Unmasked: The mysterious Aso Rock Mafia running the country
If there were any doubts about the existence of a cabal in Aso Rock, the travails of Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the hands of the Senate and the DSS would have cleared such doubts. Many Nigerians may have wondered how it was possible that President Muhammadu Buhari would submit Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation, and the DSS, a security outfit under the presidency would write a report and ask the same Senate not to confirm him.
The above would immediately suggest that the President is not in total control of his government and his appointees, and may indeed not be the originator of certain letters and instructions attributed to him, which gives credence to the assertion of many including the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, and the Senate President, Bukola Saraki that there is a cabal in Aso Rock who run the affairs of the state.
It was last year October that Aisha Buhari, Nigeria’s First Lady poured out her heart in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), alleging that certain “few people” who were unknown to her and who were not there when her husband, President Buhari was running for office, had taken over at the State House and were behind presidential appointments. She disclosed that the president did not know most of the officials he had appointed and warned him that she may not back him at the next election unless he shakes up his government.
Her frustration with the cabal is understandable. In 2015, shortly after Buhari took power, it was in some news outlets that two of her brothers: Musa Halilu also known as Musa Yola, who is her step brother and one Modi Halilu, had allegedly teamed up with Mamman Daura, President Buhari’s nephew, to extort Nigerians and foreigners alike, who wanted to have audience with the President or the First Lady.
They were said to have moved into permanent suites at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja allegedly on the bill of a Senator who had eyes on the seat of the Senate President, acquiring choice properties in the highbrow Maitama District of Abuja, Gwarimpa and on Galadima Road in Kaduna ranging from N150 million to N500 million. Musa, it was said was using Mercedes E Class worth N18 million and lavished money on call girls. Our investigation however, showed it might all have been a set up to get rid of the First Lady’s people from the State House and curtail her influence.
On January 19, Buhari, 74, proceeded on “medical vacation” to London where he spent two months, but it would seem unnatural that he would be in London for that long over health issues and his wife never spent a week with him there… our source said, the cabal would have none of that. There are other events that have proved indeed that the cabal were in charge. Last year, the president set up a panel to investigate mismanagement of public funds meant for the war against Boko Haram. Mr. Mohammed Umar, a retired Air Force officer by virtue of being a close ally of Buhari was the prominent figure in the panel.
As the panel set out on its investigation, feelers came that some members of the cabal had taken part in the arms fraud with the Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abulrahman Dambanzau and Lt. Gen. Tukur Burutai, Chief of Army Staff among others fingered. Not only did the panel’s awaited report meet its untimely death, Umar was alleged to have been involved in money laundering and illegal possession of firearms and was consequently arrested by the State Security Service (SSS).
Last week, under strange circumstances, another member of the panel, Rear Admiral Daniel Teikumo Ikoli was said to have committed suicide in his Lagos home. Ikoli who was promoted from the rank of Commodore to Rear Admiral only few months ago, was said to have shot himself in the chest after firing two previous shots that hit the wall and the television set in his house.
But possible assassination was also suspected as reports say he had paranoia about assassination threats during his tenure as a member of the arms deal probe. The police has nonetheless, made it clear that it is a case of suicide.
Again, shortly after 57-year-old Yau Kumo, a former managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria married Fatima Buhari, President Buhari’s second daughter, he came under investigation for fraud. He was alleged to have diverted loans and funds from the bank to fund the construction of a mega hotel in Gombe and the purchase of choice properties in Abuja. It seems there is an invisible political ring around the president that wades off any attempt by anybody to get close to the president; those who persist are consumed.
Within the APC, members allege that the party no longer counts, but the cabal. Chief Anselm Njoku, the leader of South East APC Forum, Lagos, told Business Hallmark in plain terms that the party is not in power, but certain individuals.
“The people that the President put there today are not running APC manifesto, they are running their own private manifestos as they wish, that’s the problem,” he said. “With all due respect, if you look at how things are going, how appointments are being made and how the government is run, you cannot say that APC is in power. How can APC be in power and the party’s leaders have no much say in these appointments?”
Mr John Bede-Anthonio, a key member of the party in Lagos and former managing director, Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC) re-echoed Njoku’s assertions.
“Let me put it this way, from the outside, Buhari is a good choice. But some people have hijacked him. Tinubu’s reason for choosing him had merit, but he has allowed himself to be hijacked. His wife has said it, El-Rufai has said it, many people have confirmed it. You can find a job for a man, but you can’t help him to do it. It’s a shame,” he said.
But who are these people running Nigeria? A few names easily surface. One, and perhaps, most influential is Mamman Daura.
Born in 1939 in Daura, Katsina State, Mamman Daura has since been nicknamed Nigeria’s most powerful nephew due to his influence on the President.
As President Buhari’s nephew (His father was Buhari’s elder brother), Daura is said to be his most trusted confidant and who often decides which action the president takes. In his book, “Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria,” John Paden, British professor of history, notes that Daura played key roles in Buhari’s formative years, and had, along with Waziri al-Hassan (Buhari’s foster father), encouraged the president, a reluctant student in his early years, “to settle down and take his studies seriously”. It was also Daura that “strongly encouraged” Buhari to join the military in 1961 according to him.
