Calls for service chiefs sack: The way forward?

By Babatunde Ayedoju


As we proceed further into the year 2021, a lot of people, Nigerians inclusive, will not forget the just-concluded year 2020 in a hurry. It was a year full of many occurences. It was the year of the corona virus pandemic, known as COVID-19. It was the year of social distancing, frequent washing of hands, hand sanitisers and face masks.
For us in Nigeria, it was also a year in which stories about insecurity continued to feature prominently in the news. Insecurity is not a recent phenomenon in Nigeria. A peep into the past will reveal several bouts of insecurity that Nigeria as a political entity has had to battle with. However, the most prominent one in recent times has been the Boko Haram insurgency, which started about ten years ago and has led to the death of thousands, with several others displaced.
The Boko Haram crisis was so serious that when the current administration came in newly in 2015, it took steps to move the command and control centre of the military to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, which has been one of areas worst hit by the insurgency to add impetus and renewed vigour to the fight against terrorism.
Another step taken by the Buhari-led administration then was to bring in a new set of officers as service chiefs. These included General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin as Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. General Yusuf Tukur Buratai as Chief of Army Staff, Vice Marshal Ibok-Ete Ekwe Iba as Chief of Naval Staff and Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar as Chief of Air Staff. They all assumed office in July 2015.
Over the years, on several occasions, the federal government had told Nigerians that Boko Haram was technically defeated. Sometimes, they even gave time frames within which Boko Haram would be totally crushed. But the media space is still full of reports of Boko Haram attacks and more recently armed bandits.
All these continued into last year, leading to calls from several quarters by President Muhammadu Buhari should relieve the service chiefs of their appointment. In a motion sponsored by Senator Ali Ndume at the Senate plenary on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, the Senate passed a resolution calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to dismiss the service chiefs from office. Both Chambers of the National Assembly, the Senate and House of Representatives, had in previous resolutions called on President Buhari to fire these Service Chiefs.
The Senate made a similar call towards the end of the year, following the killing of 43 farmers by Boko Haram in Zabarmari, Borno State.
Similarly, a group of northern elders under the aegis of Coalition of Northern Elders for Peace and Development also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to dismiss service chiefs and appoint young and innovative military officers to tackle insecurity in the country.
However, there were some people who did not see dismissing the heads of the military as a solution to the continuous security challenge facing the country.
For example, the presidential media aide, Mallam Garba Shehu, had said in a television interview that the appointment and sack of service chiefs are not tied to public demands.
He said, “The clamour for the sack is out of place considering that the president is not subject to the opinion of opposition political party which has clamoured for this all the time. It is entirely his (Buhari) determination; he decides who he keeps as his service chiefs and for how long.”
Similarly, a retired professor of political science, Professor Osisioma Nwolise, speaking at an event in December, in Ibadan, said that changing the security chiefs would not change the security situation. According to him, “If you remove the service chiefs and you don’t get the political will to do what is required, nothing will change.”
In the midst of the call for the replacement of the service chiefs, a non-governmental organisation, Conference of Civil Society Organisations for Peace, Security and National Development, through its conveners, Mike Msuaan and Adamu Kabir Matazu, said, “A lot has been achieved by this crop of service chiefs, not just in taming insurgents, but also in restructuring the military architecture for enhanced performance.”
They further said, “Today, our military is highly placed in the world. More than ever before, the Nigerian military has prioritised training and retraining of its officers and men in modern warfare. Welfare of personnel has been given a boost, as well as procurement of equipment, just to mention a few.”
Speaking with our correspondent, the secretary of the pan-yoruba group, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, noted that the present crop of security chiefs has not performed up to expectation. He suggested that since its stay in office is not helping Nigeria’s security architecture, fresh blood be injected into our security system, to pave way for a more secured Nigeria.

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