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Aliyu Gusau’s tribute to Frederick de Klerk and matters arising

By Tunde Olusunle
07 December 2021   |   3:24 am
It has been proferred that the Ian Smith and Robert Mugabe debacle in the former Rhodesia, taught the White supremacists not to repeat history, in the handling of the South African situation.

Frederick de Klerk

It has been proferred that the Ian Smith and Robert Mugabe debacle in the former Rhodesia, taught the White supremacists not to repeat history, in the handling of the South African situation.

This school of thought believes that apartheid was going to end, not because De Klerk suddenly had a “Damascus” experience, but because the liberation campaign ferociously mounted by the African National Congress (ANC), was gathering global traction, which played into the Soviet Union capitalism propaganda. It has been advanced that the De Klerk faction was activated and supported by Western interests to seize control, reach out to the moderate forces among the Blacks and prevent the radical Chris Hani faction and Steve Biko tendency, from seizing power and handing the leaders of the White apartheid, a reenactment of the “Nuremberg” experience.

We will continue our discussion of the De Klerk transition programme which produced the first ever indigenous Black South African government, in another exegesis. My primary interest in this piece, however, is an interesting spinoff from Gusau’s correspondence which I find very interesting and instructive, relative to the issues of meritocracy in the conduct of government business, geo-religious balancing and national cohesion. In the twilight of the apartheid regime, De Klerk had opened discussions with British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher on the plan of his government, to hand over to the majority Blacks in South Africa. Britain was interested in this plan, but desired an African ally to engage with and distill the authenticity, even veracity of De Klerk’s plan. This was to enable world powers galvanise global support for South Africa, to make that long-sought transition to Black rule, a seamless success.

Thatcher enlisted the support of Nigeria, under the rulership of Babangida at the time, owing to the country’s looming profile in diplomatic circles and it’s sustained commitment to the liberation of the frontline countries, over the decades. Babangida would swiftly assign the responsibility to Gusau, in his position as Coordinator of National Security, (CNS). His task was to kickoff multilevel engagements with the intelligence agencies and political leaders in South Africa to ascertain the preparedness of the country for the impending change of baton. Gusau, pragmatic, visionary and broad-minded, co-opted Kayode Are, a colonel, who was his deputy, to join him on this brief.

Gusau, we’ve earlier noted, is from Zamfara and Are, from Ogun State. Under Gusau’s leadership in the intelligence and security apparachik, were several officers of northern extraction, who could have been drafted into the assignment. But Gusau believed more in Are, who graduated with a first class degree in psychology from the University of Ibadan in 1980, and whose performance was one of the best in the masters class of international law and diplomacy at the University of Lagos in 1987. Are’s subsequent reincarnation in the Obasanjo administration as Director-General of the DSS, was solely the orchestration of Gusau. He equally advised Obasanjo to stagger the date of the inauguration of the National Security Council (NCS), by 24 hours, to enable for the inclusion of the South East in the council, which culminated in the head-hunt and appointment of Uche Okeke, a seasoned diplomat and intelligence chief, as Director General of the NIA.

I have known Gusau for about 25 years now, courtesy of a very good friend of his, one of the five very senior Nigerian journalists who attended the March 31, 1990 Namibian Independence Day celebration, in Windhoek, Onyema Ugochukwu. Ugochukwu who was Editor of the Daily Times in that milieu, is from Abia State. Ugochukwu and his colleagues crossed over to South Africa after the Namibian event and appraised the sociopolitical temperature in the country, preparatory to the looming transfer of the political batons. Gusau confirms in his memorial on De Klerk, that the reports filed by the Nigerian journalists after their visit, was catalytic in reshaping international perception about the improving situation in South Africa. Haroun Adamu, a former university teacher and publisher of The Nigerian Economist magazine was also on the entourage.

I would subsequently interact more frequently and robustly with Gusau in the course of the Obasanjo presidential campaign which commenced in the last quarter of 1998, and thereafter. Gusau it was who proposed Ugochukwu to Obasanjo as the Director of Publicity of the Campaign. I was the very first younger colleague of Ugochukwu whom he drafted into the project. He was at various times Editor, General Manager and Executive Director during his days in the Daily Times, and I served under him. Your worth as a journalist is appraised on the strength of the quality of what you write, what you publish. Over time,
he had identified some bright younger colleagues, both in Daily Times and elsewhere, who fitted his vision of the kind of political communication we were about to undertake. Segun Ayobolu, Reuben Abati, Emeka Nwosu, Chukwuma Nwokoh, (Femi Olatunde, Louis Okoroma, may their souls rest on), were some of the other members of the media team. Beginning our work from Ugochukwu’s living room in his Adeniyi Jones residence in Ikeja, Lagos, the publicity department was later allocated office space at “Oluwalogbon Motors,” Alausa, Ikeja.

On this particular day, I was requested to draft a press release announcing the impending pre-inauguration global tour of President in-waiting Obasanjo, sometime in March 1999, including the delegation list. If I remember correctly, Gusau; Donald Duke, Adamu Muazu (governors-elect of Cross River and Bauchi states); Oyewole Fasawe; Ad’Obe Obe; Ojo Maduekwe; Olusegun Agagu; Abubakar Rimi, (the last three names now deceased, sadly), and a few others were on the tour. I took a critical look at the list and observed that the publicity department was not represented. Who then was going to cover the extended trip? How was the world to know about the coming new dawn in Nigeria?

