The Islamic Republic of Iran may have joined forces with those seeking the removal of Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai in what is largely seen as a coup to cripple the anti-terror war.
Buratai, whose detractors acknowledged as having made commendable gains in the fight against Boko Haram in the northeast, was the target of an attack by Iranian backed Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) better known as Shiite sect in the country. The attempt on his life triggered a military operation.
Sources revealed that Iran, whose former Ambassador to Nigeria, Saheed Kozechi, actively defended IMN’s right to insurrection, is now exploiting ongoing allegations against the COAS of owning property in Dubai to seek his sack as pay back for the troops’ operation in Zaria Kaduna state late last year.
While Iran has toned down its coordinated media attacks against the Nigerian state since the departure of Kozechi, the sources revealed it has covertly joined forces with those demanding Buratai’s sack by part financing the campaign against the COAS.
One of the sources, who wants his identity protected for fear of repercussions said, “You know what is at stake for Iran is more than what you Nigerians take as your petty politics and in-fighting. The Islamic Republic is eager to see this man go so that its assets in Nigeria can start operating freely again. That clamp down by the Nigerian authorities had slowed down the anticipated rise of Shiism in the country.
“Iran has made $100 million available for this purpose. The intervention would have happened earlier but for the tighter scrutiny of how money moves. The decision was to finally pass the money through Mr Femi Falana, who is a counsel to IMN in the case against the Nigerian Army. You know the money is being released in tranches but they are able to create the impression that he is being paid for his services but he knows how to reach out to others with interest in General Buratai,” he outlined.
A second source in the anti-Buratai camp, who confirmed new funding for the campaign but denied knowledge of its source, confirmed that the camp was able to scale up its media activities as more groups and personalities were mobilised over the weekend to renew demands for Buratai’s sack.
According to the source, “One of the points unanimously agreed at the last strategy session is that even if the allegations are being twisted out of proportion people will start believing them once we keep repeating them. That is what is driving the demand for him to be sacked.
“We have also made slight changes in strategies. Instead of prevailing on the General to go we are now creating the impression that his continuing on office is a question mark on Mr President’s anti-corruption stance. Fortunately, several traditional newspapers bought this argument and you can see it already reflecting on their editorial,” the source explained.
He however insisted his camp knew nothing about Iran providing the new funding even as he countered that “it doesn’t matter” where the money is coming from when confronted with the implication for Nigeria’s sovereignty.