Nigeria’s Service Chiefs and a nation devoid of history

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 By Isaac Ikpa 

It astounds infinitely to listen to even learned and experienced Nigerians insistently argue that the solution to resurgent insecurity in Nigeria resides in the sacking of Service Chiefs. And they back it up with very infantile and laughable reasons.

The promoters of such faulty campaigns claim the Service Chiefs have overstayed their service years or have outlived their usefulness and most irritatingly, they say, the continued stay of the incumbent Service Chiefs have stalled career prospects for younger officers in the Military. It betrays the influenced motivations of these contracted proponents of the silly campaigns.  

I know the strong passion of Nigerians in chasing the wind, instead of the substance. But I don’t know when the business of promotions in the military became an all-comers affair for civilians. I also don’t know when it has become the agenda of civilians to determine career prospects for personnel of Nigeria’s Armed Forces.

Those who toe the regressive angles of the argument for the sacking of Service Chiefs also choose to blur the reality that in war situations, the Commander-In-Chief’s discretion can order recall of retired Military officers back to render service to their nation. So, what’s the fuss about the sack of Service Chiefs for such puerile reasons? The polemics make little sense in our present circumstance.   

And those who claim the current clan of Service Chiefs have failed to curtail the resurgence of insecurities in parts of the country are also economical with the truth. They have no sense of history or else they would have understood clearly that Nigeria was in a worse insecurity quagmire for years up to 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari was democratically elected.

And those who rescued the country are the same Service Chiefs some unpatriotic Nigerians unjustifiably vilify and lampoon today. Some incensed ones even claim the Service Chiefs have achieved nothing since they took charge of the country’s security. Its blatant and fat lie from the pit of hell. It is because we are a people pleasurably devoid of our history.

It now drags me into our peculiar traits as a people. And for a reminder, one cannot dispute Nigeria as a nation replete with a series of national malaises which tend to undermine our existence. For many, there is the genuine strive to overcome these foibles for the progress of our country, a land abundantly blessed by God Almighty Himself. But the number of Nigerians with such appetite are very infinitesimal and easily overshadowed by the evildoers. 

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And there is also a clan of Nigerians, though small, but have constituted themselves into spoilers and sabs. Their obsession is with how to destroy or discolour whatever shines the light of progress on the nation. They are happier to see enslaved people or citizens who wallow in numerous afflictions. But they are deadly by the sheer numerical strength of their acolytes who sycophantically bow to their demonic plots.

We all know, an average human being naturally tilts more towards evil than good. The embrace of the herd mentality by many Nigerians has so permeated us as a people and compounded the problem, unmindful of its destructive aura. In this sense, the spoilers and saboteurs have an alarming number of adherents simply because we gladly prefer to forget our yesterday and our history. We exist based on the spur of the moment.

But great philosophers in history and even today have continued to caution us. A people who cannot remember their history have no sense of self-esteem. It’s very important we remember that David McCullough told us; “History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” But more captivatingly, the Jamaican-born black nationalist and firebrand leader of Pan-Africanism, the famous Marcus Garvey, has pungently pricked us that; “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture are like a tree without roots.”

These are timeless philosophies. But most Nigerians have chosen to be willfully ignorant. And it is the reason we have forgotten that barely yesterday we were weeping, whining and wailing like frustrated kids all over Abuja, the nation’s capital because of the perpetual looming shadows of Boko Haram insurgents on this megacity. They would strike anywhere and anytime, unhindered.   

And now we have no such physical or psychological phobia of terrorists blasting their bombs on us every day, in Nyanya bus station, Wuse shopping mall, UN Building, Eagles Square, Force Headquarters, and adjoining vicinities of Abuja such as Suleja. Blood, tears and sorrows freely flowed every day. That’s the verdict of history on terrorism in Abuja.  

We were even afraid to publicly celebrate Independence Day, an event of such significance to the nation because of the threats of Boko Haram. It is the Service Chiefs we comfortably malign, reproach, despise and undermine for political or very selfish mercantile interests who blighted the haunting conflagrations of terrorists hovering on us in Abuja.     