I got into my car and drove to Abeokuta, to see the president-elect. Obasanjo, Gusau and Carl Masters, an American ally of former United States Secretary of State, Andrew Young, were chatting, just outside the gate of Obasanjo’s old home in city centre, in *Ita Eko,* when I arrived. The road leading to the house has since been renamed “Obasanjo Way,” as tribute to one of Nigeria’s, even Africa’s iconic leaders. I walked up to them, greeted respectfully and told Obasanjo I needed to draw his attention to an omission on his delegation list. We both held the paper right there in the sun as Obasanjo scanned through the document. Obasanjo then tapped Gusau: “Tunde, media (I travelled with Obasanjo all through the campaign tour which lasted several months as campaign press secretary and we became used to each other), has made an important observation on the entourage of our proposed tour. There is no publicity person.”

Gusau also reviewed the list and then asked me: “Who in your group, would you suggest should go with us?” I didn’t blink one bit before I retorted: “Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, Sir. There is no contest about that. He is the boss. We have a hierarchy.” All three men looked at themselves, astounded by my uncharacteristic humility and loyalty, in a milieu of hustling desperados. Ugochukwu, by the way, was totally unaware of my agenda on this trip to Abeokuta. Obasanjo featured more regularly in the Ogun State capital after his victory, than the much more spacious Otta Farm. As a matter of duty, I reported daily to Obasanjo’s operational base, wherever it was. Gusau struck out a name I can’t immediately remember from the tour list and replaced it with Ugochukwu’s.

I’ve gone this length to lay this foundation, as counterpoint to what is largely obtainable today. Crass sectionalism, quantum ethnic chauvinism, aggregate religious demagoguery, preposterous sectionalism, in-your-face shenanigans are hallmarks of contemporary statecraft. The media is regularly awash with information and personnel listings in various departments in the pyramid of administration, which make mincemeat of fairness, equity and justice. The inauguration of ministers in 2019 for instance and their consequent deployment to various schedules, revealed glaring lopsidedness both in numbers and in weight of responsibility, in favour of the North West, abode of President Muhammadu Buhari.

It would seem that other segments of the country either do not have capable human resources or cannot be trusted, with the manner of suspicion and distrust that has been generated in our recent past. To be sure, there are nine substantive ministers, actually 10 ministers from the North West, because the President is the substantive minister for Petroleum. There is not one minister of state, from the zone. And all 10 ministers from the North West are manning what in popular parlance are referred to as “A” list ministries. They include Water resources; Finance; Environment; Agriculture and rural development; Defence; Aviation; Justice; Police affairs and Humanitarian affairs. Conversely, in a classic instance of the miniaturization of some other sections of the country, two ministers from the South are marooned into a tiny ministry like Labour and Employment.

The composition of the National Security Council (NCS), has also been a source of regular discourse in the public sphere.

The composition of the National Security Council (NCS), has also been a source of regular discourse in the public sphere. It is totally disrespectful of federal character provisions, in every material particular, as it stands. The preponderance of membership from the northern half of the country, relative to the global south, has been routinely subjected to public mastication, to draw attention to glaring, most probably purposive lopsidedness. Of the 13 statutory members of the Security Council, 10 are from the North, and three from the South. This excludes notable paramilitary agencies such as the Customs, Immigrations, Correctional Services and Civil Defence, which are also all headed by officers from the North.

The discriminatory siting of infrastructure, calculated to privilege certain parts of the country, over others, is equally deserving of scrutiny. Why would the administration prioritise the construction of standard guage rail lines from Katsina to Maradi in Niger Republic, when the Southsouth-Southeast-Northeast rail route is proposed to be built with narrow guage lines? Can the contribution of the oil bearing South South and South East to the national fiscal basket be estimated? What is the situation report on the East-West expressway, which has been ongoing, forever?

A Chief Justice of the Federation, (CJN) from the south is framed, hounded out of office and succeeded by an obviously less qualified colleague, specifically from the north of the country. The home, the hallowed sanctuary of the immediately second name following the incumbent number one law officer in the land, is unlawfully invaded and trespassed by armed security personnel, for no justifiable reason till date. Government officials are ever trying to put a spin around the story, following mass revulsion at the sacrilegious idiocy, by disowning the perpetrators.

Only recently, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT), Mohammed Musa Bello, obtained presidential approval for the engagement of Mandate Secretaries, the equivalent of Commissioners assigned to specific schedules, departments and agencies in the states, and into other existing vacancies in the Ministry. The list was so unbelievably skewed that out of 40 appointees, 30 are from the North. Maxwell Opara, an attorney and social crusader has filed a case against Buhari and Bello, at a Federal High Court in Abuja, over the “violation of the Federal Character Act in the appointments of Mandate Secretaries, Personal Aides, Directors and other staffers into the FCTA.”

Most of the challenges bedevilling Nigeria as we speak, derive from the inexplicable privileging of certain sections of the country, over the others, along the lines of religion and ethnicity. And this is an agenda that derives, most unfortunately, from the very top. Nigerians effectively cremated and interred the ogre of divisive religiosity in our national politics way back in 1993. They trooped out in their millions to various polling units across the country, to vote the muslim-muslim ticket of Moshood Olawale Kasimawo Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe, as president and vice president respectively, in that historic “June 12” election, inexplicably annulled by Babangida. That election still ranks as the most well attended and most transparent in the annals of Nigeria’s electoral history. Sadly, the fossils of that cadaver, have since been deliberately exhumed and planted on the front burner of our national life. It must be exorcised to enable Nigeria return to its promising past.
Olusunle, PhD, published poet and scholar, journalist and writer, is a Member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).

Aliyu Gusau’s tribute to Frederick de Klerk and matters arising

Olusunle, PhD, published poet and scholar, journalist and writer, is a Member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).