Another name that easily surfaces is Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to the President. Kyari is said to have been mostly raised by Daura and had more influence on him than even his own father. In fact, it was alleged that Daura single-handly brought Kyari to Buhari and made him Chief of Staff. As a member of the inner circle, Kyari is said to be one of those who take key decisions on behalf of the president.
Kyari was born in 1938, and attended Borno Middle School and Barewa College, Zaria. In 1959 he enlisted in the Nigerian Army as an Officer Cadet. He attended the 12th Regular Officers’ Training School, Teshia, Ghana and then the Mons Officer Cadet School, Aldershot, England (October 1959 – March 1960).
He held various appointments in the army, including Platoon Commander and then Transport Officer in the 1 Brigade Transport Company, Second-in-Command and then Commander in the Nigerian Army Artillery, commander of 1 Brigade, Kaduna and Commanding Officer 5th Battalion, Nigerian Army, Kano. He was appointed Governor of North-Central State in July 1967 by the then Head of State, Yakubu Gowon.
Next is Lawal Musa Daura, the Director General of the Nigerian State Security Service (SSS), nicknamed the DSS and another one of President Buhari’s kinsmen. Daura has been at the centre of the controversy surrounding Magu’s travails, having written to the Senate to advice against his confirmation over corruption allegations. He is apparently one of those who call the shots in Aso Rock.
Daura was born on August 1953 in Daura, Katsina State. He received a bachelor’s degree from Ahmadu Bello University in 1980 and also trained at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru. He began his career in 1982 at the State Security Service where he rose to the position of director. In 2003, he was appointed, Deputy Director Presidential Communication, Command and Control Centre at the Presidential Villa, a position he held till 2007. He retired in 2013 at the compulsory retirement age of 60. On July 2, 2015, he was appointed director General of the State Security Service.
Another individual is Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau, the Minister of Interior and in-Charge of Police.
Dambazau is known to hold a core Northern conservative Islamic values, and had since established himself as a big shot in the presidency despite being allegedly named in the arms probe panel set up by the President. Interestingly, BusinessHallmark learnt that he is the one being groomed by the cabal to succeed Buhari as president.
Born on March 14, 1954, in Zaria, Kaduna State, Dambazau had his secondary school education at Barewa College, Zaria where he graduated from in 1974. He proceeded to the Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna as a member of the 17 Regular Combatant Course. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the Infantry Corps of the Nigerian Army in June 1977. In 1979, he attended the US Army Military Police School, Fort McClellan, and would later obtain a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Kent State University in 1982 and a PhD in Criminology from University of Keele in 1989.
He served as military police officer, Aide de Camp to the Chief of Army Staff in 1979, commander military police units and served as a Special Investigator from 1984 to 1985, was Registrar of the Nigerian Defence Academy from 1993 to 1999. He also served as Chief Instructor, Support Weapon Wing of the Infantry Centre and School from 1999 to 2001 and later as Directing Staff at the National War College from 2004 to 2006.
From 2007 to 2008 he served as General Officer Commanding (GOC) 2nd Division, Ibadan, before being appointed Chief of Army Staff in 2008 by President Umaru Yar Adua. He was appointed Minister of the Interior by Buhari in November 2015
Then, there is Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, the political diplomat, described as the chief strategist of the cabal. Despite not occupying any official position in Aso Rock, Kingibe is said to be the administration’s brain box and master strategist, on whose advice, Buhari needed to curtail the influence of Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the APC.
He is said to be the key man behind the pro-North policies of the President, and even though Mamman Daura has the President’s ears, Kingibe, it was learnt calls the shots in matters of state policy. Born on June 25, 1945 to the family of Mustafa Shuwa and Ya Kingi Mallam, Kingibe grew up in Maiduguri Borno State where he had his early education.
In 1958, he got admission into the Borno Provincial Secondary School, but soon left for London in 1960 where he completed his secondary school education at Bishop Stortford College under a Borno Native Authority sponsored scholarship scheme. He took up further studies earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations at the University of Sussex.
Afterwards, he made an unsuccessful attempt to obtain a doctorate degree in Switzerland before returning to Nigeria to take up employment as a Research and Planning Officer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He later left the school to become the head of Features and Current Affairs Department at the Broadcasting Corporation of Northern Nigeria. In 1972, he joined the Nigerian Foreign Service where he started work as a senior counselor and later became the head of the political desk at the Nigerian High Commission in London.
He joined politics full time in the third republic and was made director of organization of the People’s Front of Nigeria (PFN) which was then led by Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua in 1988. The PFN later joined Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1989. During the conduct of elections for national executive positions in the party, he was backed by the PFN faction of SDP to emerge the party’s chairman.
As SDP chairman, Kingibe was involved in the organization of party’s gubernatorial and presidential primaries in 1991 and 1992 respectively. After the cancellations of presidential elections in 1992 in which Shehu Yar’Adua was a candidate, he put himself forward as a presidential candidate but eventually lost in the primary election to Chief MKO Abiola who later selected him as his running mate.
The duo won the electoral majority although the result was annulled by the then military president, Ibrahim Babangida. When General Sani Abacha came to office as head of State in 1993, he was named Foreign Affairs Minister, a post he held until 1995.
He also served as Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of Power and Steel, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Greece and Pakistan. In June 2007, he was appointed Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria by Pesident Umaru Yar’Adua but was abruptly removed from office on September 8, 2008 after spreading rumors about the President’s ill-health.