NDUME’S CALL FOR SERVICE CHIEFS TO STEP ASIDE: PUTTING THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE — Maiwada Dammallam

A motion sponsored by Senator Ali Ndume asked the Service Chiefs to step aside to enable a new set of Chiefs with new ideas to tackle insecurity across Nigeria. Superficially, this is as regular a motion as many motions of similar make-up and deficiency in facts and logic. This is one motion that just shouldn’t come from no less a citizen than the Chairman of the Senate Committee (Army) as I will prove.

Critically observed, Ndume’s motion was deficient in logic and very insensitive to processes of governance. All added up, it’s a mere effort to scapegoat the Armed Forces, especially the Nigerian Army, for underlying reasons more worthy of the honorable attention of the Distinguished Senator. Of course, being the Senate Committee Chairman on the Army, I will not rush to rule out Senator Ndume’s effort to self-exonerate and insulate himself from the ceaseless and largely unfounded blame against the army. Not that I blame him though. He’s only being human — a politician at that! Still, that’s not enough for him to abandon facts for theatrics.

It’s confusing that the same voice calling for the stepping aside of the Service Chiefs also mandated Senate committees on Defence, Army, Navy, Police, Airforce, National Security and the ministry of interior to interrogate and receive briefings from security agencies on the state of affairs in this regard. Not only that, the voice also urged the federal government to intensify the provision of modern equipment to enhance the service of the military. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.

Ordinarily, one would assume Senator Ndume will delay the call for the stepping aside of the Service Chiefs until after the interrogation of the aforementioned committees of the Senate to hear their own side of the story and also, after enforcing the provision of the modern equipments which he left no one in doubt about his belief to enhance the service of the military. In any case, Senator Ndume only played to the gallery by flagrantly ignoring the limitations of the National Assembly on this matter.

As made clear to Nigerians by the presidency, the appointment of the Service Chiefs is an exclusive constitutional prerogative of the President hence, for anybody to attempt usurping this power on the floor of the senate, it’s either one is ignorant of the rules of the game or a clear Indication of insidious motive to overheat the polity and create unnecessary chaos wrapped to appear like a genuine concern. Here I have to explain that given the fight Senator Ndume put to win the senate presidency, he could be said to be wounded enough to be a good candidate for insidious shenanigans that could rock the boat. His testimonies and odvocacies towards the presidency should not be taken on face value.

Important questions Senator Ndume left out of his motion includes those raised accidentally by the motion itself. Were the constraints he mentioned both on the floor of the senate and in media interviews addressed fully enough to justify the sacking of the Service Chiefs if the expected results are not good enough? Ndume mentioned insufficient funding for the Armed forces, he also interrogated the inadequate manpower of the Armed Forces and the poor equipments they are operating with. How then was he able to fairly assess the armed forces much less, pass a verdict of failure on the Service Chiefs. Is this not one and the same with testing the skills of a driver without using a car?

Senator Ndume relied largely on the recent unfortunate ambushing of soldiers in Katsina State to arrive at his verdict of failure. Truth is, It’s just not enough to say because the Armed Forces suffered casualties in Katsina the Service Chiefs should step aside. Unfortunately this is a war and regardless of our sentiments soldiers must die in a war. Actually that’s why soldiering is considered one of the most dangerous professions in the world and in all times.

Even in the case of the sad and very unfortunate Katsina incident on which Senator Ndume relied to build his opinion, he told Nigerians only half the story. He only mentioned casualties the Nigerian Army suffered without mentioning the enormous and commendable casualties inflicted on the bandits by the gallant officers. He should have told Nigerians that over 50 bandits were killed and one of the deadliest camps in the area destroyed with many AK-47s recovered. Telling Nigerians this would certainly puncture holes in Ndume’s ambition to have a change of baton in the armed forces. Sad as the lost of the 16 gallant officers is, they didn’t die in vain. They died after gallantly neutralizing a good number of the deadly criminals off the list of Nigeria’s worries. Painting it as if died like coward not as heroic soldiers as Ndume did is nothing short of insulting their memories by refusing to highlight the gallantry they displayed just so we live?

And what’s with Ndume’s public show of concern? Only recently the leadership of the National Assembly went visiting the President and I’m sure they didn’t leave without rubbing minds with the President on security issues. The leadership of the National Assembly must have shared their experience with their colleagues. Given that neither Senate President Ahmed Lawan nor Speaker Gbajabiamila expressed such extreme concerns, I will assume they were satisfied with President Buhari’s side of the story which, in turn, also convinced me Senator Ndume’s opinion is a hasty minority opinion empty of facts and logic.

Incidentally, only few days before Senator Ndume’s motion the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. T. Y. Buratai expressed an objective opinion about banditry and insurgency ending only when Nigerians want the two irritating problems to end. This statement is a subject of debate in many forums. The logical statement which was mostly quoted out of context to give a whole new bizarre meaning to discourage rather than encourage the needed introspection among Nigerians to support the Nigerian Army in its quest to create peace in the system might’ve inspired Ndume’s motion.

Gen. Buratai’s statement is quite sensible when viewed objectively and contextualized properly. He only told Nigerians that when citizens begin to ask the right questions and push for the right decisions, it will go a long way in helping the army to win not only this battle but possibly others in the offing. Senator Ndume’s motion only confirmed this position. Are we asking the right questions by considering all the variables involved? Many analysts always argue this is a war that can only be won when all Nigerians contribute in their own ways. How much are Nigerians contributing to fight this war? Given the false stories flying around in the media about the army, certainly very little if anything!

Gen. Buratai didn’t say anything different. He is leading the military aspect of the war which could only succeed when supported and complimented by citizens’ participation. We cannot deny that no matter the capital and human resources at his disposal, his success will ultimately be determined by the public support he’s given by Nigerians. He need the support of the legislative arm to give him the necessary and timely funding needed for the war which Senator Ndume confessed is not the case. He also need the Judiciary to swiftly prosecute criminals apprehended by the army which, also, is not the case given the low rate of conviction of people apprehended in the war. It will make better sense for Ndume to influence better laws that could keep bandits and insurgents permanently off the road rather than scapegoating the Service Chiefs.

Reports of numerous arrests of bandits and insurgents are left “inconclusive” without concluding reports of convictions; with the criminals only being detained for short periods and released back into the wild more deadly and with a new sense of impunity having experienced the laxity and or incompetence of the judicial system to check their activities. Does it make sense that nobody is calling for the stepping aside CJN or the Attorney-General of the Federation?

Senator Ndume would have done better by asking the Judiciary why the cases of 5 emirs, 34 district heads and many Village and Ward heads fingered in Zamfara State as having hands in the deadly events that reduced the state into a killing field, allowed to go cold. Ditto, the day citizens decides to begin to question the logic of releasing on bail criminals arrested by the army or the NPF under hazy circumstances, the day Nigerians could be said to be ready to partner with the army to end both insurgency and banditry. Of course, had Senator Ndume raised concerns about sources of the sophisticated weapons in the hands of bandits and insurgents, certainly it will help more in ending the problem than just seeking to remove the Service Chiefs out of office.

And yes, the constitutional power to hire and fire the Service Chiefs couldn’t be in better hands than in the hands of President Buhari — a retired military General, an accomplished war hero and twice Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

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