One man who was 99.99% certain of being appointed national security adviser (NSA) by President Muhammadu Buhari was Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau — until two weeks ago when his stock began to fall.
Dambazau, who was removed as chief of army staff and then retired as a lieutenant general in 2010 by former President Goodluck Jonathan, was one person whose appointment was thought to be a mere formality.
He was, in other words, the NSA-in-waiting and he was already behaving like one.
But Buhari surprisingly appointed Babagana Monguno, a retired major general, as NSA in the much-awaited shake-up of his security cabinet on Monday.
Presidential sources told TheCable that the case against Dambazau started building up a few weeks ago as Buhari began to finalise his list for the key security appointments. One of the sources said: “Buhari initially wanted Ibrahim Coomassie, former inspector general of police, as NSA, but so much argument was made about Coomassie’s age. He is just 69, but it seems those who made that argument carried the day. Dambazau (centre) toured the presidential villa with Buhari and Jonathan in May “That is how Dambazau moved to the top of the list as the favourite. However, several issues came up in the process of taking a final decision. One, Buhari does not want any officer who has held positions that exposed them to a lot of money. As it were, he wanted ‘innocent’ military officers to spearhead his security agenda. If you look at the new appointments, most of the security chiefs have never held what we call ‘plum’ positions in Nigeria. “Buhari wants to re-professionalise the military. Those who have had questions asked about their past stewardship eventually fell down the list. He liked Dambazau a lot but he could not dismiss the case against him.” Also, his tenure in the army was reviewed and some of the facts that emerged did not do him any favours. “The Boko Haram insurgency budded under his watch as army chief, with Gen. Sarki Mukhtar as NSA. The No. 1 security priority of Buhari is to tackle Boko Haram. Dambazau’s CV was not glittering in that aspect. It was going to be a questionable appointment,” the source added. Another presidential source said Buhari would still accommodate the retired general from Kano, who was the first chief of army staff to hold a PhD when former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua appointed him in 2009. Dambazau, sitting to Buhari’s right, praying at the state house mosque in June 2015 “The fact that Dambazau did not get the NSA position does not mean he has been blacklisted by Buhari. He is still highly regarded. But you cannot question the choice of Gen. Babagana Monguno as the NSA. He comes highly recommended and he has an enviable record. He is upright. “He was unfairly retired because Jonathan wanted to make Gen. Kenneth Minimah army chief. So Minimah’s mates and seniors had to go. It was not as if Monguno did anything wrong or was found wanting,” the source added. Dambazau’s failure to get the NSA slot was all the more shocking because he seemed primed to play the role right from the campaign days. He was the head of the security committee of the APC campaign organisation, and was always around Buhari in the days leading to the May 29 inauguration as well as after the president assumed office. Dambazau toured Aso Rock together with Buhari in the last days of Jonathan, and appeared prominently in all the pictures. Dambazua (first right) was on Buhari’s team to the AU summit in South Africa in June, along with Governors Samuel Ortom (Benue) and Ibikunle Amosu (Ogun) He also travelled with Buhari to the G7 summit in Bavaria, Germany, on June 7 — before travelling with him to Johannesburg, South Africa, for the 25th African Union summit. TheCable understands that he played a major role in the security arrangements for Buhari, including the appointment of Muhammed Lawal Abubakar, a lieutenant colonel, as ADC to the president. Dambazau also prayed regularly with Buhari at the state house mosque.