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Anti Graft War: They Got It Wrong Again

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By Attah Sunday
Those who whipped up ethno-religious sentiments in the run up to the 2015

general elections certainly knew what they were doing. Far from the wider

misconception of seeing those unguarded hate comments as desperation of

some people to see their candidate win the presidential election, the

reduction of national issues to jingoistic street level jibes was

deliberate. I recall that the doomsday scenario painted should a particular

candidate lose the vote was backed by the “America’s” prediction that

Nigeria will disintegrate in 2015.
We are now halfway into 2016 and I am still a citizen of a one indivisible

Nigerian, even though there are current security breaches that must be

tactfully handled to thwart the contrived crises that are aimed at

achieving what the election tension could not achieve. Terrorists and

militants have formed groups that are threatening the socio-political,

economic and territorial stability of the country if only to make a show

that their election period threats were not mere posturing. But this too

has failed in its objective and purpose because it took only a short while

for the militants to realize that blowing up oil installations is nothing

short of the Niger-Delta region and its allied South-East region committing

suicide by installment.
The strategy has now shifted to new grounds with a routine retirement of

senior officers in the Nigerian Army being twisted out of context to revive

the persecution syndrome that the same forces behind the aforementioned

breaches want to ride on for achieving personal ambitions. The military

authorities adequately explained that the retirements were the result of

service exigencies – there were investigations that indicted these men of

being partisan in the 2015 General Elections while others were indicted for

stealing public funds through defence contracts. Had a rating or junior

officer committed any of these infractions in violation of the relevant

oath same would have been fired and jailed without any media organization

wasting as many as two sentences to report it. But then that is the danger

of pursuing political balance because had the authorities court martialed

and jailed these men we won’t be having this conversation.

The conversation is an ugly one. The first reaction to the retirement was

that loyalists of former President Goodluck Jonathan have been sacked from

the Army without going into the details of their misdeeds. Perhaps, the

realization that a military officer whose sworn allegiance is to the

Federal Republic of Nigeria shouldn’t be a GEJ loyalist forced a change in

tactics. The sacked officers became “mostly” from the South South, South

East and a few from the North Central but this too was soon discarded,

possibly because while the claim is not true it would have also confirmed

that the fired officers played the ethnic card instead of working for

People who wanted to discredit a national institution were thus in a

quandary. The disaffection being whipped up in some quarters must be

sustained and the sack of rouge officers is the only cannon fodder

available. Under 72 hours, the narrative of the forced retirement was to

change again. The last round of change was that they were loyalists of late

President Umaru Yar’Adua, former President Jonathan and his National

Security Adviser, retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki.  Like the previous

interpretations of the sacks, this one too fell flat because the former

military men signed up to serve their country and not politicians.

There are also the simple questions that are not being asked. What did

these people do while in office? For instance, if the aides of Dasuki took

part in the criminal theft of money meant for buying arms to fight

terrorists should he be excused simply because he hails from a particular

part of the country? If a military officer on national assignment on a

president’s staff were to supervise the distribution of bribes to rig

elections, should he be left off the hook simply because his them principal

is of a certain ethnic stock? We must also be brave enough to interrogate

our system and agree whether or not commanding officers should abuse the

support the military provide during elections should be converted to a

rigging spree and intimidation of the opposition? Should the sacked

officers have been rewarded with promotion when the theft of defence

contract money meant that other gallant soldiers and officers died for lack

of equipment? If the military becomes populated by career thieves and

ethnic apologists can we still boast that we have a military? Why would any

group or persons want Nigeria to have a compromised military? We cannot in

good conscience answer in favour of any of these questions because that

would portray us as dysfunctional society that has no hope of growing out

of it.
We therefore summon the courage to find out what we stand to gain by

politicizing the military to the extent that some people now want the very

process used for ensuring ethical standards and professionalism to become

the subject of external inference. To say such mindset is irresponsible

would be an understatement. The military must not for any reason be

politicized. Those who think politicizing events in the Nigerian Army could

be exploited for their sinister motives of building support for

secessionist groups should have a rethink as this is an institution whose

function is too crucial to be jeopardized by ethnic thinking.

As they did with beating drums of war in the name of electioneering, as

they did in propping up terrorists, as they did in attempting to sabotage

the economy, the detractors of Nigeria got it wrong again by trying to

bring ethnic politics into the sack of compromised officers. Instead of

sounding like the whimpers of a victimized underdog they actually ended up

snarling ferociously, a declaration of war on peace loving Nigerians.

Declaring war on the state whether directly or through proxies is not known

to be acceptable in any state so a day of reckoning will arrive for those

beating the drums of division and war. When that day comes, those waging

this low intensity insurrection against the Nigerian state owe the rest of

us valid explanation. They should therefore save the energy being

dissipated on demonizing the military and channel same to articulating

their reasons for troubling the nation.
Attah is Secretary General, Stand Up Nigeria and contributed this piece

from St. Don Bosco, Beirut, Lebanon.
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