President Muhammadu Buhari last week served Nigerians with another surprise as he forwarded the names of the immediate past Service Chiefs to the Senate for confirmation as non-career Ambassadors.
The nominees are: Gen Abayomi G. Olonisakin (rtd), ex-Chief of Defence Staff; Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai (rtd), ex-Chief of Army Staff; Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas (rtd), ex- Chief of Naval Staff; Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (rtd), ex-Chief of Air Staff and Air Vice Marshal Mohammed S. Usman (rtd) ex- Chief Defence Intelligence. The President asked the Senate to give expeditious consideration to the nominations.
The appointment of the former Service Chiefs as ambassadors-designate raised a lot of fuss between the supporters of the president and his opponents. Even those who ordinarily stood by the fence, had a say in the turn of events. The Service Chiefs were until two weeks ago on the firing lines of Nigerians.
They had been in charge of the country’s security since 2015 when Buhari assumed office. During that time, insecurity, which was Buhari’s major campaign promise, has tripled across the country. From mainly Boko Haram insurgency in the North- East and a sprinkle of kidnapping activities across the country, the country has since 2015 been buffeted with other security issues. These include banditry in the North-West, herdsmen attack in the North and South, kidnapping across the country and other vices that have made Nigeria classified as the third most terrorized country in the world by the Global Terrorism Index (GTI). Within the same period, Boko Haram has also been classified as the third most violent insurgent group in the world. Nigerians were so overwhelmed by the security situation that the president was inundated with calls for the removal of the same Service Chiefs. The calls fell on deaf ears until two weeks ago, when Buhari acted and removed the Service Chiefs, even though Nigerians were given the impression that they resigned their appointments.
That was after their tenures and duration of stay in the forces had already expired long ago. Nigerians are not worried by whether they were sacked or resigned. What mattered at the end was that they were gone. It was, therefore, a huge relief for the country. But no one expected that the president had a golden handshake in place for the Service Chiefs, whom Nigerians saw as failing in their duties to protect citizens.
The action of the president drew the ire of most Nigerians, who believed that Buhari has something he was not telling Nigerians about the former Service Chiefs. We concede that it is the prerogative of the president to appoint any person or persons he deems fit for position such as ambassadorial.
But we fail to understand the basis for the gratis the president gave to the retired security chiefs. Is President Buhari telling us that the Service Chiefs did well? Is he rewarding them for their failure to protect Nigerians? Or are there other measurements given to the Service Chiefs by the president which Nigerians did not know about?
That is, were their mandates not to protect Nigerians? We have tried to rationalize reasons for the hasty appointments of the Service Chiefs for ambassadorial roles, but cannot come up with any genuine reason for the compensation. Although it is for non-career positions, but we ask the president: Are there no other Nigerians that can be appointed for such roles?
We ask because the same Service Chiefs that are going to be our image makers and symbols of our nationhood outside, wherever they are posted to, have allegations of human rights violations, extra-judicial killings and similar ones hanging on their necks.
Would it not have been wiser to allow them sometime to clear their names, rest a little before assigning them other roles? It rankles more when it is even ambassadorial roles.
We cannot but agree with some school of thought who believed that although the president has a right to nominate the former security chiefs for any post, nominating them so early after office could not add anything to Nigeria’s diplomatic relationships.
For instance, can the president send any of them to the United States of America or the United Kingdom, who are sensitive to human rights and had previously accused them of crimes against humanity?
While we believe that after 35 years in the military, the Service Chiefs have served their country well, we also believe that their five years at the height of their career were not discharged to the satisfaction of Nigerians.
How will the president explain his actions to the thousands of families, who lost their loved ones in the insecurity that has been our lot in the past five years? How does he appease Nigerians who lost their lives during the period? How does the president encourage Nigerians that delivering on goals is the way to grow the country? Does the president reward failure?
We hold very strongly that the former Service Chiefs failed and should not have been rewarded with juicy appointments so fast. It is a bad example from Mr. President.
Or is the PDP right in its allegation that the nomination was a plot by the Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to shield the ex-Service Chiefs from investigation over the alleged killing of innocent Nigerians and crimes against humanity under their watch?