The recent measly reprimand of the service chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari over their failure to curb worsening insecurity in various parts of the country and their abysmal performance, nay crass display of incompetence, can best be described as too little, coming a bit late.
Though President Buhari’s remark was an unprecedented display of disapproval of the service chiefs’ activities, we state without prevarication that merely scolding the military chiefs that their best was not good enough amounted to a worrisome pat on the wrist.
More worrisome is the fact that President Buhari as Commander-in-Chief has once again failed to wield the big stick on his nonperforming lieutenants and apparently fatigued chiefs by giving them the boots and inject some fillip into the war on terror as advocated by many well-meaning Nigerians in the last three years.
Indeed, the performance of the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar and his counterpart in the Navy, Vice Admiral Ibok Ibas, has been anything but impressive in the face of embarrassing security lapses and wanton destruction of lives by bandits, herdsmen, insurgent and terrorists.
Weeks after the warning, in another display of devilry, Boko Haram attacked and badly damaged a UN humanitarian helicopter in Damask, Borno State, killing two persons.
It was not perplexing, therefore, with the level of insecurity in the country and other serious national security issues, that Eyinnaya Abaribe, Senate Minority Leader, called for the resignation of the president, in tow with a few prominent Nigerians and institutions like the National Assembly, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Catholic Archbishop of Sokoto, Rev. Father Matthew Kukah, who had repeatedly called for the removal of the service chiefs.
Like all these informed Nigerians, we are disappointed by the paradoxical outcome of the last security meeting with these tardy security chiefs whom the president still relies on to reverse the current national security nightmare.
Without ambiguity, retaining the service chiefs, some of whom are currently above 37 years in service, with discernible debilitating effects on their physical and mental capability, has demoralized some top military officers and troops in the armed forces who have been denied promotion, even as the latter are heading towards terminal service age.
Besides, it would not be baffling that these demoralized officers and men can exhibit their displeasure through mutinous acts, perfidy or sabotage of military activities and operation in the country – a possible strategic defect the terrorists must have exploited.
A pointer to this was the video released recently by Lance Corporal Idabini Martins, who enunciated his bitterness about Army leadership and poor equipment, even at the risk of arrest and court martial. It is inconceivable the message from the video in which a Lance Corporal daringly questioned the integrity and competence of a General.
This aptly illustrates the fact that the continued retaining of these service chiefs is gradually eroding the time-tested tradition, doctrine, discipline and loyalty, which were hallmarks of the military.
Rightly, President Buhari reminded the security agencies in no uncertain terms that his administration campaigned for power on the platform of three issues – fighting insecurity, overcoming the nation’s economic difficulties and dealing with the scourge of corruption.
Indeed, at Chatham House in London, shortly before the 2015 elections, he said: “If I’m elected president, the world will have no reason to worry about Nigeria…
We will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development and promoting infrastructural development… we will always act in time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester. And I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front.”
Though the parlous security situation today is evidently better than the status in 2015, it is still far from public expectation and promises, which earned Buhari his first victory at the poll.
Today, many local governments in the North-West and North-East have been deserted by civilians, having been sacked by marauding terrorists; even as a senator reported recently that some villagers in Sokoto State were taking refuge in Niger Republic following failure of Nigerian military to protect them.
Whereas the Nigerian military have repeatedly remonstrated about paucity of funds, Senator Elisha Abbo, representing Adamawa North, disagreed that funding is not the problem of the military, but its leadership. He said: “Going by this budget document from 2012 to 2019, the army has received over N4 trillion. Funding is not the problem.
The military will tell you their vehicle is spoilt and they cannot move. Mr. President should look inwards. Security chiefs have done their best, they should go.”
It was good enough that Mr. President expressed great concern over the declining security situation in the country, but his displeasure should go beyond his mere request for an immediate reversal of the current trend.
The service chiefs had persistently demonstrated gross lack of capacity in the last five years.
The imperative to take a belated decisive action on the pampered service chiefs is not only a management function, but a necessity in conformity with provisions of chapter two of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, which posits that the primary aim of government is the welfare and security of the people.
A government that fails in this regard can hardly earn its citizens’ confidence.