By Gambo Dori
I WAS naturally frightened and horrified by the implications of the statement I read in the social media attributed to have been made by General TY Danjuma, to the overall unity and security of this country. The General was said to have made the statement last month in Jalingo, at the convocation grounds of the Taraba State University.
Referring to the persistent communal clashes in Taraba State, he was quoted to have said, ‘there is an attempt at ethnic cleansing in this state and of course all the riverine states of Nigeria. We must resist it. We must stop it. Every one of us must rise up. The armed forces are not neutral. They collude with the armed bandits that kill people and kill Nigerians. They facilitate their movement.
They cover them. If you are depending on the armed forces to stop the killings you will all die one by one’. He was said to have made the statement to the impressionable graduating students extempore.I went over the speech and noted its short sentences carefully couched for effects. The sentences are short, precise and to the point. It is typically Achebian in construction and can say that even a written speech wouldn’t have been more effective in the amount of venom it delivered.
On the face of what I read and saw, it was difficult to believe that it was the elder statesman Danjuma that was making such volatile utterances. I could not bring myself to believe it until when I saw the video of the man himself dressed impressively in an academic gown saying exactly what was circulated.It was a terrible let down because what I could surmise from the speech amounted to a vote of no confidence in the Nigerian Army which he had commanded at operational level as its Chief of Staff in the 1970s and superintended many years later at the political level as Minister of Defence.
To me, the short speech sounded more like a militia chief exhorting his group to resist legitimate state intervention. After watching the video and digesting the implications of what Danjuma said, I just shook my head and muttered, ‘Et tu General?’Agreed that even elder statesmen of Danjuma’s elevated stature could have their affiliations and biases, but common humanity expects them to keep such private. In matters affecting feuding communities in the country, it is the likes of Danjuma that would be expected to be above the fray to preach common sense for peace to flourish.
Indeed he had played such sterling roles before. As recently as 2013, he was quoted to be making such common sense speeches at the palace of the Emir of Zazzau at the occasion of conferring the title of Jarman Zazzau on the General. Referring to the general insecurity in the country and the indecorous statements coming from some community leaders Danjuma cautioned that, ‘this is the time for elders to be circumspect and temperate in their utterances – – – we need to think more, pray more, plan more, work harder, relate better, and talk less.
Battles are better fought and won through wisdom and strategy than through inflammable pronouncements and tantrums’.Similarly in 2015 when the bunch of Asari Dokubo, Tompolo and General Boyloaf were beating the drumbeats of war and threatening to plunge the country into chaos, if President Jonathan was not re-elected, Danjuma was quoted chastening them and calling them highly irresponsible. He even asked the security agencies to be alive to their duties and arrest the Niger Delta ex-militants for making reckless statements.
I guess readers would agree with me that the way and manner Danjuma spoke at that Taraba State University convocation grounds didn’t differentiate him much from the likes of Asari Dokubo and General Boyloaf. In fact, the more uncharitable observers would say Danjuma’s speech was even more reckless as it smeared the Nigerian Army without a shred of evidence adduced. The speech was plainly inciting and a call to anarchy and chaos. And it had its immediate effects as we have seen Asari Dokubo recently being quoted in the social media hailing Danjuma.
In the recent past, many of us have had reasons to be critical about how the army formations operated in troubled areas. Governors, prominent community leaders have at one time or the other lent their vociferous voices at lashing the army formations for one failure or the other. But this is routine, as they were under pressure in their localities to make such condemnations on behalf of their subunits. Danjuma does not belong to such crowd. He has always been heard to be speaking for Nigeria.
He had paid his dues as an army officer. And even in retirement the nation had always sought him out at critical moments to steer a committee or the other, intended to douse tension here and there. When President Jonathan was taking over as acting President in 2010 and tension was high, it was Danjuma that was sought out to chair a Presidential Advisory Council that was ostensibly put in place to douse the pressure and was given a carte blanch to advice on all areas of governance. Even now with a different party in power and a different President in the saddle yet Danjuma’s credentials as a nationalist had continued to twinkle and shine.
This administration had deemed it fit to lately appoint Danjuma as Chairman of the Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative, PCNI, to oversee all remedial programmes aimed at addressing the crisis in the North East since 2009.
It therefore defies reason why Danjuma should be beating the drumbeats of war within the sacred walls of the university. To begin with, the podium at the convocation venue should have been a sacrosanct place to preach the values of education and other issues of such high-mindedness – not spewing out a hate speech. I spoke to an elderly Professor who has had the privilege of witnessing many convocation ceremonies as an active participant and he told me he had never in his life seen the like of what Danjuma did.
He was short of the right words to describe the sordid implications. He said a state university like that of Taraba would most likely reflect the composition of the state and Nigeria – – multi-ethnic and multi-religious. And to come to that podium to face the multitude of invited guests and graduating students and regurgitate what was obviously a partisan view exposing him and reducing his stature to the level of an ethnic champion was just incomprehensible.
General T Y Danjuma is now over 80 years old. He has done so much for the stability and unity of this country. He has mentored many in the military, in government and in business. He is today one of the biggest businessmen in Nigeria having his fingers in many pies and partnerships that reflect the diversity of this nation. He is a philanthropist of vast proportions who had given stupendous amounts to institutions across the nation. Indeed he is considered a national leader and an icon. Millions would like to remember him as such. He must not stoop now, at this late hour, to end up a local champion.