Tuesday, February 4, 2020 4:47 pm
By Owei Lakemfa
Senator Ali Ndume, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, who was a darling of the opposition when he was in the House Of Representatives has been embroiled in controversies. But perhaps because he was once accused by the Federal Government of sponsoring the Boko Haram terrorists, he has been like a missionary fighting for the army, overdoing it to the extent that the army challenged his claims on casualties and the manner its casualties are buried.
Ndume claims so much knowledge of the army, security and the terrorist insurgency that four years ago, he announced that the war was practically over. Despite his hyperactive proclivities and sycophantic prayers that the service chiefs who have been at their post for half a decade should continue in office despite the results from the battle field, his campaigns for the army cannot be denied. His current campaign is that Boko Haram cannot be defeated unless the twin challenges of the army which he claims are: “ lack of resources and inadequate personnel.” are addressed. He says of the war against Boko Haram: “In an operation like this, we have only 30, 000 soldiers on ground which is grossly inadequate.”
However, those of us who may believe him are confused because the army insist on programmes like Operation Positive Identification (OPI) in which it wants to get all Nigerians identify themselves when stopped by soldiers on the road. How can an army which is said to lack funds and personnel for its basic duties, want to do core police duties?
The Police has similar tales as the army, but rather than carry out its basic functions, it does the work of Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) and the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) checking vehicle particulars for expiry dates.
That is how we roll in the Federal Republic and those who do not accept that a carpenter is qualified to be a surgeon, are bound to learn bitter lessons. That seems to be what Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum is learning. An academic who should be in the classroom theorizing, descends into the arena of partisan politics talking about the need for leaders to be truthful and accountable.
He found on January 6, that he was carrying his campaign for the truth too far when he visited the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway where thousands of travellers were stranded for hours because soldiers manning the highway locked it down, allegedly collecting bribes of N1000 from travellers who do not have national identity cards. He took the fight to the soldiers speaking on top of his voice: “How can you subject people to this kind of torture all in the name of National ID card? And you are all here collecting N500 and N1,000 from poor travellers who don’t have national ID card.”
A man of action, Zulum, called the Theatre Commander of the war against Boko Haram, General Olusegun Adeniyi on phone: “Theater Commander where are you? …Right now I’m at the checkpoint near state university and we have thousands of people stranded and your people are here collecting money from people because they don’t have National ID Card. Why?”
When General Adeniyi arrived at the scene and denied the traffic jam was caused by extorting soldiers, Zulum retorted: “I saw them with my eyes, I spoke with people that were asked to give money…You must know that the government and people of Borno State are behind you and your men, but you must call your soldiers to order, you must check their excesses. ”
The Nigeria army reacted angrily in a statement by Aminu Iliyasu, the army operations media coordinator. It said the army is a professional and disciplined institution which views such allegations seriously and that they would be thoroughly investigated and those found guilty, punished. Then it went after Zulum: “However, it is important to unequivocally observe that public outburst particularly by eminent personalities such as a State Executive could be counterproductive and indeed capable of reversing the gains recorded so far in the ongoing fight against insurgents and other criminal elements across the nation.”
While still carrying out the promised investigations, Boko Haram returned in full force on the highway, killing and kidnapping. From these incidents, I have an hypothesis that I call ‘The Zulum Theory’ which states: It is better to have bribe-taking soldiers on the highway than life-taking Boko Haram. In mathematical terms, it will be known as ‘The Zulum Equation: >:<.
Talking about mathematics, given the Supreme Court experience in which in their Imo State judgement, their lordships awarded more votes than the total number of registered voters, I will suggest that arithmetic be introduced as a compulsory subject in all law programmes, and their lordships take annual refresher courses in arithmetic. Following the Supreme Court award of the Imo State Governorship seat to the All Progressives Congress (APC) events are moving fast as the state lawmakers are dumping the Peoples’ Democratic Party for the new ruling party.
A friend, Paul Nwabuikwu commenting on this scenario wrote: “ Our politicians are generally unprincipled, but Imo lawmakers are below sea level” I do not think the Imo legislators are “below sea level” they are actually swimming with the tides. If tomorrow, the Supreme Court reverses itself, they will swim back to the PDP.
It is surprising that the House of Representatives has joined the strident calls for the replacement of the service chiefs in the face of the reality that they are incapable of meeting the country’s security challenges particularly the Boko Haram insurgency. The Honourables seem familiar only with the English trite that ‘You do not change a winning team’ and not the Nigerian version that ‘You do not change a winning team, nor do you change a losing team’
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the Senate Minority Leader made me laugh when he asked President Muhammadu Buhari to resign over the serious security situation in the country. He should know that we don’t resign from plum positions in Nigeria; like drugs on the shelf, we expire.
The Presidency’s response to Abaribe’s call gives the impression that its media team is high on dangerous substances. First, he was needlessly insulted. Then was told he should be in jail for standing surety for “traitorous and treasonable suspects.” who escaped. Finally on the Boko Haram war, the Presidency said President Buhari has all it takes to finish off these terrorists, adding the most ridiculous statement of the century: “ He alone can do it.”
Given the fact that virtually all indices of governance are in the negative, the Buhari administration is all for rough tackles. Today, t he Federal Republic of Nigeria is run on ten percent truth, twenty percent half-truth, and seventy percent untruth.
-Owei Lakemfa is a veteran journalist and labour activist