By Idris Akinbajo:

The Nigerian Presidency is held hostage by four un-elected men who, working in concert with Turai Yar’Adua, the President’s wife, almost executed a military-type coup against the nation, NEXT investigations reveal.

Led and coordinated by Yusuf Muhammed Tilde, President Umaru Yar’Adua’s Chief Security Officer (CSO), and supported by Mustapha Onoyvieta, Mr. Yar’adua’s Aide de Camp (ADC); Abdurahman Dambazau, the Chief of Army Staff; and Abdul Mustapha, the commander of the guards brigade responsible for security at the presidential villa, this team kept the Acting President and commander in chief of the Nigeria armed forces, Goodluck Jonathan, as well as several serving ministers and military chiefs in the dark while they smuggled Mr. Yar’Adua back into the country and deployed armed troops, several intelligence and presidential sources said.

“This whole thing is being led by Tilde; he has become to Yar’Adua and Turai what Al-Mustapha was to Abacha (former head of state),” an Aso Rock intelligence source stated.

“He now talks directly to Dambazau (Chief of Army Staff) and Mustapha. They were the ones behind the troop deployment.”

The Botched rebellion

After being evicted by Saudi Authorities with the encouragement of the Americans, as reported exclusively by NEXT, the “Turai cabal” realised that their options had narrowed, and that hardly any western country would be willing to cover-up the degenerating health situation of the ailing President as the Saudis did for three months; they therefore decided to bring Mr. Yar’Adua home three days earlier than planned.

To ensure utmost secrecy for his return, Mr. Tilde contacted Dahiru Dodo, an Assistant Commissioner in the SSS who is the administration officer at the Presidential villa.

“Mr Dahiru changed the guards at the presidential wing of the airport three days before the President arrived. He deployed only his loyal boys there. Even the director of the SSS was not aware of the changes,” a presidency source disclosed.

This was, however, the first step in the process. The second was to get the support of some men of the Nigerian army. This was not so difficult according to military insiders who said Mr. Dambazau, harbours some disdain for Mr. Jonathan; and the media has reported the shocking fact that he was the only Service Chief who did not salute Mr. Jonathan during the last Armed Forces Remembrance Day parade in Abuja.

Civil society groups at a news conference in Abuja last Wednesday had harsh words for Mr. Dambazzau and warned him against allowing the army to be used to fracture the constitutional order.

Mr. Dambazzau, alongside Mr. Mustapha, are widely believed to have supervised the deployment of the two army units – the 4th battalion and Guards brigade – who were deployed to secure the road leading to the airport and escort the presidential convoy back to Aso Rock.

“Three hundred carefully selected officers were deployed and conveyed in 25 vehicles for the operation. Even the weapons were released to them at night,” army insiders said, emphasising that the men were chosen based on primordial loyalties than any professional abilities.

“The secrecy of the mission was very important to them. It was not only the Acting President that was unaware of the troops deployment, even the Chief of Defence Staff was kept in the dark. They even flew the four-star flag which is meant only for the C-in-C.”

When contacted on the deployed troops, the spokesperson of the Nigerian Army, Chris Olukolade attempted to downplay the issue and described the deployment as a “routine exercise” by the army. Top military chiefs were however divided on this claim and Ishola Williams, a retired army general and one time head of the training and doctrine command of the army said it was needless, “escorting him with soldiers, mobile police could have done the same job”.

“Ask him to tell you when it ever happened, that 300 officers will be deployed and allowed to use the Commander in Chief’s seal without his express permission. You cannot even set up a presidential guard under the Guards Brigade commander without the permission of the President. Could they have done this under General Obasanjo or Babangida, not to say Abacha?” asked a high ranking official.

Final coup trap

Having achieved some success in sneaking in the ailing President, the next stage was to set a trap for Mr. Jonathan.

“They brought in the ailing President without the Acting President’s consent on the day of the executive council meeting. They then deployed one of their boys to commandeer the President’s seat at the Council meeting venue. They thought Jonathan would insist on sitting on the seat. If he had insisted, they will just allow him and then accuse him of subverting the authority of the ‘real President.”

Mr. Jonathan learnt of their ploy, which was one of the reasons why he postponed the weekly council meeting. Worried that Mr. Jonathan was not biting the bullet, the duo of Mr. Tilde and Mr. Onoyvieta proceeded straight to his office to inform him that Mr. Yar’Adua had directed that he preside over the meeting. Mr. Jonathan insisted that he be directly briefed by Mr. Yar’Adua who had traditionally issued such directives on the phone, when he was unable to attend or chair the meeting.

Yet it was not merely a scheme isolated to the military corridor. It was gathered that a handful of legislators were told to help build consensus around a renewed Yar ‘Adua presidency and they were told to keep the news a secret because the president was returning to chair last week’s council meeting.

Umaru Dahiru, a senator and chairman of the Northern Senator’s Forum, promptly called a meeting on the night of the president’s arrival and after a rambling statement on the need to support the ailing president, finally dropped the bomb to a shocked gathering of fellow senators who then scampered out to figure out what that meant in the context of the Jonathan constitutional succession.

The colluding ministers

Some ministers were also carried along in the Tilde-schemes, among these were Adamu Aliero, minister of the Federal Capital Territory and an in-law to Mr. Yar’Adua; and Tanimu Yakubu, the Chief Economic Adviser to the President.

It is not clear if Sayaad Abba-Ruma, minister of agriculture, was in the know, as he was on the ministerial team dispatched to Saudi Arabi to access Mr. Yar Adua’s health. If he did know something, according to a ministerial aide, he not only kept it from the Acting President, he also kept it from his colleagues who were on the plane to Saudi Arabia.

The travelling ministers were still in flight when they received the news that Mr. Yar’Adua’s plane was about to leave Saudi Arabia. It was the many calls made by these ministers to their friends and media contacts that alerted the nation that the ailing president’s plane was inbound.

Not yet seen

It is four days since President Yar’Adua arrived, yet no one can claim to have seen him. Though Segun Adeniyi, the president’s spokesman has been speaking on his behalf, even he, according to our findings, has not seen or heard directly from the President. “Segun has been receiving briefs from Tilde and Onoyvieta; he cannot claim to have seen the President. Tilde is running the show now, but I believe he is getting directives from the first lady,” a source stated.

However, after the failure of the plot to push Mr Jonathan into committing some act of desperation, the cabal realised that their best bet was to pretend to show the Acting President some support while they wait for Mr Yar’Adua to recover. Mr Adeniyi, who had earlier said that Mr Jonathan’s title has reverted to Vice President, appeared the next day to tell Nigerians that Mr Yar’Adua has affirmed Mr Jonathan as the Acting President.

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