By Rotimi Fasan
THE images from the scene of attack, what political mourners and others of their ilk have variously described as a ‘dastardly act’ and other words to that effect, are not only graphic but are as gory and disturbing as they could possibly be. This episode harks back to the murder in 1976 of then Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Muhammamed, by renegade soldiers of the Nigerian Army during a botched attempt at a forceful takeover of government.
But the victim of this vicious attack, Alex Badeh, was a four-star general in the Nigerian Airforce and until three years ago Nigeria’s Chief of Defence under the Goodluck Jonathan administration. It was during his time in the saddle that the murderous Boko Haram insurgents were at the peak of their offensive against the Nigerian state. Although the administration would under his watch gradually push back the insurgency without achieving full victory but the fight in the North East was tough enough for the man to use his position as the joint chair of military defence to evacuate his extended family from the war zone.
With Boko Haram showing better gravitas and military strength on the war front even as our soldiers took themselves out of action with self-inflicted injuries and yet others became instant deserters at the approach of the almost ragtag army of insurgents, Nigerians asked questions about what happened to the billions of dollars voted for the procurement of weapons for the campaign in the North East.
Nigerians didn’t have to wait too long for answers to their questions. Reports from the war front were not at all flattering to the government or the brass hats in charge of Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram. Soldiers on the verge of mutiny spoke of abandonment at the war front, severe shortage of food supplies and modern weaponry, late or non-payment of salaries and general indifference to their plight by their commanders – all of which translated to very low morale. In a word, reports from the field were a solid indictment of the service chiefs virtually all of whom, like now, had become too comfortable and could no longer distinguish between their roles as military or police chiefs or being the military arm of the governing Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Following the loss of the 2015 election by the PDP, the Muhammadu Buhari-led government of the All Progressives Congress, APC, began series of investigations that unearthed grievous crimes against the Nigerian state, to say nothing of the young soldiers that were deployed almost barehanded to confront murderous groups of insurgents that are not at all schooled in and were unmoved by the modern strategies and rules of military engagement.
Alex Badeh was one of the officers implicated in the misuse and pilfering of public funds to the tune of billions of naira. His older children were also fingered in this crime of diverting public funds to purchase choice properties in different parts of the country or simply starched away in hidden accounts. He was yet on trial as at the point of his unfortunate murder. So, just to keep the records straight, the narratives surrounding Alex Badeh were, therefore, far from the heroic yarns and sentimental drivel that are now being spurned by interested parties and erstwhile acquaintances of the Airforce chief in the PDP.
Nobody deserves to die in the manner that Alex Badeh was killed and his death beyond the rhetoric of a presidential order for the arrest of his attackers should be investigated and his murderers brought to justice. But asking questions and demanding answers about this particular assassination in the context of countless crimes and murders that go uninvestigated begs the question of a permanent and general solution to the insecurity that has taken over the country even at the time Badeh was chief of defence.
To build castles of conspiracy theories around his death in the manner the PDP and their sympathisers have been doing in an obvious bid to demonise the Buhari administration would neither go far nor would it move us forward in our drive towards addressing the insecurity that has made Nigeria a wild outpost of brigand militias. It amounts to seeking a private solution to a general problem which takes us back to the very territory we should be running away from- giving privilege to a few at the expense of the vast majority.
What is worse is that it dilutes official narratives concerning the activities of Alex Badeh and others like him, conflating issues in a manner that defrauds our commonwealth. The assassination of Badeh and his investigation for fraud are different issues and the determined effort to draw a link between the two may not help investigations at all. Indeed, the attempt to link his murder to his being in possession of some earth-shaking secrets about the present administration and Boko Haram is a yarn that is shot through with politics and deserves scorn.
Except the investigation of his murder leads inexorably to anything connected to Boko Haram a willful and premeditated link should not be drawn between the two. What happened to Badeh happens to scores of Nigerians daily without anyone in authority batting an eyelid. Nigerians are randomly killed, military-style, by armed robbers and kidnappers that are now constantly on the prowl.
Many Nigerians even people not easily associated with wealth, not having held any public office, are fair game to armed kidnappers and robbers. Today teachers, lecturers and health workers are indiscriminately abducted and their families are made to pay millions of naira to secure their freedom. This even when nobody, neither the family nor the police, would admit to giving ransom to placate their abductors. Nobody asks questions when an entire neigbourhood is barricaded, the inhabitants held hostage and robbed, raped and brutalised for hours without any response by the police to the distress calls of the affected people.
Traditional rulers in parts of the country have been abducted as we saw recently in parts of Lagos. School children have been abducted well before and since the infamous abduction of hundreds of Chibok girls. Some of the Dapchi girls are still in captivity.
The families of these girls have borne their pain silently and nobody is losing sleep over the time-wasting negotiations for the release of the girls, especially the pathetic case of Leah Sharibu that is spending yet another Christmas in captivity. But special commentaries are being made by politicians bent on making cheap political mileage from and about the murder of Alex Badeh. They are condemning the police and pouring insults on the Buhari administration as it serves their political interest for now. Tomorrow they will sing a different tune and move on to other political matters.