GUEST COLUMNIST BY ISSA AREMUÂ
Arguments for and against have expectedly trailed the reported damning remarks of General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma on Nigeria Armyâ€™s operations in some parts of the country.
The former Chief of the Nigerian Army and one time Nigeriaâ€™s Minister of Defence made the remarks on Saturday, March 24, 2018 during the convocation ceremony of the Taraba State University. Danjuma accused the Nigerian military of ethnic bias in the course of operations.
As a distant critical admirer of the General over the years, I was even further shocked to read that Danjuma, a former Chief of Army Staff and Defence Minister, in a university Convocation remarked that Somalia would be a childâ€™s play if the army did not improve on its operations. Of course, we all know that Somalia is not a child play but a forgotten killing field of suicide bombers. Nigeria for whatever reason dares not be a Somalia. Indeed, Nigeria should lead Africa to take Somalia and South Sudan and other war torn zones out of the brink of mutually assured madness.
The divisive, binary reactions to the retired Generalâ€™s outburst including a call for arms for self help by any aggrieved citizen further underscores the fact that it’s not too late for the General to rethink the provocative statement. Nigeria Army in its current form is a product of independence in 1960. The vision of its formation is to keep Nigeria one through fair and just operations.
Undoubtedly the Nigerian Army has assiduously performed the duty of preserving the unity and territorial integrity of the country as well maintained peacekeeping operations abroad. The most globally acknowledged and documented have been the ECOMOG operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Thousands of troops died in the West African peacekeeping operations as the Nigerian Army made enormous sacrifices.
Of late, the Nigerian Army has also commendably taken on the terrorist gangs, despite the fact that the unconventional methods of the insurgents and reported diversions of operations funds by some of the commanders. Of course, a critical SWOT analysis of Nigerian army would also reveal some down sides that include the adventure of some elements who through an unnecessary coup in 1966 provoked a counter coup, a civil war of tragic outcomes and prolonged military rule which by and large underdeveloped Nigeria.
However on the whole, Nigeria Army remains in written vision, a national formation and documented activities a constitutionally defined pan-Nigerian organisation. As a young student in Ahmadu Bello university (ABU) in 1977/78, I was at the receiving end of the downside of Nigeria Army. The military rule of Obasanjo/Yar’ Adua/ Danjuma, had ordered the military troops to illegally invade the campuses and dared to kill some students over the mass protests against arbitrary increase in school fees by the regime. Despite the loss of fellow students to military brutality and our deep sense of grief and outrage, Nigerian students then organised under the auspices of National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS), never called for armed resistance or self-help against Nigerian Army.
The patriotic instinct in us dictated that Nigerian Army despite its imperfections or even its abuse by the ruling Generals was still a pan-Nigerian organisation for our collective defence. Nigerian students had all in unison hailed Murtala Obasanjo military regime for championing the cause of liberation of Angola and Mozambique and damning the apartheid South African regime.
Danjuma should act statesmanship and refuse the temptation of giving in to provocation with an unnecessary outburst against the Nigerian Army he presided over either for better or for worse.
Indeed, without Nigerian Army Danjuma would not have been known today as a professional Army General. The real test of our faith in Nigeria is not when it serves us well. The real test of our patriotism is when we are provoked and unjustly maltreated and still remain focused on the task of nation-building. Nigeria cannot afford the pitfalls of a silly â€œeye-for-an-eyeâ€ policy, because not only 180 million black people would not just go blind but also all Africans would be imperilled.
Paul Kagame is currently the President of Rwanda. He was once an army General who ended the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Today he has transformed Rwanda to one of the fastest growing countries in Africa. Kagame is not envying Somalia despite the injustices done to his Tutsi ethnic group but building a new â€œSingapore of Africa,â€ a developed city state. He is also the current Chairman of the Africa Union.
The likes of Danjuma should move beyond self or group, work and think Nigerian and African as they once did.
However, the discordant voices in the land should task President Buhari to wake up to the challenges of building a diverse Republic like Nigeria.
Buhari must take bold steps and initiate non-partisan, pan- Nigerian engagement on the critical issues of national security. The recent politicisation of the kidnapping of poor schoolgirls shows that we need to remind ourselves that if we work separately terror gangs will defeat us.
Statesmanship is certainly on trial in Nigeria and we dare not lose statesmanship to sectarian self -help.