By Philip Agbese
I recently read the piece by the dependable Festus Adedayo, who in truth is one of the best hands in the media landscape in Nigeria. I mean with a Ph.D in Political Communication from the University of Ibadan, one should expect that his political services should be in hot demand.
He was at a time Special Adviser on Media to the Governor of Enugu and Oyo States and recently the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, appointed him to the same position. But it ended in a controversy that the appointment had to be reversed not on the strength of capacity or qualification. I stand to be corrected.
I admire Festus Adedayo for his intellectual prowess. He speaks power to the truth on critical issues as it concerns governance and he has been applauded severally for this seemingly patriotic stance.
But I have some reservations on his recent piece titled “Buratai’s Bruises on Nigerian Troops.” He, as usual, played with words and tried to mesmerize his readers. He went back and forth, trying to justify the title of his piece. He also went as far as quoting from the Nigerian Armed Forces Act, especially Section 45, 46, 47 and 48 which deal with the misconduct of military personnel.
But the plot failed. This time he was unable to deliver on his much anticipated best seller. I won’t say I was disappointed. I would rather say he wrote with so much venom that he forgot the place of logic in writing and that emotions should be kept at bay. Those were the areas he got it woefully wrong. Aside the fact that he wrote on a topic he was completely ignorant on.
Back to the crux of the matter. He stated that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai accused his troops of treason with his statement at a workshop tagged “Transformational leadership” which was organized by the Army Headquarters Department of Transformation and Innovation, which held at the Army Resource Centre in Abuja recently.
Buratai had said: “It is unfortunate, but the truth is that almost every setback the Nigerian Army has had in our operations in recent times can be traced to the insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks or simply insufficient commitment to a common national/military course by those at the frontlines. Many of those on whom the responsibility for physical actions against the adversary squarely falls are yet to take ownership of our common national or service cause fully.”
I will start on this note. The media quoted the comment by the Chief of Army Staff out of context, which is common in this clime. Two statements in the commentary were right and a reflection of the harshness of the reality on the ground in Nigeria. And they are an insufficient willingness and insufficient commitment to take ownership of our common national service or cause fully.
The above two have been the bane of the myriads of challenges facing Nigeria. Lack of willingness and lack of commitment to a common goal. Everyone seems to be preoccupied with their interest rather than national interest. And this was simply what the Chief of Army Staff was trying to emphasize in his comment.
But for how the press interpreted it. The statement wasn’t meant to dampen the morale of the troops. Far from that, rather it was meant to provide explanations to why things go wrong and why things also go right narrowing it to the war against terrorism in Nigeria.
Festus Adedayo in his piece in an attempt to let the world know he is an intellectual went ahead to suggest what the Chief of Army Staff meant by insufficient willingness. He wrote “Insufficient willingness” could be a symptom of several malaises, ranging from weariness to fight, disobedience to command, sagging morale, cowardly behavior, communicating with the enemy, among the panoply of other tendencies.”
After reading this, I wondered if Festus Adedayo was a soothsayer that could with the whip of a handkerchief interpret a statement with such authority. I think he took his brilliance too far for want of a better expression.
He also systematically analyzed how Boko Haram fighters earn $3,000 daily and how Nigerian soldiers earn a meager N1,000 daily. Even though he alluded that it was not his original idea, but that of Dr. Sidi Mohammed, a member of the Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative (PCNI). The mere fact that he could cite such nonsense is an indication of how not be an intellectual.
And assuming such was even real, I can bet that even soldiers would readily switch camp since it’s all about how the Nigerian Army has neglected the soldiers at the battlefront as Festus Adedayo wants us to believe.
He also attempted to be emotional in his piece like he has ever traveled to the theatre of operations for once in his lifetime. If he hasn’t, then there is no moral justification for him to lend his voice to the activities of the Nigerian military in North East Nigeria. The bulk of the stories of neglect and what have you are figments of the imaginations of the authors, or probably they still relied on the fate of Nigerian soldiers before the advent of the Muhammadu Buhari administration in 2015. Just like Festus Adedayo and members of the unsuspecting public.
Festus Adedayo tried as much as possible in his piece to conceal its true intention, which is to throw a jab at the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for the humiliating way his appointment was terminated. Even though he has screamed to high heaven that he never wanted the job, but a week after he didn’t come out to reject it, not until the public outcry that followed.
One of such way he wanted to get at the government was his satirical statement that read thus “The truth is, if we count the number of the dead since Buhari assumed office in 2015, it should be near the casualty figure of the Nigerian civil war.” I wondered how Festus Adedayo lost it this easily. A Special Adviser to the Senate President is not an Olympic medal that should rattle the Festus Adedayo we all know.
Having stated the above, it becomes apparent the Festus Adedayo needs some form of enlightenment on what it takes to be in a war situation and what most war commanders face in galvanizing their troops to victory. Festus Adedayo should know that there would lethargic feelings which would translate to insufficient commitment or reluctance. This is a natural occurrence even in the most civilized climes in the world.
Warfare is not political science or communication, and as such, it would be difficult for Festus Adedayo to comprehend the statement of the Chief of Army Staff, just like those that misconstrue it to mean blaming the soldiers for the setbacks recorded in recent times.
His entire piece was laced with outright insinuations and illogical conclusions. There was not a single sentence or paragraph that contained first-hand information; rather it dwelled on hearsays and cheap gossips not befitting for intellectual discourse.
Festus Adedayo must rephrase his piece to read “How I misled my readers with half-truths” and consequently apologize immensely for missing it this time around. In all, I need to mention that I am a great fan of Festus Adedayo. But the truth must be told at all times. This very one is a big disappointment. The comment of the Chief of Army Staff was not a bruise. But rather a wakeup call. It is called strategy.
*Agbese is a human rights activist based in the United Kingdom.