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Analyst Sees Nigerian Security Shake-up as Mostly Political

University of Abuja professor Usman Mohamed says President Jonathan may also be trying to solidify his grip on the country's security

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James Butty

A Nigerian political analyst told VOA President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to appoint new security chiefs is motivated more by politics than security concerns.

Mr. Jonathan Wednesday appointed a new defense chief of staff, as well as new heads of the air force, navy, army, police, and intelligence services.

The move comes days after Nigeria's electoral commission solidified the timeline for next year’s general elections and as Mr. Jonathan signaled to party leaders that he intends to stand for election.

Usman Mohamed, professor of political science at the University of Abuja, said President Jonathan could be trying to solidify his grip on the country’s security ahead of next year’s elections.

“The change, I think, has come about very suddenly and unexpected to the country for two reasons. The first reason is political, and the political reason is stronger than the security reason. For political reason, soon after the president had announced to the ruling PDP [People’s Democratic Party] southern governors that he was going to contest, 24 hours after, we saw change in the service chiefs. That is very significant because of the election that is coming up,” he said.

Mohamed said security concerns might have also influenced President Jonathan’s decision, especially following Tuesday’s attack on a northern prison by a radical Islamic sect known as Boko Haram.

“Due to the attack that was witnessed about three days or four days back in Bauchi by the Boko Haram group, there might [be] need to reposition and strategize his service chiefs. And, perhaps, that brought about this change at a very critical period that we are heading for the election,” Mohamed said.

But, he said Mr. Jonathan’s political opponents may not accept the explanation that the Bauchi prison attack might have led to the security changes, especially since they were made about four months before next January’s general election.

Nigeria, which has had a history of military coups, has not had one for over 16 years.

Professor Mohamed dismissed any suggestion that President Jonathan’s decision to appoint new security chiefs might have also been an attempt to avert any possible military coup.

“What you say does not have any bearing as of now anyway. This is because, if you look back, we have had some constitutional crisis of succession soon after of the death of President Yar’Adua, even before he died, when he was in hospital. And, that time could have been ripe for the military to strike. But, they didn’t strike. So, I think, the issue of a coup is ruled out from the analysis, but it will not be total,” Mohamed said.

He said there has been a disquiet within the ruling PDP about President Jonathan’s decision to run in next year’s election.

“There is serious rancor and acrimony, especially from the dominant north that is looking at the entire contest of the president as a betrayal of agreement that has been there in the PDP,” he said.

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