5 years as Nigeria President – Memo to Buhari on Service Chiefs by Wale Odunsi
Dear President Muhammadu Buhari,
As you clock five years in office, the question about the departure of Nigeria Service Chiefs has come up again, for the umpteenth time. On Monday July 13, 2015, you appointed Defence Chief, Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin; Army Chief, Tukur Yusuf Buratai; Air Chief, Sadique Baba Abubakar; and Naval Chief, Ibok Ekwe Ibas.
The truth is that majority of Nigerians, including members of your party, All Progressives Congress (APC), are hoping that you will order their long overdue exit. Some are of the opinion that you probably want to retain them till the end of your tenure in 2023, a mockery of the quartet’s prolonged stay in office.
Word on the street is that since you assumed office, security has not really improved. The grouse of the complainants cannot be wholly countered because safety of lives and property was a major factor that made millions supported and voted you into power. Being a former General, they anticipated that you would bring your warfare tactics to bear.
Alas, you seem overwhelmed, Sir. We have lost count of the number of times you ordered the military to wipe out insurgents. Even your directives accompanied with ultimatum did not yield desired results. At times it appeared that Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have been decimated, the sects remind security agencies of their existence.
They do this by killing, kidnapping soldiers and civilians, bombing soft targets, beheading clerics, attacking villages, looting households, seizing boys and girls for forced initiation and marriage. Their atrocities know no bounds. In your capacity as the Commander-in-Chief, these incidents are contained in the intelligence briefings you receive.
Mr. President, the North-East region is grappling with an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The elderly, women and children are the most affected. It is heart-rending indeed, the people are suffering. The United Nations (UN) says Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – code-named BAY States – are nearly 2 million.
This means that 1 percent of Nigeria’s population in three states are refugees in their own country, the biggest in Africa. It is implausible that with such statistics, and many other disturbing reports by local and international groups, rights organisations, the media and affected communities, the military heads have remained in office. No removal, no resignation.
While gallant troops are battling to rout terrorists, bandits and violent herdsmen/farmers are adding insult to injury. They continue to cause sleepless nights in North-West and North-Central. States in other regions are not safe either. It is for this reason that South-West Governors established the Western Nigeria Security Network aka Amotekun.
South-East and South-South are not spared. The Governors have hinted that they may as well jointly set up regional outfits to protect their domain. We are seeing some state governments negotiate with outlaws, this is partly due to the inadequacies of those tasked with the responsibility of crushing them. We should not be pacifying murderers.
Mr. President, why have you rebuffed calls to replace the Service Chiefs? The National Assembly also made the recommendation, yet you have remained adamant. The Nigerian Senate once stated that you have not acted due to what they described as the ‘sensitive nature of the issue’. Citizens are wondering if there is more than meets the eye.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe pointedly asked you to resign, a demand that caused national stir. Your appointees, party members and other supporters retorted in your defense. However, they might make a similar call if members of their families and loved ones were shot or hacked to death in one fell swoop for no reason. These executions persist unabated.
I hereby recall the open letter by Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, Anthony Olubunmi Okogie. He told “praise singers” claiming that terrorists have been crushed that they will be questioned when they face God. The cleric declared that one of the biggest lies ever told by any government in the history of Nigeria is that Boko Haram has been ‘technically defeated’.
Cardinal Okogie added that the sect “is, in fact, waxing stronger. Any government spokesman or Service Chief, who says that Boko Haram has been defeated, will be answerable to God for every life that Boko Haram has destroyed. Nigeria is at war, but can it be said that she is showing signs of winning the war?”
Apart from the issue of insecurity, Mr. President, the Service Chiefs have exceeded their Run Out Dates (ROD). This is 2020, their mandatory 35 years in the military have elapsed. There are capable replacements to choose from. As a reminder, General Olonisakin was born on December 2, 1961 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1981.
Lt. Gen Buratai was born on November 24, 1960 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on December 17, 1983; Air Marshal Abubakar was born on April 8, 1960 and joined the Cadet Military Training Course (CMTC 5) in November 1979; Vice Admiral Ibas was born on September 27, 1960 and was commissioned a Sub-Lieutenant on January 1, 1983.
Section 09:08 of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service (HTACOS) of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) permits that the substantive appointment of Service Chiefs be for a period of two years and can be extended for another two years. Sir, you granted an extension in 2017 and this expired in 2019. I repeat, this is 2020.
Their retention has also precipitated senior officers leaving service without reaching higher positions, save Lt. General L.O. Adeosun. The 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 32nd and 33rd Regular Course (RC) members were reportedly affected. Nigeria’s security situation dismal, Generals Olonisakin, Buratai, Abubakar and Ibas should go; they have done their best.
People are dying, Mr. President. On Wednesday December 25, 2019, you said: “I swore to hold this office in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and God willing, I will follow the system diligently to the end of my term and I hope history will be kind to me and Nigerians.” We hope too.
Wale Odunsi tweets from @WaleOdunsi | [email protected]