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Truly, some Nigerians are devoid of a sense of history. So, we have gladly forgotten that our worship places, film halls, or every conceivable place in Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe states and a plethora of other places in the North were daily steeped in the blood and agonies caused by Boko Haram terrorists. The experience is no longer with us now.

What about Boko Haram’s gradual transition to the Southern part of Nigeria en route Okene, in Kogi state? Insurgents gradually made incursions into the Southwest, plying their trade in Lagos, Ogun and Osun states. The rescuers of our trapped nation are these Service Chiefs, we demean and provoke so carelessly with insults.   

Let’s not even recount the detailed experiences of Nigerians in the triangular states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, the hottest zones of Boko Haram terrorism in the Northeast. Before the Buhari Presidency and in spite of anybody’s prejudice against the administration and the Service Chiefs, we cannot conceal the indisputable reality that these places were ceaseless killing fields for terrorists.   

Most pathetically, Maiduguri, the Borno state capital had more ghosts walking the streets than normal citizens. Can we in religious conscience deny this? Is it the same scenario now?  It is not the same Service Chiefs we senselessly denigrate who salvaged the situation?

In the Northeast, before the Buhari Presidency, traditional and religious leaders were either chased and killed by insurgents or forced to desert their palaces; and nearly 20 LGAs were completely colonized by Boko Haram, asserting its hegemony by declaring Gwoza its Caliphate’s main administrative headquarters, with Baga as its subsidiary.  

In the same Northeast, schools, hospitals, government offices and other public places were frequent targets of Boko Haram horrendous atrocities and permanently shut down. Insurgents invaded communities and villages, held everyone to ransom, killed, abducted and operated for hours or even days, unmolested.

Thereafter, Boko Haram leaders would challenge the prowess of Nigerian military with gusto and frequently released video footages which mocked Nigerians and the government.  Why have we chosen to blind ourselves to this history for convenience or what? Is this applicable today?

It was these same clan of Service Chiefs who brought about the magic. It was the tireless efforts of the COAS, and leader of the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria, Lt. Gen TY Buratai and his colleagues that made that feat possible. These Service Chiefs made every sacrifice to give us peace and security and have not relented.

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That President Buhari could visit the dreaded Monguno in 2018 to have a chat with the IDPs in camps to express his fatherly love and support without the fear of terrorists attacking him signified the restoration of security. It was the collective efforts of our military and the sacrifices of our troops, and some of them paid the supreme price. 

Who made it possible for farmers in Gudumbali and other communities to return back to their desolate and ruined homes for farming?  Who made it possible for passengers to freely move across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States without the fear of Boko Haram? It was the efforts of Gen Buratai and his able colleagues who also travelled these routes at odd hours to ensure that passengers’ safety was never compromised. It was these set of Service Chiefs’ relentless efforts, day and night. 

It is certainly not a storm in a teacup. And what did the magic? It was Operation Last Hold, a wing of Operation Lafiya Dole commissioned by Gen. Buratai and perfectly mentored. Ironically today, instead of praising the Service Chiefs and encouraging them to trudge further and harder against Boko Haram/ ISWAP terrorists, unconscionable civilians have been conscripted into the senseless campaigns of denigration, deprecation and parodying of the same Military leaders who have made us proud.  The cacophonies resonating in some quarters now is to sack the Service Chiefs.

But I seek to know from the campaigners that when Chadian President Idriss Derby angrily reacted by sacking his Chief of Army Staff and other top commanders after terrorists attacked and killed 97 Chadian soldiers, has the country exculpated itself from terrorists’ attacks? What a heck? The renewed spate of terrorism is about re-strategizing and not sack of Service Chiefs.

Quite candidly, we invest in our history as a people and not get carried away by falsehood and wave of the moment; it is only then we would make progress as a nation. The idea of vilifying patriots without any full understanding of the intricacies is usually responsible for our troubles. Therefore, whether you are a sab, Boko Haram sponsor, sympathizer or agent, I admonish that national security issues are interrogated responsibly and with a sense of patriotism.  

Ikpa wrote this piece from Otukpo’Icho, Benue State.

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