BY BEN AGANDE, ABUJA
The Minister of Information and the Supervising Minister for Defence, Mr Labran Maku, is one minister who does not spare critics of the Jonathan administration with his acerbic response to those he feels are unfair to the administration. He was in his acerbic best when he frontally attacked the gale of defections that swept through the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the rationalisation of the defectors action. Apart from five governors of the PDP who have defected to the rival All Progressive Congress (APC), scores of members of the National Assembly have also pitched their tent with the opposition party.
Maku’s grouse with the defectors is not the fact that they joined the opposition party. His angst stemmed from the fact that, in doing so, they deliberately and mischievously hid their shortcomings while spinning a yarn to paint the PDP as the monster. And he did not spare any name when he addressed these people: nomads, shameless, people with no sense of justice and anti-democrats. It is only a Maku, whom the Senate President once accused of talking carelessly, that can summon courage to exhibit such acerbity.
The president and ‘rough time this year’
A major change in the military high command was announced by President Goodluck Jonathan recently. Apart from sacking the heads of the army, the air force and the navy, Jonathan also announced the replacement of the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) as well as the service chiefs. Though such decision is the prerogative of the president, many see the development as Jonathan’s way of injecting new ideas into the fight against the multifarious security challenges in the country, ranging from the insurgency in the North-east, oil theft in the Niger Delta and kidnapping for ransom in the South-east. When the president, last Wednesday, decorated the new service chiefs and the CDS with their new ranks, he did not mince words in telling them the daunting challenge ahead of them.
“Whenever I am decorating military officers, I commend their wives because it is not easy to be barrack-based and then rise to this height. But (as for) the service chiefs, I don’t know whether I will congratulate you or I will sympathise with you because of the circumstances of the moment,” he said.
“That reminds me, when I was in secondary school, I read one article written by the late Dr. Tai Solarin, and there is one place where he said, ‘I wish you what I wish myself every year. May we have a rough time this year’. So, I think I will wish you what I wish myself every year and may we have a rough time this period because none of us will sleep till Nigerians in Borno State can sleep”. It was a tell order from the commander-in-chief that was not lost on the security chiefs.
But the president did not spoil the joyous mood of the military top brass, especially the CDS with his stern instructions. He lightened their mood too.
It is a common joke in the military that when a man is a colonel, for instance, his wife is a brigadier. This joke is borne out of the fact that though the man is the face of the rank, the wife is the unseen face that influences some of his major decisions, especially the very difficult ones.
Obviously aware of this joke, after decorating the CDS with his new rank of Air Chief Marshal, Jonathan turned to the wife of the military chief and quipped: ‘Madam, I congratulate you and your husband. Since you are now a field marshal, who is the commander in chief? You or me?” The laughter that followed helped in no small measure to douse the tense atmosphere that prevailed at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa shortly after the president gave his marching order to the new service chiefs to tackle the security challenges in the country.