Crack in Buhari’s team as NSA accuses Kyari of sabotage

Abba Kyari and Babagana Monguno
Abba Kyari and Babagana Monguno
  • Infighting dangerous for Nigeria – Ex-military officer
  • Presidency mum

The National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Monguno has alleged that undue interference by President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, on matters of national security has slowed down meaningful gains that Buhari had sought to achieve.

In a leaked memo to the service chiefs, which was published yesterday by an online platform, Premium Times, Monguno directed them (service chiefs) to desist from taking further directives from Kyari.

Although the presidency declined to respond to the issue yesterday, security experts and political analysts who spoke to Daily Trust described the development as unhealthy and dangerous for the country.

According to Monguno, in the memo, Kyari’s directives to service chiefs were sometimes issued without the knowledge or approval of the president, a practice he said had added to the government’s failure to contain insecurity.

“Chief of Staff to the president is not a presiding head of security, neither is he sworn to an oath of defending the country.

“As such, unprofessional practices such as presiding over meetings with service chiefs and heads of security organisations as well as ambassadors and high commissioners to the exclusion of the NSA and/or supervising ministers are a violation of the Constitution and directly undermine the authority of Mr President.

“Such acts and continued meddlesomeness by chief of staff have not only ruptured our security and defence efforts, but have slowed down any meaningful gain that Mr. President has sought to achieve,” Monguno, a retired major-general, said in the memo dated December 9, 2019. A former director in the presidency who would not want to be named said hierarchically, the chief of staff was the head of all political appointees of the president and somewhat higher in rank to the NSA but said it was ‘not clear’ if he has the power to either call for or preside over a meeting with the security chiefs without the permission of the president.

He said the office of the chief of staff was “like a clearinghouse in the villa” that was responsible for any meeting with the president including with the service chiefs.

He said the tussle between the two offices was a few years ago, resolved after clarifying with the “US presidential system of government which placed the chief of staff above other appointees. In fact, the NSA’s office is not in the villa, unlike that of the chief of staff.”

‘Rivalry dangerous for Nigeria’

An ex-military officer who left the Nigerian Army as a Colonel said the supremacy war between the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (retired) and the President’s chief of staff, Malam Abba Kyari, is more dangerous to the corporate existence of Nigeria, than some of the challenges facing the country.

“The mandates of the two officials are clearly different but friction between them could be suicidal, especially when a country is at war. The mistrust also has the potential of reducing the office of the president to ridicule,” the ex-military officer told Daily Trust on phone last night.

According to him, the role of the CoS is exactly like the role of a private secretary and just a nomenclature, adding: “It is a political appointment; it is not stated in the constitution and the president does not require approval by the Senate to appoint someone to occupy that office.”

“The holder of that office is simply expected to ensure a free flow of communication between the president and his other appointees. He is also expected to protect the interest of the president but not to make a decision as if he is the president or to control other appointees the way he likes.

“On the other hand, the NSA advises the president on security matters. His appointment must be confirmed by the Senate like that of ministers. He coordinates activities of various military and para-military organizations to ensure that there is synergy. And to deliver his mandate, he must have unfettered access to the president without recourse to anybody.

“Sadly, the fight and rivalry between Monguno and Kyari has been there for a very long time. They have not been in talking terms for over three years and I can assure you that the NSA is not finding it easy. The crisis is just coming to the fore now and it is unfortunate’’.

The Colonel maintained that ordinarily, service chiefs should be briefing the NSA, ‘‘who is an experienced General’’.

“He should in turn brief the president. The service chiefs should not be reporting to the chief of staff who is a civilian with no military background. This does not happen anywhere including the United States where we borrowed the concept of the office of the chief of staff,” he said.

He said what the NSA said in his leaked memo was correct, but added, ‘‘in Nigeria, it is not the size of the office that you occupy that matters but the influence you wield around the corridors of power’’.

“Finally, both Monguno and Kyari are from Borno State and beyond the happenings in Abuja, they have their issues back home. The president should take action and define the roles of his appointees before things completely get out hand.

“The fight against Boko Haram, banditry, kidnapping and the rest will never be won if the NSA is not in good terms with the powerful people around the president and unless something is done, Nigerians will continue to suffer and our troops in the front lines will never get it right,” the Colonel said.

Analysts speak

A political strategist and communication consultant at the International Political Resource Center (IPRC), Dr. Abbati Bako, said the rift between Monguno and Kyari was not only shameful but a dangerous signal.

“Sincerely speaking, every government in any democratic society must work as a team and there must be interconnectedness between policymakers and practitioners and political appointees towards the same targeted goals and success of the government.

“If there is a rift between NSA and COS or any government institution the solution to insecurity in the country will be a mirage,” he said. Bako said if the government continues to allow the security challenges facing the country to fester; the APC would suffer the same fate that befell the PDP in 2015.

“Let it be a reminder that what brought down the government of former President Jonathan was its inability to tackle the insecurity in the country. Hence, the same thing might happen in 2023 election year,” he said.

Another political analyst, Dr. Emmanuel Ojo, also said the infighting between the National Security Adviser and the chief of staff was dangerous for national security.

He said the President has put himself in a “self-imposed prison” by giving enormous powers to his chief of staff. This development, he alleged, has put the President in a situation where he does not know what is happening within his security hierarchy.

The Associate Professor of Political Science said national security is under threat if intelligence reports do not get to the President directly but through a middleman.

According to him, the service chiefs are supposed to have direct access to the President. Also, Ministers holding critical Ministries should be able to enjoy unrestricted access to the President.

He said, “From my experience in government, when a chief of staff is too powerful, if care is not taken, he might hijack the system from his boss.

“Buhari over empowered Kyari, his chief of staff to the point of saying it clearly that the Ministers must pass any memo to him through the chief of staff. Everybody knows the channel of communication; you do not need to remind them. Reminding them makes the chief of staff too powerful. “

Also speaking, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Ambrose Aisabor, described the infighting as a shameful episode that should not be playing out especially when the insecurity challenge has not been resolved.

According to him, contrary to the claim that Boko Haram has been defeated, the insurgency remains much entrenched, especially with the collaboration by the Islamic State, West African Province (ISWAP).

“Before, I thought that the NSA was a member of the cabal but with this episode playing out, it is very shameful,” he said.

Presidency mum

The two spokespersons in the Presidency, Femi Adesina, and Garba Shehu failed to respond to inquiries on the matter when contacted yesterday.

They did not pick calls put through to them just as they did not respond to text messages sent to them by our reporter as at the time of filing this report.

On his part, the Defence spokesman, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu said he had not been briefed on the letter, but promised to get back to Daily Trust whenever he has information to share on the issue.

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