NIGERIA’S UNENDING WAR AND THE RETENTION OF SERVICE CHIEFS

In 2015, we were told that the reason why we should vote out the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan was because the man was clueless, that he was a lame duck, incapable of squaring up with Nigeria’s multifaceted problems, political and economic, and in particular, the ongoing war against Boko Haram insurgents, which literally had held the country captive.

We were presented with a towering retired Army General and former Military Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, as better equipped to deal with the country’s problems. Based on his exposure and experience, Buhari, we were told, clearly understood Nigeria inside out, and he had the capacity to decisively deal with her problems. On the strength of that beautiful presentation, we went to the polls and voted in the “no nonsense” retired Army General.

Almost five years thereafter, Nigeria is still grappling with the same war. According to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, “there is war in all the thirty-six states of the country”, and that was why President Buhari could not change his security chiefs, who ought to have retired a long time ago after they had served 35 years in the military and attained the mandatory retirement age of 60 years.

According to Senator Ali Ndume, President Buhari cannot afford to change or appoint new service chiefs for now because “Nigeria is in a complete state of war”. His words: “We are in war. Definitely, we are in war. We are fighting the insurgents in the North-east and in the North-west. The military is so much involved and are being deployed in so many zones of the federation. The security situation is such that that the military is involved almost in all parts of the country. So, we are in war”, pointing further that “the military is so involved in so many security challenges. In fact, in almost the 36 states, in fact, this is a pointer that we are at war”.

Senator Ndume’s position however contradicts the position held by several members of President Buhari’s administration who had consistently maintained that Boko Haram, in particular, has been “technically defeated”.

According to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a recent interview, Boko Haram terrorists have been “technically defeated”. He however explained that what Nigeria was currently facing was “global terrorism” that has no boundary, and no frontier.

According to Lai Mohammed: “I was on ground in Bama, Konduga and Maiduguri and I know what I saw before I made that claim. We are fighting global terrorism and that is why we are appealing to our foreign partners, especially the UN and our neighbours. By the time we get more platforms and the new helicopters that are being expected there will be tremendous improvement”.

Putting the two accounts side by side, we would be inclined to accept the position of Senator Ali Ndume that war is still going on in Nigeria, even though Alhaji Lai Mohammed was to later turn round to admit that the country is still in a state of war, nevertheless, “global terrorism”.

In any case, one would have expected President Buhari to have since deployed his widely acclaimed military wizardry to decisively deal with the ongoing war in various parts of the country, whether Lai Mohammed calls it “global terrorism” or not. But he has not done that.

Instead, what we see is a ding dong affair between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram terrorists. Today, we hear that the insurgents had taken one town or the other; the next day, they tell us that the Nigerian military had chased the insurgents out, killed or captured such and such number of terrorists, etc.

Such news have continued to feature over and over again, in the past four years, and up till this year’s Christmas eve, when we were told that “48 Boko Haram terrorists were killed and three others captured” when they attacked Biu town in southern Borno, and were repelled.

We then ask: what is the strength of these terrorists who were being killed or captured, almost on a daily basis, yet they still exist and continue to cause havoc in the country? Why haven’t they been completely wiped out or destroyed? Where are they coming from? Where is their supply route? Why wouldn’t have our military blocked that route?

We have been told that “no inch of Nigerian territory is being held by Boko Haram terrorists”. Perhaps, those terrorists who have been attacking Nigeria are coming from the moon. In the same vein, Sambisa Forest has ceased from being part of Nigerian territory, while the remaining Chibok girls yet to be released, and Leah Sharibu, are being held in the air, outside Nigeria!

But if on the basis that war is ongoing in Nigeria, therefore President Buhari should continue to retain the service chiefs, then why has the President been retiring military officers under them? He should have allowed all of them to remain until whenever the war is ended.

Since the retirement of the service chiefs, according to Senator Ali Ndume, is predicated upon the end of the ongoing war, it then means that our military chiefs will remain in office in perpetuity. This is because we do not envisage the war to end so soon, as those who are benefitting from it, and they are many – the buyers and suppliers of military equipment, etc. – will not like it to end.

At any rate, during the Nigeria-Biafra war, didn’t General Yakubu Gowon rejig his top military hierarchy, which was why the likes of the then Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo replaced Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle, Black Scorpion, of the Third Marine Commando, to quickly end the war?

When a person is made to stay in one position for too long, it will definitely lead to inertia. There will be no new ideas, and no new initiative. There will be over familiarity and sometimes, boredom. In the end, there will be no progress, which may eventually lead to system failure.

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