John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Standoff Between Nigeria’s New Defense Minister and the Chief of Defense Staff

by John Campbell
March 14, 2014

New Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh (L), and the new Air Force Chief Vice Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu salute during a handing over ceremony in Abuja January 20, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)


Earlier in the week a guest blogger and I published separate posts on Nigeria’s new defense minister, Aliyu Mohammed Gusau. The two blog posts, while covering different aspects of the appointment, saw it as a positive step, providing the possibility for a new Abuja approach to the “Boko Haram” insurrection in northern Nigeria. 

The government’s present response, which views the “Boko Haram” insurgency as a counter-terrorism issue, and emphasizes a predominantly military response, is manifestly failing. There was serious carnage yesterday in Maiduguri, including a full “Boko Haram” attack on Giwa Barracks, a notorious military detention center that, according to credible human rights organizations, has been a center of gross human rights abuses.

Before he accepted the appointment as minister of defense, Gusau published a list of conditions to his accepting the defense position, including that he would have direct authority over the military service chiefs. Now, however, the chief of defense staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh is, apparently, denying the minister direct access to the other service chiefs on the basis that to do so would violate the chain of command and constitutional scope of the minister of defense postion. According to the Nigerian media, Gusau has appealed to President Jonathan to reign in Badeh; otherwise, Gusau will resign. The Nigerian media is reporting that president Jonathan has enlisted the help of former military chief-of-state Ibrahim Babangida, Senate president David Mark, and National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki–all friends or colleagues of Gusau–to end the stand-off.

Badeh is appealing to the constitution, saying that it vests only the president with the power to direct the service chiefs. However, the constitution is apparently silent on whether the president can delegate that authority to the minister of defense. 

It is difficult to see a middle ground between Gusau and Badeh. If the president upholds Badeh, Gusau is likely to resign and his powerful sponsors will be angered and the chance for a new approach to the north will be lost. If the president upholds Gusau, then he will be asserting civilian control over the military, some commentators say. The irony is that Gusau is a retired lieutenant general and an active participant in previous military governments. But, he does not come from Jonathan’s inner circle.

Post a Comment 6 Comments

  • Posted by Sulayman Dauda

    The mild drama between a retired senior General and a serving Junior General is a clear explanation on how rough and bad the decaying nature of the Nigerian institutions are. The Country is virtually govern just like a Ship without a sailor. I’m afraid Titanic should not repeat itself.
    Ideally even with or without Constitution, the Junior General should not act insubordinate to the Senior Retired General. Gusau has been one of the influential and intelligence Officers the Country has produce. He became a General at the time when the present service chiefs are within luetanants and Captains.
    The situation now is precarious and Mr. Jonathan lack the capacity and has no experience to solve the looming crises but to consult influential Generals who has serve in the Military to their capacity best. Gen. Gowon, Gen. Danjuma and Gen. Buhari are in better position to solve the crises.

  • Posted by Harry Olufunwa

    The President should stick with Gusau. He has no choice: he asked for him; he apparently accepted the conditions laid down; in this charged pre-election season, Gusau’s departure would be a misstep of epic proportions. Once again, GEJ is tripped up by a desire to satisfy everybody: the non-northern regions which chafe at seeming northern domination of the armed forces; and the north, which is desperate to assuage feelings of (political!) impotence.

  • Posted by Carter Sylva

    What you said that the Governments present response is falling is true and that is because the government is fighting the symptom and not the cause of the terrorism and the government are very reluctant to address the cause. The main cause of terrorism and other crimes in Nigeria is corruption and looting of public funds which has been happening over a long period of time and the present government can not address it because they too are deeply involved. Most of these Boko Haram members are impoverished and illiterate and unemployed youths and as such are easily tools and gullible to been brain washed by the main sponsors of terrorism. The funds that would have been used to provide education, employment and better future for them was looted and is been looted by past and present leaders. The viable solution to curbing and eliminating this scourge is for our present leaders to stop looting of public funds, refund the ones they had alredy looted to the state account, provide visionary leadership, provide education, create jobs and opportunities so that those youths in the North east who are yet to join Boko haram will be positively engaged stamp hard on corruption in every facet of the state, put the former leaders who looted public funds on trial for treason and if found guilty should refund the funds and be executed. For the present Boko Haram members since they rejected dialogue the military should use both intelligence and force to flush them out and their sponsors should not only be fished out but also executed. This is the only solution.

  • Posted by Steve

    The president should certainly make it clear to the CDS that his minister has been delegated such authority as he seeks to exercise. It is important that strong civil control over military affairs is emphasized. This is the president’s opportunity to change the balance of power across the power landscape and it will have far reaching consequences whichever way he decides to tilt it

  • Posted by Toks

    The Minister is acting on the authority of his principal, the President. The CDS serves under the Minister at the Ministry of Defence. Badeh is being insurbodinate as a number of his former superiors in the Air Force (who served as Air officers when Badeh was a pilot officer or cadet at NDA) can attest to.

  • Posted by salewa

    please let somebody look into the case of casual workers in ministry of defense some of us have been working for 9 nine years and yet still on probation

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