…Ozekhome speaks on Military Chiefs, Effiong tackles Osibanjo
By Dirisu Yakubu
For twenty uninterrupted years now, the longest in the political history of Nigeria, the nation has enjoyed democracy as an acceptable governance system. For 16 years, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, ruled the roost at the centre, producing three Presidents consecutively until a combination of pride, internal party democracy infractions and allegations of corruption swept it out of power, culminating in the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in 2015.
More than a month now, Buhari, a retired army general was sworn in for yet another four years in office, following his victory in the February 23 Presidential election. The democracy narrative appears like a tale of lamentation. As a government of the people, democracy is yet to avail Nigerians its levers of freedom, service delivery and restoration of human dignity, enough to make them roll out the drums in genuine celebration.
In his widely acclaimed book, “War, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places,” Development economist, Paul Collier painted a gloomy picture for democracy in countries where elections are won with a combination of repression, fraud, violence and similar vices, warning rightly that under such conditions, democracy would only breed under-performance and increased corruption. People who live in nations where democracy is under threat of official strangulation, Collier argued, often realize belatedly, that the mileage the governance system distribute in advanced nations of the world, goes beyond their reach.
Ten years ago, the Boko Haram sect began a violent campaign on a grand scale in the North-East states of Borno and Yobe, with the government of ex-Presidents, Umaru Yar’ Adua (of blessed memory) and Goodluck Jonathan unable to tame the monster. A few years later, the sect which professed their hatred for western education morphed into a terrorist sect, bombing schools and worship centres even as they targeted uniformed personnel particularly the army and police. This evil campaign reached a worrisome height when in April 2014; about 276 girls of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state were abducted in broad day light, culminating in global appeal for their rescue. Unfortunately, the government of Jonathan failed to deliver on its promise to reunite the girls with their grieving families. This tragedy was to play its part in the electoral shellacking the Doctor of Zoology-turned politician suffered in the 2015 election.
President Buhari mounted the saddle and launched an offensive that largely dislodged the insurgents from their operational base at Sambisa forest. Their capacity to detonate bombs was reduced significantly, a feat that apparently got the security forces carried away. In no time, they declared the sect technically defeated even as commentators warned on the dangers of celebrating what appeared a phony victory.
Today, killings are ongoing in many states of the federation. While citizens faced the heat of Boko Haram only a few years ago, the enemies this time are bandits, herders, kidnappers, Boko Haram and cattle rustlers. A few weeks ago, Army Chief, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai blamed soldiers fighting insurgency for showing less commitment to win the anti-insurgency war.
Speaking at the opening of a transformation leadership workshop in Abuja, General Buratai said, “It is unfortunate, but the truth is that almost every setback the Nigerian Army has had in our operations in recent times can be traced to insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks or simply insufficient commitment to a common national/military course by those at the front-lines. Many of those on whom the responsibility for physical actions against the adversary squarely falls are yet to fully take ownership of our common national or service cause.”
In an exclusive chat with Saturday Vanguard however, elder statesman and former aide to President Shehu Shagari, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai described the remark of the Army Chief as a contradiction; a veiled reference to claims a few years ago that Boko Haram had been degraded and decimated.
“Gen. Buratai’s statement is a contradiction because not long ago, they told the nation and her citizens that the insurgents had been defeated. One of the reasons Nigerians voted for Buhari in 2015 was because they believed that as a retired soldiers, he would tackle security challenges better than Jonathan, a civilian.
“Without further delay, President Buhari needs to change his service chiefs because they have not delivered. A fresh team will probably restore citizens’ confidence because what we are having in our hands today is frightening,” he said. He advised government to revitalize agriculture especially to provide job opportunities to teeming youths, many of whom now act as conveyors of death in the hands of the insurgents.
Like Yakassai, Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, believes that insurgency is worse today than it was a few years ago. According to him, “Boko Haram is stronger today than ever before. The testimony of a resident who just shocked the world that Boko Haram now collects taxes from areas they control in the North-East shows the government has always been economical with the truth that the sect has been defeated, whether technically, mechanically, psychologically, mentally, physically, spiritually, or militarily. The government is simply not saying the truth and the Chief of Army Staff has merely confirmed the obvious.
Continuing, the constitutional lawyer asked rhetorically: “What are the military chiefs still doing in power when they have expired in terms of ideas, performance or effectiveness? Why retain them many years after the law of diminishing returns? It is common knowledge that many soldiers have since been deserting their beats, resigning or escaping abroad. The entire security apparatchik and architecture of the country need total overhauling, starting with removing from office, all the military chiefs.”
Government has not done enough in tackling poverty —Effiong
Only recently, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo spoke emotionally about his unease at the level of poverty in the land. Speaking in Lagos at a dinner and interactive session with faculty members of the Harvard Business School, the Vice President was quoted as saying: “I think what keeps me up at night has to do with extreme poverty; the issue is that the largest number of those who vote for us are the very poor. The promises that government makes to them is that their lives will be better and obviously they are looking at their lives being better in the shortest possible time.
“I will like to see Nigeria being an industrialized nation in the next 10 years; a very strong middle class and most people living above poverty line.”
However, Constitutional lawyer and rights activist, Inibehe Effiong wants the Professor of Law to save the nation the agony, saying, “rather than shed crocodile tears over the worsening economic situation in the country, the Vice President should begin by admitting that his government has reduced Nigeria to the poverty capital of the world.”
According to him, “The present administration has demonstrated frightening incompetence in the management of the economy and resources of the country. We have today a President who is never ready to take positive actions to advance the interest of the country. There is no sane investor who will put his money into an economy that is managed by people who are either clueless or too arrogant to seek expert opinion. Buhari’s government is a great mistake of history and Nigerians are paying dearly for it.”
As it were, those who claimed the 8th National Assembly frustrated the development effort of the Buhari administration should realize that same argument won’t sell if in the next four years, the living condition of the people fails to change significantly from what it is today. The ruling party and indeed, the Presidency now have in place, a parliamentary leadership of their preference unlike in 2015. Nigerians are looking forward to improved service delivery and no excuses will take the place of performance again, a fact that the APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole also alluded to recently.