Every conscientious observer of the Nigerian politics and governance will agree that the nation is often divided along ethnic, religious, and political divides that make it almost impossible to hold genuine discussions in the interest of the country’s progress. An attempt to engender such conversations are usually misconstrued either as a ploy to hijack power from a particular geo-political zone or a move to cast aspersion on a specific ethnic group.
However, over the past two years there’s been an exception in that the call for the removal of the service chiefs resonated among all ethnic, religious and political factions. And as the state of insecurity in Nigeria deepened, fierce agitations for their removal heightened.
Thus there was a heavy sigh of relief on 26th January 2021 when the presidency announce acceptance of resignation letters of the erstwhile service chiefs and announced appointment of new replacements.[i]
With the replacement, the following emerged as service chiefs: Major-General Leo Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General I. Attahiru, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral A.Z Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff; and Air-Vice Marshal I.O Amao, Chief of Air Staff[ii].
This new appointment expectedly was not without mixed reactions from Nigerians many of whom are happy about the long overdue change of guard. While in some quarters, there was dissatisfaction with regards to the quality of the president’s choice of service chiefs especially the chief of Army Staff, Major-General I. Attahiru. They are puzzled about how an officer fired and redeployed for failing against Boko Haram[iii] found his way to the helms of affair of the military. In their own opinion, only an officer with impeccable track record would is suitable for the job.
Nevertheless individuals and groups reservations about the appointments, in all fairness, each of the appointees have basic skills required to deliver in their offices and deserve nothing short of Nigerians’ maximum support and cooperation. On the other hand, if posterity will be kind to the service chiefs, they must live up to a number of expectations. Here are some of the vitals issues they must address.
At the top of the bucket list of expectations is winning the war against the protracted Boko Haram insurgency. The Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force and Nigerian Navy under their new leadership must conduct a thorough and apolitical assessment of the situation of things in the North East and act accordingly. In essence, this is not a time to support the political narratives of a “technically defeated” enemy and deny the reality that the sect wreck havoc in many villages, kidnap hundreds of citizens, rapes women, murder people and enlist your boys as child soldiers[iv]
Hence, hopes are high that under this new leadership, by joint efforts from gallant soldiers of the neighboring countries—where Boko Haram also launch attacks albeit little— the sect will be utterly defeated and the likes of Leah Sharibu who has been in their captivity for donkey years will regain freedom.
Additionally, Nigerians are looking forward to a proactive Armed Forces which will not be caught off guard by unscrupulous elements bent on frustrating peace and disrupting order in the country. For example, one can only imagine the difference it would have made had the security personnels risen to the occasion in time and repelled the kidnappers attacks of the Chibok girls in 2014, Dapchi girls in 2018 and Kankara boys in 2020.
Perhaps the anguish and trauma victims and families of the kidnapped went through and are still going through for those whose loved ones are still in captivity could have been avoided.
Hence, if there’s any task Nigerians expect this new service chiefs to accomplish, it is to forestall another school students kidnapping and local dwellers.
Furthermore, the new appointees particularly the Chief of Army Staff need to take time to look into the allegations levelled against the Nigerian army by the International Criminal Court[v]. The allegations which borders on unprofessional conducts by the military, human rights abuses, sexual harassment, and extrajudicial killings are weighty and should not treated lightly.
While the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, who was also indicted by the report did his bit to refute the allegations, it was hard to believe that wasn’t another speech seeking lending credence to the President Buhari led administration.
Hence, it is imperative Major-General I. Attahiru, does due diligence to investigate the matter and prosecute according to the extant laws without fear or favour whoever is found guilty of any of the allegations. The overarching result of this action among many others will be redeeming the image of the Nigerian Armed Forces in the comity of nations.
Moreover, upward review of the remuneration of the members of the force is one other expectation bloody civilians look forward to during the tenure of these service chiefs. It is no longer news that, gallant soldiers who pay the ultimate price for the nation are not adequately catered for by the government. At times, this has led the men and women in uniform to extort innocent citizens by exploiting weapons of violence they are licensed to carry for protecting this same citizens.
In a similar development, the Armed Forces under this new leadership should prioritize compensation for families of fallen soldiers. This will be a departure from the former narratives of neglecting spouse and children of soldiers who has paid the supreme price. Likewise, maim soldiers unable to return to battle field should not just be dismissed. Employing them as administrative staff or paying an handsome compensation will be a step in the right direction.
In conclusion, without gainsaying corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian Armed Forces and financial misappropriation appears to be the norm. Case in point is the Dasuki gate[vi] earmarked for buying arms to aid the fight against insurgency siphoned. Therefore, Nigerians are hoping the new men at the helms of affair will choose security of lives and protecting Nigerian territory against external aggression over fickle financial security embezzlement of public funds promises. Fingers’ crossed.
[i] TheCable. (2021, January 28). Finally, Buhari Replaces service chiefs. Retrieved February 04, 2021, from https://www.thecable.ng/breaking-finally-buhari-fires-service-chiefs/amp
[iii] Source: Pulse Nigeria, & Jude Egbas More from the author ». (2021, January 26). New Army CHIEF Attahiru Ibrahim was fired in 2017 for failing Against Boko Haram. Retrieved February 04, 2021, from https://www.pulse.ng/news/local/new-army-chief-attahiru-ibrahim-was-fired-in-2017/ksrdbbd
[iv] Boko Haram in NIGERIA | global Conflict Tracker. (n.d.). Retrieved February 04, 2021, from https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/boko-haram-nigeria
[v] Al Jazeera. (2020, December 11). ICC prosecutor Seeks probes into Nigeria and Ukraine war crimes. Retrieved February 04, 2021, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/12/11/icc-prosecutor-seeks-full-investigation-into-nigerian-conflict
[vi] Nwabufo, F. (2016, January 22). 21 people benefited FROM Dasuki, Reveals Lai. Retrieved February 04, 2021, from https://thecable.ng/21-people-benefited-from-dasukigate-reveals-lai/amp
Bolaji Alade is a 400 Level law student of the University of Ibadan with a keen interest in International Criminal Law, Journalism and Media & Entertainment Law. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org