Of the over 50 senior officers of the Nigerian Army whose redeployments were released last Tuesday, that of Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, the ‘Viral General,’ drew the most attention. Why not. He had been in the social media space in an unintended way. As Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, General Adeniyi appeared in the video revealing Nigeria’s best kept open secret – that his troops had been overwhelmed by the superior fighting equipment and powers of the Boko Haram terrorists.
Director, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, expectedly said his redeployment was just an administrative procedure with no tinge of conspiracy. He stressed that the Army considers General Adeniyi’s intelligence, doggedness and resourcefulness needful for the Nigerian Army Resource Centre (NARC), Abuja, hence he’s now there as Senior Research Fellow.
This means that the Army High Command had always known that Adeniyi is a bold man of ideas. Maybe why last October, while addressing the National Assembly Joint Committee on Army in Maiduguri, Adeniyi said: “The only thing that needs to be given to the Army now is Nigerian Army Aviation with its own helicopters… When this is done, Nigeria can forget about the deadly Islamic sect.”
In the now vintage viral video, Adeniyi, obviously speaking to a superior officer, said: “I will give you some estimates to guide your good decision, sir. Boko Haram has fired more than a hundred mortal bombs at us. They have fired more than 80 to 100 RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades) at us in addition to more than 8 to 10 gun trucks from every side since yesterday. We have not run, and the soldiers are not misbehaving or disobeying orders. We have casualties; I will come and see you in person on what we need to do. But we are not running.”
Pointing at a broken-down MRAP’s (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle touted as the Army’s joker in the fight against Boko Haram, Adeniyi said that one of the tyres “ran flat after bullet touched it. We have used more than 20 MRAP tyres here. That’s another one, sir. We have changed close to 250 Hilux tyres due to the terrain. This is what we are facing.”
It is clear that despite the postulations of the military authorities, his redeployment is a new direction by the administration to subdue free speech, truth and actuality, to intimidate truth into silence, especially at the frontlines. But the other truth is that the senior officer can be accused of being careless or overzealous. How could he not know that in an era where senior officers now “position” themselves like politicians, what he said would not go public.
Adeniyi thought he was being loyal and accountable by telling the authorities the truth, not knowing that he was exposing the federal government and the Nigerian Army to ridicule. He went outside the official line that the terrorists have been “technically defeated,” decimated or rendered incapable of posing any further challenge to the Army.
Generally, the redeployment was to silence him and others who may want to open up on the reality on ground in any operational area. The reality remain that apart from the Commanders who benefit from the disbursement of the operational funds, majority on the frontlines are disgruntled. After all, they complain of not fighting with the required equipment. The situation is dehumanizing such that in the battlefront where you have Army vehicles, in the face of Boko Haram terrorists’ fire, the vehicles are abandoned as soldiers most times chose to run with your legs.
Some believe that this war against Boko Haram is prolonged because of terrorists’ sponsors. But indirectly, it is the Nigerian Army that is sponsoring Boko Haram. The terrorists routinely raid Nigerian Army locations and convoys and seize Army equipment and use the same equipment against the Army. The surprise is that on the field, the Army says that its vehicles are not working. But the moment Boko Haram capture the same vehicles, the engines of the same vehicles will roar and move and be put to use, against the same Army.
But maybe, what needs to be admitted is that there were strategic mistakes made in the euphoria of clearing the Army of all those who worked or were perceived to be loyal to the former Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Keneth Minimah and former President Goodluck Jonathan. All the top Commanders and their Deputies who had institutional knowledge of how the Boko Haram terrorists were routed in the run up to the 2015 elections including those at the planning offices at Army Headquarters were removed.
Fresh Commanders were brought in. Initially, there seemed to be a giant stride before the terrorists started an offensive that has become unabated till date. And to compound matters, the required equipment needed to fight and overrun the terrorists are yet to arrive the battle front in the required quantities. It is in this situation that General Adeniyi opened his mouth too openly, to the camera.
So, for daring to expose the truth, he had to leave the war front. Yet, the General ought to know better. Is talking to the camera, being recorded, the new way of delivering Situation Reports (Sitreps) to Army Headquarters? He was wrong in talking to the whosoever, delivering Sitreps, with the video recording. Situation Reports are delivered in writing, by radio or fax, not word of mouth, and on camera.
His crime was not that he spoke, but that he spoke too candidly, and with the camera rolling. And he delivered a Sitrep on camera to his boss. And it leaked. So, he ought to come down from the high horse of all the ideals he has learned while growing up in the Army and know that all the people now masquerading as his defenders don’t love him beyond what they can make from his predicament. He ought to know that when you speak and it reverberates with the boss well, your friends will increase. When it rubs your boss/es the wrong way, you lose your command, whether through carelessness or overzealousness. That, unfortunately, is how the world works.
*Onuorah, a veteran Defence Correspondent, is CEO/Editor-in-Chief, Global Upfront Newspapers