By Muyiwa Adetiba
The mind flashes back some forty years ago to1983 when the then civilian President requested a dashing young man to rid the North-East of some cantankerous invaders from a neighbouring country.
This young man who was a GOC (General Officer Commanding) at the time, rose to the occasion and gave the bandits such a hiding that they scampered to the country they came from.
He eventually had to be restrained by his President from running over the neighbouring country. Such was his self-righteous anger at what he felt was the insult of this rag-tag army of invaders on the ‘giant of Africa’. A few months later, this young man was to be selected in a purely military affair to run our country as Head of State by his peers. His unique selling points by those who put him forward included incorruptibility, decisiveness and self-discipline.
They claimed he was a shining example of who and what a Military Officer should be. This was at the time Nigeria was in dire need of both fiscal and moral discipline. He was therefore seen as a man for the season. Unfortunately, he was not able to stay long enough for the myth around him to either be deepened or dispelled.
It is a trite issue in management that most companies would pick a CEO or a COO that should best address the most pressing need of the company at the time of vacancy. The need could be financial, marketing, engineering or simply a change of direction. Nigeria’s needs six years ago were multi-dimensional. But the most pressing ones were addressing fiscal indiscipline and insecurity. And those who picked a Buhari over a Jonathan as the man better suited to address those pressing needs could be excused. The myth around Buhari as Mr Corruption with a capital C had become thick and almost impregnable. To be sure, there were noises of nepotism, religious bigotry and mental laziness around him that refused to go away.
But Jonathan had so much messed up in the areas of fiscal discipline and security – or so people thought – that those noises were somewhat quietened. They felt Buhari was the man for the season. For who is better suited to handle a country that is plagued by a fast rising insurgency and insecurity than a Military Officer? Someone trained in the art of violence to quote IBB, Nigeria’s only Military President. Who is better suited to stem corruption than a Mr Clean?
Six years down the line, and the nation is bewildered. What happened to the man who forty years ago taught the army of invaders a harsh lesson they never forgot? What happened to the man who once stood tall on issues of moral and fiscal discipline?
What happened to the Officer and Gentleman who promised to take Nigeria to the next level? Promises that are now fulfilled more in the breach? What happened to the man who promised to belong to everybody and to nobody? More poignantly, where is he in all the chaos and confusion popping up from almost every part of the country?
My mind goes to him each time I hear that another section of the country has been ceded to bandits. I think of him each time I hear another set of students has been kidnapped. I wonder how he is feeling each time I hear Nigerians are fleeing their homes for a neighbouring country. What happened to the man for the season we thought we chose? The myth around him has been so completely shattered that questions about his physical and mental dispositions are becoming rife.
Is he now just a titular head distanced from the nitty gritty of ruler ship? The other question on many lips is whether things would have been worse if Jonathan had been re-elected. The clamour by some people to bring Jonathan back partly answers the question. This clamour suggests nostalgia for what could have been. It suggests regret for what has been.
In the years when I was Editor and Publisher, I had cause to interact with few Intelligence Officers around the country – it went with my job. I would say Nigeria had very good officers- probably some of the best in the continent. I cannot therefore reconcile the Intelligence Agencies I had occasions to interact with in the 80s and 90s with what it seems we have now. How for example, did it happen that so many of the forests in the country have been taken over by bandits? How did it happen that guns come into the country in such huge dimensions as to be available to anybody who wants to buy? What about the caravans of goods and guns coming into the country?
What about aliens as herders bringing destruction into the country at noon, kidnaps at dawn and rapes at dusk? Is it that there were no Intelligence Reports or Leadership is not reading let alone acting on them? I still cannot wrap my head round the logistics of ferrying three hundred kidnapped students out of a sleepy town. How many trucks would be needed? Or if they used two wheeled vehicles, how many scores would be needed? How long did it take? I know the hassles of transporting fifty willing passengers from point A to point B let alone three, four hundred unwilling passengers.
How was it allowed to happen in a so called civilised country? Where was Intelligence? The video of students being brutalised makes ones heart to bleed. Yet the solution is not to close schools as is being suggested now. The consequences of youths roaming the streets uneducated and unskilled will be too dire in both the short and long terms. Surely Security Reports if they still have relevance, should have emphasised that point.
I think the President tends to choose loyalty over competence in matters of State – including security. Yet the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It is obvious there is something wrong with our Intelligence gathering. It is clear there is something wrong with our security architecture. The President should do the needful and stop rewarding incompetence by keeping under-performing people in office. This is the time the country needs its A Team from any geographical zone. He should also do everything in his enormous power to decentralise Policing and Intelligence gathering. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages at this point.
Let the President redeem himself. If not for the sake of those who voted him into power, then for his own sake and the sake of the uniform he once proudly wore. The security of a country headed by a former Military General should not be this bad. Especially one who once acquitted himself so gallantly as a young GOC.