By Tonnie Iredia
The military is an institution to be jealously guarded by any nation because no contribution by any other group can equal the role of its members who are ready to pay the supreme sacrifice so that ordinary citizens can remain alive.
Besides, our military is a societal institution run with public funds which can therefore not be an island unto itself. As a result, its activities must be a matter of concern to the entire society for whose sake it exists. Thus, the argument that we lay men have no business getting involved in military matters is simplistic.
Consequently, to any patriot who genuinely appreciates the role of the Nigerian Military in national development, the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) to order the removal of military check points across the nation, is a welcome development. When added to the earlier decision to relocate the Military High Command from Abuja to Maiduguri, no one is left in doubt that Buhari is set to professionalize our military.
As a public analyst who has harped on the issue in the last four years, I salute the President for his wisdom and courage, because the inability of his predecessor to so act was part of his undoing.
I earnestly hope that the military would be positively disposed to the new posture by taking advantage of it to shore up its sagging image. Otherwise, how can one imagine the Nigerian military known over the world for its excellent performance at peace keeping operations being unable to deal with insecurity in its nation? Now that those who were persuaded to use the military to play politics are out of government, the good old days of our gallant forces are back.
For a number of reasons, analysts who imagine that the environment was not ripe enough for the withdrawal of military check points are wrong. To assume that as soon as the roads are free of check points, criminals would have a free time presupposes that the check points were designed to stop criminals from operating which is not the case. After all, the public was never told how many times insurgents were apprehended at the checking points leaving us to assume that what the device achieved was to create traffic jams for hours thereby making the nation to lose man hours.
In Abuja, the check points made commuters particularly civil servants to arrive late at their duty posts every day. Second, the check points were erected at fixed locations making it easy for anyone wishing to avoid them to negotiate a different route to his destination. What this suggests is that there was no room for surprise checks; rather the military sentenced itself to a routinized unintelligent assignment.
Third, anyone was hardly checked as the soldiers merely waved the go-ahead sign to all. Indeed, the hope of commuters about two hundred vehicles away from a supposed checking point, that some earnest efforts were being made to apprehend criminals and their weapons were often dashed as they found no such thing at the end of the queue. This tended to confirm that the policy was merely designed to slow down traffic like a sadist design to inflict pain on Nigerians who were lucky not to be in the war zone. In any case who says, check points fall into current global practices in anti-terrorism devices?
Again, the supposed checking points did not only become too many, the time spent at each point was excessive. On one occasion, it took this writer not less than than10 hours to travel from Asaba to Abuja with a checkpoint between Asaba and Agbor, another one between Agbor and Uromi, another before Auchi, then two in Okene, one before the Lokoja Bridge, another at Abaji, then one after Giri junction before the last one immediately after the Airport junction in Abuja. We could not have had as many during the civil war.
To make matters worse, military convoys and siren piloted vehicles usually drove off along the curves and sometimes against traffic to avoid the discomfort of long queues, thereby diminishing the credibility of the institution of those managing the policy. To argue that military convoys can be trusted and need not be checked makes it hard to explain the several times when impostors used military uniforms etc to cause havoc and insecurity.
Well, I never saw the military collecting toll at any location, but I believed they were doing so because, a former military governor Col, Abubakar Dangiwa Umar publicly confirmed that a service-wide revolt could result from several unwholesome issues apart of which he called “the deployment of soldiers to purely police duty like checkpoints at which they are seen soliciting and receiving bribe”. I then assumed that former Military President Ibrahim Babangida had that in mind when he opposed the policy with the argument that the assignment could compromise the military.
The Presidential order for the military to quit checkpoints and the decision that its high command should relocate to the war zone has no doubt brought the war against insurgency to the front burner. Bearing in mind the information that government has since 2011 allocated huge annual budgets of about N921 billion to security, it is time for the nation to be rid of terrorism.
Somewhere along the line however, Major- General Abdullah Muraina, the Nigerian Army Chief of Accounts and Budget raised an alarm that “the Nigeria Army was enmeshed in the bureaucratic bottleneck for funding approvals for military operations”. Could it be that a substantial part was being diverted to election duties?
The question is valid in view of the allegation by the All Progressive Congress that during the Osun State Governorship election, the military deployed only 30,000 men to fight Boko Haram while 75,000 of its operatives were deployed to secure the election. Apart from the fact that the allegation was not refuted, there is doubt if anyone disbelieved it. Now that the military is being positioned to use its budget appropriately, we wish that institution the best of luck