On Thursday, May 18, General Aliyu Gusau(rtd) CFR will be eighty. If you call him General Aliyu Mohammed or General Aliyu Gusau, you are referring to the same man. The talk in many circles, in this country, is that if you have a problem that you can’t solve, contact General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau. He will give a solution. He is a brilliant man with very few words. He loves to operate in the background and rarely talks. You either fear him or you love him. He is someone, you cannot ignore his call. In spite of all said about him, General Gusau is a man who values friendship. He goes out of his way, even bending rules to help his friends. His circle of friends is beyond religious, tribal, military, or even political groupings.
The Nigerian Defence Academy was established in 1964 to replace the Nigeria Military Training College (NMTC) for the purpose of producing junior leaders (officers) for the Nigerian Armed Forces. Hitherto, Nigeria Armed Forces Officer Cadets were trained in overseas countries, notably Royal Military Academy I (RMA), Sandhurst England, German Air Force AcademyTeshie Military Academy, Ghana. The First Regular Course (Regular Course 1), which consisted of Army and Navy Cadets only of the duration of 31/2 years. Air Force Cadets were later admitted and trained with the subsequent courses.
The outbreak of the Nigerian civil war in 1967 made it imperative for the Emergency Commission Course (ECC) to be introduced to produce officers for the prosecution of the war. The duration of this type of training ranged between 4-8weeks. The ECC was eventually phased out at the end of the war in 1970 when the need to produce officers of such cadre in the Nigerian Armed Forces was no longer as pressing. In its place, the Short Service (Combatant) Commission (SSC) course was introduced with a duration ranging between 6-9 months.
This type of training draws largely on the pool of graduates from the Nigerian universities and other technical colleges to meet the manpower need of the Nigerian Armed Forces on a short-term basis.
This type of training was designed to give the cadets essential professional knowledge that will enable them to be competent platoon commander in their respective units on commissioning. Cadets from other sister African nations have also been trained all along in this august institution. In the mid 1990’s the three services of the Nigeria Armed Forces namely: The Army;Navy and Air Force transferred the training of their cadets under the direct short service commission (DSSC) course to the NDA. With this, uniformity in training standards for officers of the respective services of the Nigerian Armed Forces has been achieved.
One of the students of the Nigerian Defence Academy first Regular Course 1 was General Aliyu Muhammed. His other course mates included Lt-General Oladipo Diya, Lt-General Joshua Dongoyaro, Major General Ishola Williams, Major General Salihu Ibrahim and Admiral Allison Madueke
Others were Major General O. Daramola, Brigadier General Ibrahim Bako, Brigadier General Rafuka, Major General Karawu, Major General Suleiman, Colonel Anifowose, Major General Abdulahi Mamman, Major General Idahosa, Major General Peter Adomokhai, Major General Haladu Hananiya, Major General Samuel Olajide and Colonel Awodeyi.
General Aliyu Gusau, since joining the Army in 1964, has been able to build national and global contacts. He speaks seven languages, including Hebrew, French, and German. He is also vast in Arabic. Before he retired from the Nigerian Army, he rose to the position of the Chief of Army Staff.
In 1967, he fought during the Nigerian Civil War. He was Commander of 9 Infantry Brigade, Abeokuta (April 1976 – July 1978). He later became the acting governor of Ogun state. During that time, he formed strong friendship among strong Ogun state elites, and the friendship still lasts till today. General Aliyu Gusau became Adjutant General of 2 Mechanised Division (July 1978 – September 1979) and Director of Personnel Services, Army Headquarters (October 1979 – November 1979).
From November 1979 to December 1983, Aliyu was Director of Military Intelligence (DMI) along with Brigadier General Ibrahim Bako, Major General Ibrahim Babangida and Major General Muhammadu Buhari. He played an important role in the coup that ousted President Shehu Shagari and the Second Nigerian Republic on 31 December 1983 and brought General Muhammadu Buhari to power.
When Major General Babangida took over power in 1995, General Aliyu was appointed Director of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and Acting Director-General of the National Security Organisation (NSO) from September 1985 to August 1986, then Coordinator on National Security from August 1986 to December 1989. He reorganised the security and intelligence apparatuses, which had fallen in disarray under Rafindadi during the Buhari regime, breaking up the NSO into three organisations: State Security Services (SSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA).
General Gusau was appointed General Officer Commanding 2 Mechanised Division in Ibadan from December 1989 to August 1990; and Chief of Administration, Defence Headquarters, in Lagos from August 1990 to February 1992. He was Commandant of the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, from February 1992 to January 1993.
Aliyu became National Security Advisor in January 1993 and was promoted to Chief of Army Staff when Babangida passed control to the short-lived civilian government of the Nigerian Third Republic in August 1993.
In November 1993, in a bid to consolidate his power, General Sani Abacha removed Aliyu as Chief of Army Staff, replacing him with General Chris Alli.
General Ibrahim Babangida GCFR once told me that the greatness of General Aliyu Gusau lies in personal contact with him. He said General Aliyu Gusau is “a wonderful man, a personal friend, and a loyal officer. I am always proud of him”.
His son Mahdi Aliyu Gusau (born 1981) served as deputy governor of Zamfara State from 2019 until 2022. His daughter, Aisha,is married to Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, the Vice Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, in the last presidential election.
From 1983 till now, every Nigerian leader had one way or the other had contacts with General Aliyu Gusua. In his home state of Zamfara, he is regarded as the Godfather of politics in that state. I think the source of his greatness is his simplicity.
Those who know him love him, in fact too much. Those who hate him do not know him at all.