Of a truth, I had decided to write on the silhouette challenge that has been spreading like wild harmattan fire on social media; but, after my stream of thoughts rehearsed an unusual confluence, I surprisingly reneged on my decision, and I’m happy I did so. Nigerians have indeed been distracted enough by mundane things to the extent that important news as the replacement of the service chiefs after so much hue and cry, does not generate the needed engagements, much as the silhouette challenge has done. The silhouette challenge unsurprisingly became the cynosure of all eyes in the wake of the ravaging insecurity situation in the country – one that touches on the lives of every citizen and should’ve been taken with every seriousness it deserves. These distractions inadvertently become a plus to the present administration because it takes away some pressure from them. Anyway, it is what it is already.
The replacement of the service chiefs followed various calls by Nigerians for the removal of the former military officers owing to the unabating insecurity situation in the country. From the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East to rural banditry in the North-West to herdsmen militancy in the North-Centre, to kidnapping and various forms of criminalities in other parts of the country; insecurity remains unyielding and continues to prove a hard nut to crack.
The Twists and Turns…
As of 1st December 2020, it had been the third-(3rd) time the senate had called on the president to remove the service chiefs and replace them with new ones. The first (call) was in January 2020, when they had deliberated on a motion on national security challenges and the need to reshuffle the nation’s security architecture. A similar call was made in July 2020, yet the resolutions were hinged on debates on insecurity on both occasions. The lawmakers called on President Buhari to dismiss the then service chiefs and bring new ones on grounds that they were bereft of fresh ideas to quell insecurity and that their tenure had expired. The senate’s third call was in December 2020 after the Zabarmari rice farm massacre of over forty-(40) farmers in the Jere Local Government Area of Borno state.
Even the house of representatives at that point issued a resolution for the president to appear before the members to address the security situation in the country. But characteristically, the president did not budge; he continued to play the ostrich. To shock you, the president, through his spokesperson Femi Adesina, at one occasion said Nigerians have reasons to be grateful as the situation was better than it was before the ascension to power of this administration.
Buhari’s body language, then, reflected an ex-head of state and general who cared less about the oath he swore to protect the lives and property of citizens; which, incidentally, remain the primary objective of the government.
Yes, Buhari apologists and their shenanigans maintain that the president is the commander in chief; he commands the armed forces, and so, he takes decisions for them in the manner he likes. But these apologists should also know that when the senior officers stay put for so long a time, that also creates some challenge(s) for officers behind, because, they may not have the prospect to look forward to rising through the ranks. Could this lead to mutiny? Your guess may be good as mine.
But just when Nigerians felt so tired of the agitation, the big news came; President Buhari on Tuesday, 26th January 2021, announced the new service chiefs following the resignation of the former officers. General Ibrahim Attahiru replaced Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai as chief of army staff, Major-General Leo Irabor replaced General Abayomi Olonisakin as chief of defence staff, Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao replaced Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar as chief of air staff, and Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo replaced Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas as chief of naval staff.
The four-(4) new service chiefs, on the one hand, saw two-(2) from the South, and two-(2) from the North; while on the other hand, two-(2) are Muslims and two-(2), Christians.
But to a cross-section of Nigerians, they had questioned the president for once again excluding the south-east geopolitical zone in this appointment; they maintain that a particular section of the country continues to dominate the security council of the country. However, that will be a discussion for another day.
Notwithstanding, make no mistake; the service chiefs have just only been nominated, not approved; this is because the president had written the National Assembly and forwarded their names for onward confirmation. Until the senate reconvenes on 9th February 2020, to confirm the names of the service chiefs following the provisions of section 218 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and section 18 (1) and (3) of the Armed Forces Act, Nigeria cannot say the president has appointed new service chiefs.
This informed why, a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) had faulted Buhari’s appointment of the new service chiefs and that may have necessitated the president’s ex-post factor legislative approval when he wrote the national assembly afterward.
The new service chiefs will go through screening by the National Assembly. So, it remains to be seen whether it shall be a constitutional duty or a vindictive matter, following the manner the president ignored the National assembly’s repeated calls for a rejig of the military officers. Let us also remember that the National Assembly had shown a propensity to flex their muscles in recent times considering its rejection of Ibrahim Magu, the embattled (acting) Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after the president requested that the Senate approve his nomination.
But by and large, the legislative and the executive arms of government should eschew politics and look at the bigger picture; which is, working together for the greater good of Nigerians to defeat the common enemy called insecurity.
Despite the time it took the president to heed the call to remodel the security apparatus, he should still be commended for eventually listening to the voice of Nigerians. The National Assembly should also receive commendation for not carrying out impeachment proceedings against the president while he failed to respond to their calls. This would’ve been counterproductive.
However, Nigerians anticipate that the president will match his decision with the necessary retooling of the military by providing them with the needed military armament and the resources to function optimally. This will set the tone for the question,
What becomes the expectations of Nigerians and the way forward for the new Service Chiefs?
First and foremost, the new service chiefs are expected to steer clear of politics and politicians. They must avoid making the same mistakes their predecessors made in this regard. They must set up a clear and workable agenda for themselves just to build on the gains recorded in the fight against insecurity.
Nigerians expect the welfare of men and officers of the forces, particularly those in the frontline to be prioritized. Army personnel at the war front still share weapons amongst themselves; this means more funds for the military should be on the front burner in the scheme of things.
There are allegations of preferences for, and dominations of certain tribe(s) during recruitment and deployment of troops within the forces. The service chiefs should therefore ensure that they uphold professionalism and merit during their tenure. This will help reduce cases of mutiny within the military.
In a related development, under the new service chiefs’ watch, the military cannot continue to allow “repentant” Boko Haram insurgents, who had taken arms against the nation to be enlisted into the military. Background checks must be carried out on intending recruits to avoid recruiting criminals and saboteurs.
Greater synergy between the four-(4) new service chiefs is expected. They should work as a team. Alpha jet components, artillery supports, and naval ships must work in unison in this perspective. If a commander is fighting, he wants to be assured he’d be supported.
Nonetheless, the service chiefs should be bold to seek approval for external support and collaboration if the need arises. In that regard, the withdrawal of Chad from the Multinational Joint Task Forces (MNJTF) should be reviewed accordingly.
Strong, retired, and willing officers who have attended training on specialized areas abroad should be drafted and charged to produce workable blueprints to find lasting solutions to the insurgency and insecurity situation in the country.
Summarily, the expectations of Nigerians are high; Nigeria is in deep waters already, and the new service chiefs cannot afford to fail in this war against insecurity. It’s definitely a battle that must be won.
Oluka Emmanuel Chukwuemeka, a graduate of Electronic and Computer Engineering from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University can be reached via email@example.com