Having possibly spoken as an insider with credible intelligence at his disposal, a former Minister of Defence, retired Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma’s outbursts that foreign invaders are on a killing spree in the country should not be dismissed with a wave of the hand, Ejiofor Alike reports
For the umpteenth time, a call last week made a former Minister of Defence, Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), to Nigerians to rise up and defend themselves against bandits.
Many prominent Nigerians, including governors had made a similar call but Danjuma’s case was particularly special, given the sensitive positions he had occupied in the military and the government.
Speaking at the coronation and presentation of Staff of Office to His Royal Majesty, Manu Ishaku Ada Ali, the 25th Aku Uka Wukari, Danjuma asked Nigerians to find out how bandits get arms so that they could have theirs for self-defence. Last week’s call was the second time the former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) urged Nigerians to take their destiny in their hands and stop relying on the Armed Forces to defend them from the bandits who are trying to overrun the country and dispossess the indigenous people of their lands.
Danjuma’s kinsmen Wukari and Takum local government areas have gone through many wars that took many lives and displaced many people with their neighbours – Kuteb and the Chamba, as well as Tiv settlers. Tired of the perennial conflicts, the combatants submitted to some accommodation arrangements that restored some delicate peace.
But a new development that would disrupt the peace of the area soon reared its head. It was the conflict with the Fulani pastoralists over trespass on farmlands. It would develop into full-scale armed violence with the indigenous Chamba, Kuteb, and Jukun communities being worsted and sacked.
Meanwhile, the people began to see a link between the rise in the intensity of the attacks and the ascension to office by President Muhammadu Buhari, suggesting that the invaders had been emboldened by not just his presence but also the seeming kid glove with which the belligerents had been treated. Apparently tired of holding the people down in the face of official negligence that aided the free reign of the attackers, Danjuma in a rare outburst in March 2018 raised the first alarm that there was an attempt at ethnic cleansing in the country by herdsmen and asked Nigerians to resist it.
The former defence minister, who then spoke in Jalingo at the maiden convocation ceremony of the Taraba State University, accused the Armed Forces of colluding with armed bandits. He charged Nigerians to defend themselves before they were completely exterminated.
He pointedly accused the military of complicity in the killing of farmers by herdsmen.
He said: “There is an attempt at ethnic cleansing in the state and of course, in some riverine and rural states in Nigeria. We must resist it. We must stop it. Every one of us must rise up.
“Our Armed Forces are not neutral. They collude with the armed bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians. The Armed Forces guide their movements. They cover them. If you are depending on the Armed Forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one,” he reportedly explained.
He was however accused of raising a false alarm after a panel set up by the military authorities concluded that there was no evidence to support his allegation.
But as a former insider with deep knowledge of military operations, Danjuma has remained convinced that the intelligence at his disposal is very credible.
So, despite the attempt by the military authorities to rubbish his earlier allegation, he still renewed his message last week, insisting that his earlier call was taken for granted, and also stressing that the result was clear for everyone to see.
He said that the biggest black country in the world was under siege by terrorists who were trying to root out the citizens.
“As a soldier, the best defence is attack. Right now, we are all sitting ducks. These people are armed to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction but we don’t have them. We have the numbers and the land belongs to us. They are trying to colonise us and take over our lands. Your majesty, you must unite our people to defend themselves.
“I will not give you arms. Find out how the people who have it got it and use the same means to acquire arms and defend yourselves. This beautiful land called Nigeria is being brought to ruin by absolutely useless criminals. How do they get here? We know some of them may even be here. My prayer is that God Almighty that has given us this land will give us the courage to face these enemies and chase them out. This we must do, otherwise, Nigeria is finished.
“We must find out the source of the arms of terrorists; Nigerians should equally find a means of arming themselves to face the terrorists,” he said.
He recalled that when he accused the military of colluding with terrorists, he was called a liar, adding that Nigerians have realised the truth.
He said after his statement in 2018, a “Kangaroo panel” was set up by the military and he was invited to defend what he said but he refused to appear before the panel.
“In 2018 when I called on the people to defend themselves, a kangaroo commission of enquiry was set up to investigate and they said I was lying because there was no evidence.
“Today in the country, there is evidence everywhere; the foreign bandits are killing and taking over lands in all the places,” he added.
Danjuma has a very rich military background and must have spoken about the military and the state of insecurity in the country from the point of knowledge.
The retired officer became a General Officer Commanding (GOC) in 1975, and was appointed Chief of Army Staff in 1976, a position he held until he retired in 1979.
After his retirement from the military, he still served as the Chairman of the Presidential Policy Advisory Committee in 1999; the Minister of Defence (1999-2003) and the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council in 2010. With the positions he had held, Danjuma knows why the Nigerian Armed Forces have not successfully rooted out the bandits that wreak havoc in the North-central, particularly his home state of Taraba and Benue State. The former military chief knows what most Nigerians do not know on why foreign herdsmen have turned Benue State into a killing field, slaughtering farmers and dispossessing them of their lands without a proportionate reaction from the military.
In his ‘sympathy’ message to the people of Gbeji community in Ukum Local Government Area (LGA), of Benue State, over the recent killing of 39 people in the area by herdsmen, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar added a subtly threat when he reportedly wrote that: “When our people are well integrated into communities where they live, work, pay taxes and raise their children, they would be obligated to reciprocate the love and acceptance.”
Of course, the people of Benue have since rejected his sympathy message, describing it as a mockery.
So, is there an agenda to annihilate the landowners unless they surrender their lands and integrate the foreigners? Benue State Governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom has repeatedly alleged that there is.
Danjuma has also called on Nigerians to rise up and chase out the enemies taking over people’s lands. With his military knowledge, he should be taken seriously, otherwise “Nigeria is finished,” according to him.