“But, Buhari’s more shocking aspect of the removal of the Service Chiefs from office, which has so far shocked Nigerians, is where he said he was congratulating them for their “overwhelming achievements in our efforts at bringing enduring peace to our dear country”. “Enduring peace”? Is this genuine peace, or peace of cemetery or the grave yards? My dictionary tells me that peace means tranquillity, calm, calmness, law and order, harmony, placidity, rest, armistice, friendship, brotherhood, serenity, contentment, amity, reconciliation. Can any Nigerian hold the Holy Bible, Holy Quran, or piece of iron (depending on your faith), and swear, that we have any of the above? I think not. I believe not”
By Chief (Dr) Mike Ozekhome, SAN, January 27, 2021, Commentary
Finally, finally, finally, President Muhammadu Buhari has sacked the Service Chiefs, who, for over two years, had passed their retirement age. More importantly, they had outlived their usefulness to the country and its security challenges.
I had wondered again and again, why Buhari was still retaining Service Chiefs who had completely lost track of their primary assignment of enthroning a secured country, having exhausted all they learnt in their military training.
Livy once told us, “Potius sero quam minquam” (Better late than never). But I prefer Drake’s version, which is, “Better late than never, but never late is better”. Why was President Buhari retaining Service Chiefs under whom Nigeria literally, not metaphorically, became a crimson theatre of war, a large field of daily spilled blood, gruesome slaughter, hourly butchery, savagery attacks by audacious insurgents, deadly armed bandits, unrelenting and unrepentant Boko Haram terrorists and blood-thirsty kidnappers?
I didn’t, I couldn’t, I wouldn’t, never will, understand why. I interverned serially on television and radio talks. I spilled oceans of ink. I wrote tons of articles. All on the overdue stay of those spent forces on the driver’s seat of beleaguered Nations security architecture and apparatchik. Buhari bluntly refused to budge. Only last month, he still insisted that he had confidence in his Service Chiefs, even when it was as clear as a whistle that they had lost, not only skirmishes, ambushes, battles, but the main war. I could not understand why. Or, do you?
However, in relieving the Service Chief’s tired necks of decaying Albatross, Buhari made a startling statement through his spokesman, Femi Adesina. First it was that they “resigned” and the President “has accepted the immediate resignation of the Service Chiefs and their retirement from service”. Soft landing window-dressing, I guess! Nigerians are not amused. In more civilised countries, it would be announced that they had been out rightly sacked. Yes, summarily dismissed, for abysmally failing to live up to expectations. Had that been done in Nigeria, they probably would have mobilised their gullible and naive kinsmen, kinswomen and the ubiquitous ready-to-be-hired “activists”, mercenaries and emergency NGOs of sheer mercantilism, to protest and demonstrate on the streets of Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Enugu, Uyo, Kaduna, Yola, Maiduguri, Benin, Asaba, Portharcourt, Ibadan, Oshogbo, Calabar and Owerri, denouncing the “injustice” and “”unfairness. Never mind that they are under severe cross-fire! Gosh! Many Nigerians now suffer from the “Stockholm Syndrome”- a syndrome where an inexplicable, incongruous and unnatural love bond developes between a captive and a captor; between a victim and a tormentor, between a slave and a slave master. Nigeria, we hail thee, our own dear Native land.
But, Buhari’s more shocking aspect of the removal of the Service Chiefs from office, which has so far shocked Nigerians, is where he said he was congratulating them for their “overwhelming achievements in our efforts at bringing enduring peace to our dear country”. “Enduring peace”? Is this genuine peace, or peace of cemetery or the grave yards? My dictionary tells me that peace means tranquillity, calm, calmness, law and order, harmony, placidity, rest, armistice, friendship, brotherhood, serenity, contentment, amity, reconciliation. Can any Nigerian hold the Holy Bible, Holy Quran, or piece of iron (depending on your faith), and swear, that we have any of the above? I think not. I believe not. Then the President added the clincher, the diadem: the “Service Chief’s overwhelming achievements”. If Mr President meant “overwhelming achievements” in massive failure, I would concur. But, if he meant “overwhelming achievements” in securing our country, I would not only disagree, I would say that is the unkindest oxymoron and irony, of all. I beg to differ sir, Mr President.
“Overwhelming”, I understand, means massive, immense, inordinate, enormous, ineffable. So, the Service Chief’s achievements “in the eyes of Nigerians are overwhelming? I don’t understand “Achievement” means, interalia, accomplishment, performance, realisation, victory, attainment, feat, success, triumph. The opposite is failure, defeat, unfulfillment, misfortune, loss, miscue, injury. Nigerians, judge for yourselves, which of the above parralels and opposites best illustrates Nigeria’s sorry state of nadir, despair, sorrow, anguish, pains, pangs, blood and death.
The new Service Chiefs appear younger and lower in rank than their pot-bellied predecessors. They are Major General LEO Irabor (Chief of Defence Staff), Major General I. Attahiru Gambo (Chief of Army Staff), Rear Admiral A.Z. Gambo (Chief of Naval Staff); and Air Vice Marshall I.O. Alao (Chief of Air Staff). They replace General Abayomi Olonisakin (CDS), Lt-General Tukur Burutai (OAS), Vice Admiral Ekwe Ibas Ibok (CONS), and Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar (Chief of Air Staff).
That is all we can say for now. Is this change of batton merely cosmetic? Is it new wine in old calabashes? Has anything suddenly changed in terms of new equipment, surveillance and intelligence capacity and capability? Does the hood make the monk? Can a book’s worth be known by the beauty of its cover? No. It is not yet Uhuru. The disbanded Service Chiefs had been appointed by Buhari since 2015, when he became president. Most Nigerians had been quite vehement and vociferous that Buhari should sack them. Even a very pliant Senate and House of Representatives unbelievably broke loose from their self-imposed cocoon in December 2019 and did the unthinkable. They told Buhari point blank, koro koro eyes, to sack the Service Chiefs if they would not resign honourably. I thought I didn’t hear well. But that was how bad it had become. After all, from their imperial kirikiri-like fenced and wired fortress, they were not immune from Nigeria’s ricocheting security challenges. So they were forced to speak up. And, they did.
The total collapse of Nigeria’s security template has since led to about 23 of Nigeria’s 36 states establishing their local security outfits. These range from the South West’s “Amotekun” (Yoruba word for Leopard), to various armed neighbourhood security parol, teams, organisations and watches across Nigeria. Examples: IPOB floated “Eastern Security Network”(ESN). In Kaduna State, it is called “Kaduna State Vigilante Service”, Sokoto State (“Yan Banga”); “Hisbah Corps” (Kano State); Borno Youth Volunteers (BOYES, Borno State), “Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency” (Rivers State); “Neighbourhood watch group” (Ebonyi State); “Neighbourhood Watch” (Edo State); “Green Sheriff” (Cross River State); “Taraba Marshalls” (Taraba State); “Anambra Vigilante Group of Nigeria” (AVIS, Anambra State); “Vigilante Group of Nigeria” (VGN); etc.
What all this boils down to is that Nigeria needs to re-engineer, refurbish, rewind, reform and re-order her total security apparatchik. Indeed, it needs a complete overhauling, such as to bring it in line with modern international best practices in security engagement. The current behemoth, elephantine and unwieldy Police Force needs immediate decentralization, to bring about federal, regional, state, LGA and community policing. This means that sections 214 and 215 of the 1999 constitution should be amended immediately with the urgency of NOW.
For now, I “sidon dey look” the new Security Chiefs. I wish them the best of luck in their herculean task of securing Nigeria.
Ozekhome, SAN, is a Constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, wrote from Abuja