February 11, 2021

Ex-service chiefs as ambassadors and why not, by Femi Adesina

No evil spirit in Aso Rock - Femi Adesina

Femi Adesina

Femi Adesina

Almost everything in our country is accompanied by some sort of furore. You do, you are damned. You don’t do, you are damned. No wonder President Muhammadu Buhari often says in private conversations, when some tumults occur on certain issues: “Head or tail, you never win with some Nigerians.” And he then smiles, to show that he has learnt to live with it.

That was what happened last week when the nomination of the immediate past Service Chiefs as non-career Ambassadors was announced. The ululation from certain quarters could almost pull down the sky.

Some people said: Are they the only Nigerians who can do it? After serving for more than five years in plum positions? They failed, how can they then be rewarded for failure?

And then, the most otiose, from a certain political party: Oh, they were being nominated as Ambassadors so that they would not be probed, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) would not come after them for war crimes.

I felt ashamed listening to that, from a party that once prided itself as the largest in Africa, before it was knocked off its perch. Rusticated, given the shorter end of the stick by the people. Could they be so dense as not to know that being a non-career Ambassador confers on you no immunity from probe? Were they still so filled with bitterness at having their snout yanked off the national honeypot in 2015, that they must criticize everything, however silly it sounds?

They claim the Service Chiefs failed. And these critics are people who will miss target if they attempt to fire catapult at an elephant. Poor marksmen! Where was the country in terms of insurgency when their party was given the left leg of fellowship in 2015? Almost 20 local government areas under full Boko Haram occupation. By full, we mean they had planted the flags of their so-called caliphate in those places. Insurgents sat on the stools of emirs, as the latter had fled for dear lives. Roads, schools, markets, NYSC orientation camps had been shut, as Boko Haram was the law in those places. They were collecting taxes and tolls, and running the local government offices. That was what that political party bequeathed to its successor, and to Nigerians.

But in came Gen Gabriel Olonisakin, Chief of Defence Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, Chief of Army Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, Chief of Naval Staff, and Air Marshal Saddique Abubakar, Chief of Air Staff, and they gave the insurgents bloody noses. Drove them out of places they occupied, even went after them into their spiritual headquarters, Camp Zero, in Sambisa Forest, and took it from them.

The Service Chiefs did not make a clinical end of insurgency, banditry, and other criminalities in the country. But not for lack of trying. They did their level best, made huge advances, but the times were very difficult. Did they fail as in FAIL? Only in the eyes of those who appreciate nothing, and don’t even know what success is.

But President Buhari is not in that mould. He would not use people who did their level best, and dump them unceremoniously, so that they become objects of derision in the eyes of those who like to see people fall from elevated positions.

It never ceases to baffle me that some characters simply lay in wait, just to mock people who lose certain positions. It gives them some devilish kind of orgasm to see people fall. As if they were the ones that would be appointed as replacements. Or members of their families. Their predisposition is simply to gloat, and say, ‘serves him right.’ And what do they gain? Nothing! In fact, they remain soused and marooned in their decrepit stations in life, due to their evil hearts.

President Buhari nominated the immediate past Service Chiefs as non-career Ambassadors. And I say, bravo, Mr President. That is why we believe in you. That is why we have followed you through thick and thin, and will continue to do so, whether in or out of government. You are always faithful to those who serve you faithfully. You watch their backs, care for them, and that is why we believe. Yes, let everyone else be faithless, let them mock, but we believe.

The former Service Chiefs did not end insurgency, but not for lack of will. I remember when Buratai himself relocated to the front, in Northeast, and he said he would not return to Abuja till the war was over. Under his charge, the insurgents were killed in many hundreds. But they were like locusts. The more they killed them, the more they increased. Very uncanny. They were attacked from the land, the air, and from the waters (where possible). But hell had enlarged itself, and continued to spew them out. Quite preternatural.

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The President would have wanted those Service Chiefs to go home as heroes. So he gave them time. Longer than was usual. And having realized that they had fought the war with all that was in them, he decided on some kind of reward, show of appreciation. Admirable. A display of good heart. No matter who you are; a President, a billionaire, Archbishop, Imam, if you don’t have a good heart, forget it. You should be avoided. Like a plague.

Early in the week, I was having my morning devotion, and I had read Deuteronomy 34: 5-7. It was time for Moses, the servant of God to die. And he did. What did God then do? He personally buried Moses, and till tomorrow, nobody knows where the sepulcher is. It then struck me powerfully! God took care of Moses, both in life and death.

Moses had served very faithfully. But he missed entering the Promised Land, due to the sin of anger and disobedience. God told him to speak to a rock, and water would flow from that rock, for the people of Israel to drink. But because he was angry, he called the people of God ‘rebels,’ and then struck the rock twice with his rod, instead of just speaking to it.

God took exception to his behavior. And he told him: you will only see the Promised Land from afar, but you won’t step into it. And that was how it happened.

In death, however, God still cared. He buried Moses personally.

If you ask me, there’s a similitude here with what happened to the former Service Chiefs. They could not fully deliver on the mandate given by their Commander-in-Chief. But they did their level best. So, at the fullness of time, fresh hands were brought in, so that there could be fresh brains, energy, ideas, impetus. But were the former Chiefs discarded like rags? Not President Buhari.

So much did God care for Moses, even in death, that when the Devil laid claim to his body, because he had displeased God, the Holy Bible tells us in the book of Jude, verse 9, that God sent Archangel Michael, the warrior, who told Satan: “The Lord rebuke you.” And he took Moses from the Evil One.

Thanks, President Buhari, for showing the way. Loyalty begets loyalty, and must be rewarded. Thanks for not following the mob, who love to see people fall. True kindness is the one you show to people, when they are both useful and no longer useful to you. The one you show to both the living and the dead. “Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead.” (Ruth 2: 20)

May God give us leaders who love people. Who know that man deserves to be treated decently, both in office and out of it. And President Buhari has shown the way.

*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity

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