caprices of a political party whose only reason was that the person so nominated is not a card-carrying member of the ruling party in the state. With the tremendous security challenges facing the country, pundits believe that employing any local sentiment at this point in time could be counterproductive to national security and development. To some analysts, the continuous destruction of lives and property in many parts of the North and Nigeria in general, amongst others regions, should be above any parochial consideration, while capability, experience and professionalism in line with the requirements of the said office should remain the focal point of consideration. Analysts contend that it would be irrational to base the nomination for such a sensitive position on mere party patronage.
Perturbed by the stiff opposition of the state PDP to the nomination of Ushe, the Zuru Emirate Development Society (ZEDS), where Ushe hails from, had swiftly condemned the position of the party, arguing that the nominee had a distinguished career in the Nigerian Army, rising to the rank of Brigadier General and having contributed to the overall security of the country, of which Kebbi state is a part. They described the plot against Ushe’s nomination at the National Assembly by the party as “primitive arrogance of temporary power and relevance” while trusting on the integrity and honour of the lawmakers to be above board.
However, the PDP in Kebbi State appeared undeterred. It had petitioned the president and the PDP national headquarters. A public commentator based in Taraba, Dr Ibrahim Jada, said “The entire state is now polarised along ethnic and religious lines, as could be seen in the statements of Concerned Elite of Zuru Emirate and Kebbi Unity Forum, thereby giving a particular posture that does not and will not augur well for the unity of Nigeria, if the experiences of the past in some states of the North is anything to borrow from.”
The Nigerian security concern is no longer limited to Nigeria. It has assumed international dimensions that will require a global collective response to effectively deal with and this has remained the view of the United Nations (UN) and particularly the United States, which has since offered to assist Nigeria in dealing with its security challenges. He noted that Nigeria borders Cameroon and Niger Republic and that “the radical network of terrorists could undermine the security of neighbouring states.”
Ushe has not engaged in politics since he retired seven years ago. Those opposed to his nomination could also be doing so on the basis of religious sentiment because his nomination and subsequent appointment as defence minister would culminate in the Defence ministry being headed by two Christians, taking into consideration the faith of the Minister of State for Defence, Mrs Olusola Obada.
However, a PDP stalwart in Kebbi, Mallam Shehu Usman, warned that the Presidency should not fall prey to the antics of the Gwandu-based PDP politicians in Kebbi State because any political miscalculation at this point in time would definitely confirm, especially to minority groups in the North, that a section of the population in Kebbi State was not only being marginalised within the state, but also in all ramifications. “This is no time for ethnic or religious bickering,’’ he said. The people of Kebbi and, indeed, North-West should be grateful to Mr President’s magnanimity in retaining the position of Defence Minister in the state, in addition to already having the National Security Adviser and the Inspector General of Police from Sokoto and Zamfara states respectively. Playing politics with security of lives and property has continued to be the bane of our national security,” he said.Share