At this point, may I, congratulate the Commander- in- Chief, of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Mohammed Buhari, officers and troops of the Armed Forces and other security agencies for degrading insurgency, terrorism and kidnappings in the country.
What we expect from modern Nigerian Army
The role of the Nigerian Military in a democracy has become an ever-relevant concern to many people for quite some time.
The principle of political control of the Armed Forces as we know it today is rooted in the concept of a representative democracy. It refers to the supremacy of civilian institutions based on its sovereignty, over the defence and security policy-making apparatus, including the Military leadership.
Democratic control should always be a two-way process between society and the Armed Forces. In a democracy, firm constitutional guarantees should protect the state including the Armed Forces from two types of potential dangers namely; from politicians, who desire to use the Military for their own ambitions and from the Military with political ambitions. When internal conflict or mass unrest arises in the country, the Military professionalism should override any religious or other sentiments in the discharge of its duties. This should be the mantra for safeguarding the unity and sovereignty of Nigeria.
Let us share the following principles which have been used to ensure the superiority, direction and control of the people, exercised through the elected government, over its Armed Forces, in this case the Nigerian Army, in a democracy. They are essentially as follows:
a.The existence of a clear legal and constitutional framework,defining the basic relationship between the State and the Armed Forces.
b.A significant role of National Assembly in legislating on defence and security matters; influencing the formulation of national strategy: injecting transparency to decisions concerning defence and security policy, and in giving budget approval and controlling spending using the power of the purse in issues related to the power of the sword.
c.The hierarchical responsibility of the Military to the government through a civilian organ of public administration, the Ministry of Defence, that is charged as a general rule, with the direction and supervision of its activities.
- The presence of a well trained and experienced Military corps that is respected and funded by a civilian authority which acknowledges the principle of civilian control, including the principle of political neutrality and non-partisanship of the Armed Forces.
- The existence of a developed civil society, with a clear understanding of democratic institutions and values, as a part of the political culture, with nationwide consensus on the role and mission of the Military.
- The presence of a reasonable non-governmental component within the Defence community capable of participating in public debate on Defence and security policy, presenting alternative views and programs.
The above points, are considered, solid and comprehensive yard stick for evaluating and determining the role of the Armed Forces in a democracy and their political control. The adoption of distinct codes and practices could be of immense importance to the Army and could go a long way in safeguarding our democracy and sovereignty.
Equally imperative is for the modern Nigerian Army to review its system of recruitment, promotion, and appointment, to reflect our multi-ethnic and multi -faith diversity. More importantly, to maintain force cohesion, it must have mechanisms that will allow it to manage these diversities effectively. An apparent display of this ability will help maintain harmony in the polity and, accordingly, attract the support of the population.
In the area of intelligence gathering and the rampant kidnappings and killings in the North- East and other parts of Nigeria, we need better coordination among various intelligence agencies in the country. There is also the requirement for policy change for every Nigerian to understand and accept the fact that, we all should be part of our country’s total defence and intelligence community. It is imperative, also, for our citizens to feed into the intelligence gathering system of Nigeria, so that we can together defend Nigeria from insurgency, terrorism as well as other security problems facing us. I must, however, warn that this must not translate the country into a Police State. I am herein advocating for a total national defence consciousness where Nigerians and all our institutions accept their responsibilities as belonging to the National Defence Infrastructure (NDI).
Safeguarding Nigeria’s unity, sovereignty
As stated earlier, it is the responsibility of the Nigeria Army as per the Constitution and the Nigeria Army Act to safeguard Nigeria’s territorial integrity and to that extent defend our unity and sovereignty when under threat from within or without. In doing so, it must perform its duties under the command of the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. It must act strictly in accordance with the rules of engagement and the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It should not act on its own volition or independent of the directive of the President, Commander- in- Chief.
For clarity, the Chief of Army Staff cannot of his own deploy the Nigerian Army in defence of our National Interest without the
authorisation of the civil authority and in accordance with the provision of the Constitution, under which, it must operate. For emphasis, that the Nigeria military is said to be the bed rock of our national unity should not suggest in any way, that it should act independent of the elected representatives of the people and the Constitution of Nigeria.
Under no circumstances should any officer or solider spend one day longer in uniform who has the tendency of bias for politics, religion, ethnicity or sexism in the discharge of their duties or in dealing with men and women under their command. Professionalism in terms of effectiveness, confidence, stability, diligence, loyalty must be the yard stick for promotion and appointments. An Army that basis her functionalities on the above mentioned should naturally command respect of the citizens and the country whose duty it is to defend.
Why we must heed clamour for restructuring
Speaking of nation building, let me acknowledge that the Military experiments in building a united country by introducing a unitary-type of democratic governance, in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country as ours appear not to be our best option as it had not worked well in the post Military Era. Therefore, we cannot but heed the clamour, by citizens of Nigeria for negotiations to commence for restructuring Nigeria and to produce a new Federal Constitution to be subjected to a referendum; and, when approved become the “People’s Constitution of Nigeria’’.
Indeed, our Founding Fathers had the wisdom and maturity in adopting a proper Federal structure guaranteed by the 1960/63 Federal Constitutions. There are some eminent Nigerians that have supported the present restructuring debate. They include:
General Yakubu Gowon, the Head of the Military Government (1966-75) who created 12 states from the original four regions.
General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Military President of Nigeria (1985-93) who took the number of states in Nigeria to 19.
Dr. Alex Ekwueme former Vice-President.
Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth Secretary- General, and member of Project Nigeria.
Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Prof Ango Abudulahi etc.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar II, Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Emeka Achebe and Oni of Ife, Enitan Ogunwusi Adeyeye, Ojaja II
? Frontline politicians like, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President of Nigeria as well as Asiwaju Bola A. Tinubu.
Governors from the South East, South West and the South- South geo-political zones.
The Northern State Governors and stakeholders from the North.
Northern Elders Forum.
Southern Elders Forum.
Recently, in a retreat about three weeks ago, at the Calabar, Cross- River State of Nigeria, Southern Senators called for the restructuring of the Nigeria.
For good measure, we must admit that democracy thrives most when there is justice, equity, transparency, accountability and rule of law. Governance is all about the citizens’ welfare and their aspirations. Governments should encourage and promote the interdependence of all its citizens regardless of ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender as well as political affiliations.
What is being discussed is not new to the Nigerian Army, for restructuring exercise is an ongoing process in the Army. When I was in the Army, we had four (4) Divisions, one in Ibadan, one in Jos, one in Kaduna and, one in Enugu. I had the privilege of commanding One Division in Kaduna prior to my retirement. Since then, the Army had re-organised or restructured itself into eight (8) Divisions spread across the country – one in Lagos, one in Ibadan, one in Port-Harcourt, one in Enugu, one in Kaduna, one in Jos, one in Maiduguri and the Eighth Division going to Sokoto. The Army had done these for its effective command and control and efficiency. And, to be able to deal decisively with the threats pertaining to safeguarding Nigeria’s unity and territorial integrity. Whereas, the Army had gone ahead to restructure in order to meet its operational demands, politicians have one or two lessons to learn from it in the present quest to restructure Nigeria and position it for utmost unity, harmony, optimal efficiency and development.