THE TENURE OF SERVICE CHIEFS

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Why are they still keeping their jobs?

The disagreement between the Senate and the Presidency over the continued stay in office of the current service chiefs is a disturbing development that should not be taken lightly. While we agree that the power to hire and fire is the prerogative of President Muhammadu Buhari, a vote of no confidence by the Senate, which Tuesday’s resolution indicates, is also a significant development. It cannot escape the attention of the Presidency that the Senate resolution is in tandem with public mood. It also doesn’t help that just recently, the president himself summoned the service chiefs, for the umpteenth time, to express his disappointment with their efforts. He reportedly told them their best was not good enough. The question therefore is, why are they still keeping their jobs?

While the president seemed undecided on what to do with the service chiefs, the security situation across the country is alarming. The last few months were exceptional. The Northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have been susceptible to frequent attacks by the Boko Haram insurgents and their more vicious variant, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Moving the motion that was adopted on Tuesday, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume said: “The Senate notes with concern the number of casualties among the Nigerian Army and other security agencies. Just recently, 24 soldiers were ambushed and killed along Maiduguri-Damboa road in Borno State, 19 were wounded and nine were declared missing in action.” Besides, some soldiers were ambushed and killed in Katsina while it had been alleged that “over 200 soldiers voluntarily resigned their engagement or appointment with the Nigerian Army.”

As much as we agree that the decision on service chiefs is that of the president to make, things are already getting out of hands. In the past two months, violence had risen precipitously as more than 100 attacks had reportedly been launched on communities and military posts by the insurgents. But many of the attacks were not reported, perhaps because of the prominence Covid-19 pandemic has imposed on all. Some local governments reportedly had fallen back into the hands of the vicious sect. While the insurgents are on the rampage in the Northeast, bandits, kidnappers, cattle rustlers and all manner of criminals are holding the Northwest and other parts of the country by the jugular.

Such untold and frequent attacks undermine popular support for leaders. Many northerners who initially warmed up to the president are becoming increasingly disconcerted. Indeed, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) as well as Northern Elders Forum (NEF) accused President Buhari and Northern governors of having completely lost control of their constitutional responsibility of protecting lives and property. Convener of the NEF, Professor Ango Abdullahi said, “Bandits and insurgents appear to sense a huge vacuum in political will and capacity which they exploit with disastrous consequences on communities and individuals.”

As we argued recently, if we must pour more resources in the fight against insurgency, it should be to another team of military leaders, not to an incompetent team that had failed repeatedly. Many believe the present security top brass have reached the peak of effectiveness and the right thing at this moment is to ease them out. We buy into that argument. The generals are tired and incapable of leading the war against the insurgents. They cannot inspire followership. They are being retained, perhaps against their will. They are all beyond their retirement age. They, like the president said, had done their best. But their best is not good enough. We cannot afford to retain a losing team. It’s time the president allowed the service chiefs to take their long-overdue retirement!