By Ikechukwu Amaechi
WHY is President Muhammadu Buhari going around in circles was the question that concentrated my mind on Tuesday after the latest security council meeting circus in Abuja.
Why is the president and his stunt-oriented military artists more interested in public spectacles than providing Nigerians with security? Since it is obvious that the country is not making any headway in security matters, why is Buhari insisting on doing the same thing over and over again, knowing full well that he will keep on coming back to the same point?
Could it be that he is unaware of Albert Einstein, the German-born theoretical physicist’s definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results?
On Tuesday, Buhari held yet another security council meeting with his top security apparatchiks, including the service chiefs. The only reasonable outcome that many Nigerians expected from that meeting was a friendly handshake with the security chiefs and their immediate replacement. But there was nothing like that as Buhari instead called for new strategies and the overhauling of security architecture.
But, what exactly does that mean? Maybe a fine-tuning of the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai’s famous push-up skill. What other strategy will Buratai bring to bear on the war that he has not tried? How many times has he relocated to Borno State, the epicentre of the war?
Since the president, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, knows that his military commanders have done their best, which he said is unfortunately not good enough, to stem the tide of insecurity, doesn’t common sense dictate that he brings in new people to carry out the re-engineering he seeks in the nation’s security architecture?
The National Security Adviser, NSA, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd.), said the president restated his displeasure with the security chiefs’ inability to safeguard lives and property, a sentiment he first expressed nearly two months ago, which is shared by a majority of Nigerians who have called for their resignation or sack. Governors are also voicing out the same concerns.
Last week, Prof. Babagana Zulum of Borno, who survived an ambush by gunmen in his state, pointedly accused the military of sabotaging the anti-insurgency war. Lawmakers have joined the chorus.
On July 21, barely 48 hours after an ambush by bandits in Katsina, the president’s home state, left at least 16 soldiers dead and 28 others wounded, the Senate passed a resolution calling on the service chiefs to resign or be sacked.
Ironically, the same president who said the efforts of the service chiefs were not good enough to stem the tide of insecurity spurned the legislators’ political backing, reminding them that the appointment and sacking of security chiefs remains a presidential prerogative, as if the lawmakers didn’t know.
If the lawmakers didn’t know whose responsibility it is, they would have easily done the sacking without burdening the president with the responsibility because unlike many other issues, the clamour enjoys bi-partisan support.
Perhaps, the presidency’s big idea of Buhari doing “what is in the best interest of the country at all times”, is this re-engineering bugaboo. But how can the country’s extant security architecture be overhauled with the same service chiefs who the president said had overstayed their welcome still in charge, the same service chiefs that the rank and file in the military are openly calling out and rebelling against?
Is it possible, given the prevailing circumstances, for Nigerians to trust their president when he implores them to be patient and await the fruits of the re-engineering process? Does the president even believe himself when he assures distraught Nigerians that the situation is redeemable?
Monguno said Buhari reaffirmed his position at the June 18 security council meeting that the security chiefs were not doing enough and hence should do more. “What he said today was virtually a reaffirmation of what he said the first time.
Yes, Mr. President said you are doing your best, as far as I’m concerned, but there’s still a lot more to be done. I’m more concerned about the promise we made to the larger Nigerian society and I am ordering an immediate re-engineering of the entire security apparatus. This is something that I believe will be done in a very short time, but I just want us to keep hope alive,” he stated.
It is doubtful that Buhari knows how Nigerians feel as he claims. But the statement by Monguno that “since he is not an octopus, since he is not a spirit, if he delegates to people, then the onus is on them to actually fulfill the legitimate expectations of the larger Nigerian society”, is ridiculous because the bulk, as he reminded the lawmakers, stops at his table.
So, if the service chiefs fail to fulfil the legitimate expectations of the people, rather than wringing his fingers in exaggerated frustration, the president knows what to do. And if he fails to do the needful, then he should carry the can.
The sad reality is that Nigerians have tolerated Buhari’s absolute lack of capacity to govern for too long and the consequences are dire. But the question that is begging for answer is what next? Where do we go from here? Between June 18 when the president gave his service chiefs their marching orders and August 5, the security situation has not improved. Instead, it has deteriorated alarmingly.
After the June 18 meeting, Monguno told Nigerians that: “Mr. President expressed great concern over the declining security situation in the country. He is extremely unhappy about what is happening and he feels that, even though the security agencies are doing their best, their best is not good enough for him and wants an immediate reversal of the current trend and immediate reversal of our misfortunes in all their dimensions.”
Today, Nigerians are more traumatised. Ironically, it is not only the bloody civilians that have lost faith in the ability of the extant security architecture to do the job. Even soldiers on the frontlines are resigning in their hundreds.
So, why does Buhari prefer shedding crocodile tears on insecurity than doing the needful? Why is he pretending to be sad about the precarious security situation in the country and yet sits on his palms and does nothing about it? Truth be told, Buhari does not really get it. But if he does, then he does not care about Nigerians.
Pretending to sympathise with Nigerians over their security predicament without doing the needful is the height of dishonesty. Worse still, doesn’t honour demand that in the face of a near national consensus that their best is no longer good enough for the country, the security chiefs should voluntarily quit without waiting to be kicked out?
The truth is that the president and his security commanders are playing games with the security of Nigerians for reasons only known to them.