By Ben Agande
As the President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, to many, wields the power of life and death. While this may not be true in literal sense, there is no doubt that there is enormous power in the Office of the President of Africa’s most populous country. From his control of the coercive institutions to the economy and other sundry and even mundane issues, the President is in a position to dispense favour in very profound ways if he chooses to.
While some of the President’s enormous responsibilities are dispensed through people he delegates powers to like ministers, advisers and other political appointment holders who are visible, there are a crop of other aides who may not be seen or heard often but who wield a lot of influence because of their strategic positions.
Ironically, these very powerful men do not throw their weight around. Apart from their principal, who appreciates the strategic roles they play, only a few Nigerians know that the smooth running of government at the highest level, to a large extent, depends on the proficiency of these unseen, unheard and sometimes unsung men and women.
One of the aides of the President who carries a lot of responsibility but remains conspicuously in the background is the Chief Security Officer. Though the Office of the Chief Security Officer to the President (or CSO), as it is popularly known, came to the consciousness of the public during the days of the late military leader, General Sani Abacha, the present occupant has brought in panache that sometimes make people believe that the office has been abolished.
As the man in charge of the President’s security at all times and in all places, the CSO, often described by security experts in superlative terms, has carried out his huge responsibility in a way that even critics of government cannot but applaud. And for a man who is in charge of the security of the President, he conducts himself in a humble way that can only come from somebody who is on top of his game.
If the CSO is influential and powerful inner circle member of the President’s office because of his strategic position, one presidential aide that is hardly heard of or seen but who commands tremendous respect and influence in the Presidency is Oronto Douglas, the Special Adviser to the President on Strategy, Research and Documentation.
Before joining Jonathan when he was Vice President, Douglas had bee a good thinker, independent-minded lawyer and a dispassionate activist. He served in the defense team for Ken Saro Wiwa, the Ogoni-born environmental right activist killed by the Abacha administration; co-founded Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, wrote (with Ike Okonta) “Where Vultures Feast: Shell, human rights and oil in the Niger Delta”.
Douglas’ strength, according to those who know him, lies in not only his independent-mindedness but also in the originality of thought. “He is able to resolve puzzles so effortlessly it makes you feel jealous of his intellectual capacity. He has inputs in almost all major decisions taken by government because, oftentimes, his judgment is not encumbered by primordial considerations but the facts of the matter,” a highly placed official of government told Aso Rock Vibes.
From receiving visitors, both local and international to the president’s many international engagements, there is a seamlessness that comes with it that is so amazing and appears so well choreographed. The man behind this is Ambassador Mohammed Jameel Abubakar-Waziri, State Chief of Protocol (SCOP).
Born in 1957 in Jimeta-Yola, Adamawa State, Waziri studied at the King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as well as the Pakistan Foreign Service Academy and began his career as Protocol Officer, State Protocol in Dodan Barracks, Lagos in 1983. Since then, he has served in different positions such as First Secretary, Head of Chancery-Nigerian Embassy, Algiers, Algeria, Assistant Director, Office of the Minister of State (I) Foreign Affairs as well as Special Assistant (Administration), Office of the Vice President, among others.
As the man in charge of the President’s national and international engagements, the SCOP office cannot be occupied by a lazy or incompetent person because a lapse in the highly nuanced world of diplomacy is capable of precipitating diplomatic crisis. Waziri is the man that works through the night to ensure that the President does not have the embarrassment of protocol failure.
Behind the President everywhere he goes is Colonel Ojogbane Adegbe, the Aide-de-Camp. Adegbe graduated from the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, in September 1995 as a member of the 42 Regular Course. He holds a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and a masters in intelligence and international security from Kings College, London.
As the man with the closest physical contact with the President, Adegbe has unfettered access to his principal and some of the most classified information as he is most often the courier of the President’s file. Although his position is seen as largely ceremonial, the ADC spends substantial time with his boss. They play squash together, ride in the same car, and fly the same aircraft.
He is one man that the president is most certainly going to confide when the pressure of statecraft weighs him down. As the eye of the military in the Presidency, the ADC is certainly in the inner circle of the President’s men.