By Tunde Johnson
I am not impressed with some critics or “activists.” It is not enough to think, we have the liberty of expression and endowed with skills of the pen and so, can wake up any day to push all manner gibberish into public domain.
The article by Samuel Omachi titled, “Military Promotion, Retirement And Religious Politics” has the tapestry of what some Nigerians describe as armchair criticisms. I perused the entire gamut of the article and found nothing convincing. It is speculative, assumptive and very fluid. Its infantile reasoning to push the argument that some officers have been retired from military service and from a particular region of the country without any striking example.
It sounds exciting only to the extent it fulfils the inner yearnings of the critic to fuel public incitement or anger against the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the current leadership of the Nigerian military and presiding officials of the Federal Character Commission (FCC). There is no modicum of credibility in anything the critic has rendered his reading fans.
It’s just like I would pick a pen and scribble that Samuel is not the son of his father. And I will not explain anything to justify this claim. But feel contented I have questioned his paternity. Mr. Samuel, let me correct certain impressions first.
It may please Samuel to know that President Buhari is an impartial leader. It is the immutable truth. Buhari’s honesty, integrity and passion of perceiving every Nigerian like a member of his nuclear family is legendary. No Nigerian leader I know has exhibited his leadership traits. We cannot doubt it.
Buhari has no affinity to any religion, tribe or region. It is evident in the manner he dispensed his first term in office by patronizing every section of Nigeria regardless of whether they supported his presidential aspiration in 2015 or backed out of it.
The President sees Nigeria and Nigerians as one huge united and indivisible community of people destined to be together. It is not his Presidency that would break this cord of communality. He is not the kind of President a Samuel would gleefully seek to destroy simply because he is excited with an idle pen.
The retired or promoted military officers, Samuel glowingly alludes in his narration are shielded by this narration. I don’t believe in those who claim to be fighting injustice with fearfully or masked. Those who genuinely stand for the cause of injustice and truth do it boldly. King Martin Luther Jr died fighting it boldly; Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for fighting apartheid and a lot more.
What about our own Gani Fawehinmi? They are human beings and also value the air they breath and the freedom savoured by the rest of us. So, hiding to claim fighting injustice is absolute mischief.
Any informed critic like Samuel wants us to believe would have at least mentioned some names of the sacked soldiers to buttress and anchor his point. It is unwise to embark on such a senseless voyage by guessing vague figures. It demeans and defeats sound argument. The Nigerian military were gracious enough to respond to him by attempting some explanations. I am angry with them for promoting nonsensicality.
Now Samuel, let’s break your piece to shreds to establish the extent you goofed. Happily, Samuel elaborately quoted the Federal Character Commission (FCC) in his narrative. And assuming, he could vouch for whatever propaganda contained in this irritating piece, we expected him to have quoted correspondences he had with the FCC over this alleged injustice.
Oh Samuel! Public systems do not function according to personal whims and caprices. There are procedures and, in this instance, the first step of a person convinced of a genuine case of injustice would have been to approach the FCC for redress. Activism requires commitment. It’s either you are committed to it or abandon the cause and desist from unnecessary noisemaking. I hope Samuel is with me and decoding it appropriately?
It smacks of barefaced mischief and ridiculous posturing to the institution of the Military for Samuel or anyone else to think he can remote control the routine internal postings, retirement or appointments. We have marketed ourselves as sticklers to religion or tribe in handling national issues and it has cost us grave retardations in the past. Some leaders adhered to such principles over merit and the 57-year old Nigeria has remained tethered to retrogression we see today.
Samuel, do you expect for instance that if the first seven airforce pilots in seniority are Christians or all Muslims or from the same geo-political zone, you expect their junior should be catapulted from the back to head them in order to balance the sentiments espoused by you? Is it normal and if Samuel heads a place, would he consent to such anomaly?
The day any Nigerian is appointed into any position, he knows there would come a day of retirement. And retirement is not same as termination of appointment. So, if all those due for retirement are from one tribe, religion or region, they should hang on for the absurd reasons advocated by Samuel?
One could secretly replace names in the public civil service or other public institutions. But it doesn’t sound plausible to me that the military could “secretly” replace retired personnel, ignoring the rigours of military training. Its not possible even in the para-military. I task Samuel to conduct his research properly and serve us verifiable and undeniable facts or respect himself with silence.
Nigerians are the most talented and belligerent people in the world, yet our country does not reflect it. We regale in the excitement of freedom and seem to forget our limits. I don’t know which American dictates to President Donald Trump, who he should appoint into sensitive positions that are levers of the success or failure of his government. He sacked Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and appointed Mike Pampeo without consulting anybody. He sets the standard for his appointments.
We must recognize that there are certain liberties we must concede to President Buhari. If Nigeria is rated a failed or successful nation now, only Buhari takes the blame or credit. Nigerians will not blame any religion, tribe or region, but President Buhari. When insecurity rages in the country, we blame Buhari and not the ethnic champions or religious bigots who canvass for such sentiments in appointments.
So, what is wrong if President Buhari in the last presidential campaigns told Ndi’gbo that none of their sons met the criteria to be appointed any of the Security Chiefs? Was it not just yesterday Gen. Ihejirika was there as COAS? What impact did he make on the war against Boko Haram insurgency? It rather festered under his watch. Perhaps, he was not even qualified, but the then President appointed him in response to such unproductive sermons of Nigerians like Samuel.
Samuel angles for us to believe his poor criticism and so, compensates himself by tasking others to do what he failed to do: Hear him; We call on the Presidency, the National Assembly and the military authorities to go beyond rebuttal of alleged divisive and religious administration of the armed forces. Let them constitute an independent panel of inquiry to forensically investigate the alleged infraction of federal character in the military and para-military appointments, postings, retirements and redeployment with the view to assuaging frayed nerves in the interest of unity, peace, tranquility, justice and fairness in the country.”
For me, this is outright expression of unpardonable intellectual and research laziness. If the result of such independent inquiry is published, would Samuel not pick loopholes in it so long as it does not favour his jaundiced thinking?
I advise Samuel to always stoop to conquer. Its wrong to stoke public anxiety baselessly and unnecessarily only to push the burden of proof to someone else. I repeat, nothing in Samuel’s piece alerts me to the submissions of a serious mind or critic or activist. It’s unfortunate that Military authorities stooped so low to dignify him with a response.
But let it be known to the likes of Samuel that the military under President Buhari is no respecter of tribe, religion or regionality. Its insulated from such regressive sentiments. Samuel can utilize his idleness by scavenging elsewhere. An African adage says, “idle hands scratches the anus,” and Samuel’s piece is a perfect illustration.
The Armed Forces of any nation is a sensitive national institution and everyone is its owner. All military personnel lose their tribe, region or religion from the first day of enlistment and garb the coat of national tribe for their country. The logic of the sentiments and bogus assertions spewed by Samuel are not derivable in the Nigerian military. Nigerians must therefore see the need for national cohesion, national unity and national peace above every other consideration.
*Johnson wrote this piece from Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos.