President Muhammadu Buhari appears to know something Nigerians do not know about his service chiefs. Despite the sustained pressure from Nigerians on the president to relieve the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and the Chief of Air Staff of their appointments following the scary insecurity in the country since 2015 when he appointed them, he has remained adamant.
Before he was elected in a landmark election in 2015, Buhari had, during his campaigns, promised Nigerians that he would deal with the security problems alongside issues of corruption and the dwindling economy. Although not many expected him to perform magic on the economy since he was not known to be economic savvy, there were higher expectations from Nigerians in the areas of insecurity and anti-corruption.
Those expectations were misplaced based on Buhari’s past record as a no-nonsense former military Head of State, who was also known for his hatred for corruption. Many Nigerians had particularly expected the president to deal decisively with the nation’s security challenge, which had overwhelmed the previous government of President Goodluck Jonathan. We note that what particularly made Nigerians angry with Jonathan was the audacity of Boko Haram insurgents, the frequent bombings and annexure of some local governments in the North- East by the insurgents. Thus, when he was sworn in on May 29, 2015, Buhari gave marching orders to his newly appointed service chiefs to relocate to Maiduguri, the hotbed of insurgency. He expected the military to defeat the insurgents.
The rest is today history as the cliché goes. But one thing that stands out is that Boko Haram has not been defeated. Worse still, Nigeria has slipped into a more terrible insecurity today than in 2015. Added to the list now are banditry in the North-West, kidnapping and herdsmen attacks in the same zone and other parts of the country. The security situation has so degenerated that certain key roads across the country, such as the Abuja-Kaduna- Kano road and Sagamu-Benin- Onitsha road, among others, are now dreaded by Nigerians for fear of attacks. Mention must also be made of such area as the Biu-Potiskum- Maiduguri road that have become terror personified.
Yet, the president remains stuck to his service chiefs, five years after, even when it is glaring that the security agencies are not getting a grip of the insecurity that is ravaging the country. Last week, the Senate demanded the resignation of the service chiefs. It had, in February, called on the president to sack the same service chiefs. Nothing happened. Meanwhile, in June,it was reported that the president had told these service chiefs to buckle down and stop giving him excuses. Yet, the country keeps moving deeper into the labyrinth of insecurity.
From Katsina, the president’s home state, to Sokoto, Zamfara, Borno, Yobe to Kaduna, Kogi down to the South, the story remains the same – heart rending massacre of innocent Nigerians by bandits, insurgents and criminals of all shades. Nigeria is today profiled alongside Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq as some of the most dangerous places to live on earth.
The Senate, being representatives of different parts of the country, are as worried as ordinary Nigerians. It urged its Committees on Defence, Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, National Security and Interior to meet with the various security agencies and receive briefings on steps being taken to address the security situation in the country. It also asked the executive to provide modern equipment to enhance the operational capabilities of the armed forces. Most significant was that the Senate said that allowing the status quo to continue with respect to the fight against insurgency and banditry might jeopardise the nation’s security system.
The resolutions followed a point of order raised by Senator Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South), drawing the attention of the chamber to the rising casualties in Nigerian Armed Forces in their struggle to end insurgency in the country. Shockingly, the response of the Presidency to the Senate resolution foreclosed any compliance of Buhari to the mandate. The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a statement released soon after the resolution, said: “The Senate, Tuesday, adopted a resolution calling on the service chiefs to resign or be sacked due to the multi-pronged security challenges in the country.
The Presidency notes the resolution and reiterates that appointment or sack of service chiefs is a presidential prerogative and President Muhammadu Buhari, in his capacity as Commander- in-Chief of the Armed Forces, will do what is in the best interest of the country at all times.”
We are worried that Buhari might have been loyal to the service chiefs longer than necessary. We believe that it is Buhari’s image that is at stake and not those of the service chiefs. At the end of the day, it is the president that will be noted by Nigerians as having failed them. That is why we believe that Mr. President needs to act urgently to give the fight against insecurity a new lease of life. His delay in relieving the service chiefs of their duties and appointing fresh blood is hurting the country. He needs new tactics that are perceived to be beyond the current crop of his service chiefs. We call on the president to listen to the Senate and, by extension, Nigerians, to save the country from further devastation.