Some days ago President Muhammadu Buhari relieved the national security Service Chiefs of their appointments. Reports online had it that they had resigned and that the Commander-in-Chief of the federal Armed Forces had accepted their long-overdue resignations. Buhari proceeded to appoint their replacements.
Whether they wilfully resigned in the face of their incompetence and failure or sacked what is important here is that the underwhelming security chiefs had been replaced after much pressure from Nigerians.
Those affected included the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, and the Chief of Air Staff, Air-Marshal Sadique Abubakar. The quartet taking up their positions include Major-Gen. Leo Irabor as the Chief of Defence Staff, Major-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru as the Chief of Army Staff, Rear Admiral A.Z. Gambo as the Chief of Naval Staff and Air-Vice Marshal I.O. Amao as the Chief of Air Staff.
Of course it was a move in the right direction, even if belated. For years now Nigerians (including the Senate and House of Representatives) had been clamouring for the rejigging of the country’s security architecture given the manifest galloping security challenges and the inability of the outgone quartet to meet the challenges. They appeared compromised, complicit and complacent as ubiquitous insecurity across the federation turned the entire nation into a huge killing field.
Following the resignation or dismissal of the service chiefs reports had it online that there was wild jubilations in the barracks and at the war fronts. Who would not celebrate the dawn of a new era in a nation held hostage by invincible insecurity situation?
Among the sacked or resigned service chiefs Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai had been a controversial figure while in office. He was not only arrogant but high-handed and intolerant of criticism. He performed professionally below average yet whenever occasion presented itself he tried vainly to score himself high downplaying the fears of those at the receiving end of banditry, kidnappings, terrorism etc.
During the recent official handover to his successor at the Army Headquarters last Thursday, the Borno-born 60-year-old ex-COAS noted that “the Army will never remain the same due to my transformational leadership and landmark achievements”. He went on to say: “the security situation across the country is largely stabilised under my watch, and my administration will be remembered for improved professionalism, improved responsiveness to personnel welfare and responsiveness to Nigeria’s democratic system”.
For scoring his stewardship a resounding success Gen. Buratai must be living in a fool’s paradise! How could this fallen top army officer have defended his legacy in glowing lights? How could he have talked about professionalism under his watch? Was it not under him that nepotism was elevated to the point of o return with critics saying that the Nigerian Army had transformed itself into Hausa/Fulani army of occupation?
For years now there had been a loud demand for a radical change in the nation’s security network but the President had scoffed at such thing hammering on the need for continuity or his aides arguing about his presidential prerogative over that matter. Yes, to hire and fire belongs to the presidential domain but some discerning Nigerians wondered if the C-in-C was not hypnotised or under a spell.
While Gen. Buratai and the top copmmanders made money from the huge defense budgets year in year out arms and ammunitions were in short supply at the frontlines leading to heavy casualties in clashes with Boko Haram terrorists.
Those courageous young officers (especially those from the southern part) who dared question the lack of adequate weaponry for troops were summarily arrested, detained or court-marshalled. Yet the grievances continued unabated.
President Buhari and Gen. Buratai had repeatedly told a bewildered nation that Boko Haram had been “defeated technically” or its firepower “considerably degraded” yet the formidable organized terror group had increased its conquest killing thousands, taking prisoners and abducting massively for handsome ransom! Only God or Allah knows how much in millions of Dollars the federal government had shelled out in negotiations with the terror group.
There was this preponderance of public opinion that the sacked service chiefs had long overstayed their welcome and had themselves become a problem in itself. By the time their successors were officially named the four retired service chiefs had made history as the longest-serving heads of the national security under the democratic dispensation.
Going by the list of the service chiefs no Igboman was found worthy of inclusion into the list. This is not only provocative but reinforces the belief that Buhari harbours a strong hatred or disdain for the Igbo people. The outgone service chiefs never included any Igboman and not considering the South-East geopolitical zone in the appointment of this new set of service chiefs ought to be seen for what it is: an affront to the federal character principle and abuse of diversity.
Under Gen. Buratai and co Nigeria was not safe for living, for business or for doing anything anywhere. Under his command soldiers regularly ‘rebelled’ against the establishment lamenting the malaise in the Army. Under him many soldiers threw in the towel resigning en masse for other civilian endeavours. Under his watch esprit-de-corps vanished from the barracks as morale hit its lowest ebb.
When Gen. Buratai was reportedly placed on a travel ban list on account of alleged ‘war crimes’ he had laughed it off saying ignorantly that he would be glad living the remainder of his life in Nigeria! The last time he was in the news he was captured on video online visiting his snake farm and posing with a huge python!
General Buratai may still have his day at an international criminal court where he would be tried for the war crimes and other atrocities (like the Zaria massacre of the Shiites) he committed while leading the country’s demoralized armed forces.
As General Buratai retires to his country home in Buratai town, Biu Local Government Area of Borno state contemplating what could have been had he been professionally outstanding enough in his military career we can only say, bye bye Buratai; good riddance to bad rubbish!
And to them all — Buratai, Olonisakin,Ibas, Abubakar — we say: Service Chiefs, Disservice Chiefs, farewell to mediocrity!