Turai Yar’Adua, the wife of Nigeria’s President, may have garnered a reputation as the viciously ambitious woman with a drive to occupy the number one position, her husband’s; but lurking within the shadows of the Yar’Adua-Saudi Arabian debacle is a man who may indeed be playing a more pivotal role than Mrs. Yar’Adua.
Yusuf Tilde, the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the president, is believed by security sources to be the strongest force and influence in the national drama which began long before Nigeria’s ailing president succumbed to a devastating illness that caused him to be holed up in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Saudi Arabia for three months.
Mr. Tilde, unknown to many Nigerians, is not new to the business of executive decision making. Having established a league of formidable security officials in the presidency, a large number of whom who are loyal to Mr. Yar’Adua, Mr. Tilde was able to ensure that his boss remained in control and, for more than 70 days, had the Executive Council of the Federation (FEC) and legislators supporting the plans of Mr. Yar’Adua’s supporters - notoriously called the cabal - of which he is one.
Before leaving for Jeddah with his boss, the CSO, according to sources in the presidency who spoke on conditions of anonymity, was already carrying out presidential functions such as treating files, endorsing documents, and granting presidential approvals on behalf of the president whose failing health had begun to hamper his productivity.
Mr. Tilde, who has been described as ‘conservative but reasonably intelligent with good writing skills’ was surreptitiously handling affairs for Mr. Yar’Adua and had become one of the president’s most trusted aides.
The emergence of Tilde
The Bauchi-born CSO’s entrance into the presidency was not without some irregularities. Mr. Tilde took over his current position from the more cosmopolitan and broad-minded Bello Charanchi, a former State Director of the State Security Service (SSS) who spent a few weeks as Mr. Yar’Adua’s CSO before he was ousted.
“Yar’Adua’s kitchen cabinet felt that Charanchi was too professional and independent minded. They felt they could not encircle and control the president through him. Very quickly, they plotted for his exit and brought in a more pliable person,” a source said to NEXT.
According to our sources, succumbing to the call for a new CSO, the president’s only request was that the new person be ‘Muslim’. Mr. Tilde met this requirement and more; he had served as a state director of the SSS in three states, Adamawa, Katsina, and Kano.
While Mr. Tilde is thought to be very intelligent, his superiors at the SSS allegedly found his performance in his posting in Kano less than satisfactory, hence the redeployment to the Headquarters from where he was picked for his current assignment.
Mr. Yar’Adua’s kitchen cabinet, however, forwarded Mr. Tilde’s name to the president’s deputy Chief of Staff (COS), Moddibbo Aliyu, in the early days of his presidency, who made a special request to the SSS for the deployment of Mr. Tilde.
“Tilde became the first CSO who was beholden directly to the presidency. He was not interviewed by the director of the SSS for the new posting. Instead, he was interviewed by the Chief of Staff to the president. They side stepped the director of the SSS and asked for Tilde,” a source in the presidency said.
Mr. Tilde proved himself a Yar’Adua faithful. His hard work and commitment to his boss was phenomenal.
“In the early months, he [Tilde] would go through files for the president. He used to write comments on plain sheets after reviewing the files. The president would then copy his work. But in the later months, he [Tilde] wrote all the presidential reviews and had the president merely sign them. It is not uncommon for Tilde to work from 9pm to 5am,” our source said.
Some members of the executive council soon became aware of Mr. Tilde’s new powerful role and ‘began to accord him presidential respect’.
According to sources, ‘there was hardly any minister who could defy his orders’.
“There seemed to be a parallel between the Tilde Chief Security office and the Al-Mustapha Chief Security office,” a source said, comparing the CSO’s influence to that wielded by his contemporary in the Sani Abacha regime.
Mr. Tilde, presidency sources claimed, got every one who seemed to be in competition with him out of the way. The CSO also expressed a preference for ‘a unified security corridor’. According to sources, Mr. Tilde sought an arrangement that would allow the existence of only one CSO in the presidency. This process eventually led to the elimination of many Jonathan-loyalists.
“It was possible for him to do this because he worked with all major villa [Aso Rock] security officials, which he had himself planted, most of them Muslim northerners. The most prominent being Dahiru Dodo.”
Mr. Dodo, who is generally described as a very ‘wily fellow that is gifted in being street wise’, serves as the administrative officer for the president.
Returning to Nigeria
Since his return to Nigeria with his boss, who is still believed to be critically ill, Mr. Tilde has continued his covert activities. He, allegedly, continues to play a pivotal role in the current quest to keep the critically ill president in power.
Having successfully orchestrated the grand plan that brought in Mr. Yar’Adua stealthily into Nigeria on Wednesday, Mr. Tilde continues to map out ways to secure the presidential seat for his boss.
This past weekend, he had his hands full trying to convey the caravan intensive care unit set up in Katsina relocated to Abuja where the president will be transferred to because the one in the Villa malfunctioned and is generating a huge embarrassment for the first family.
Since his return to Nigeria, Mr. Yar Adua continues to lie lonesome in his sterile ambulance because there is no facility that can accommodate him in his degenerative state.