After Buhari’s first wave of appointments in 2015, opinion leaders including Prof. Nwabueze, Pa Edwin Clark, and the late Pa Okunrounmu and some other Nigerians accused him of a lopsided appointment. And for many even at that early stage, it marked the beginning of what they saw as Buhari’s “war against the south”. Dr Ezeife admitted they had in the run up to the election mobilized against Buhari because of fear of Islamisation of Nigeria.
This column on September 2, 2015 however advised the president to ignore his critics and “worry more about how to keep his own side of the social contract with Nigerian voters”. I added – “the mood of the nation today allows Buhari to seek from his Daura village a minister who will not preside over the theft of N1.7trillion by fuel fraudsters and a Minister of Internal Affairs who will not fleece young job seekers of over N1billion and end up supervising state murder of some of them through sloppy arrangement”.
With exception of Obasanjo, the PDP-crowned father of Nigeria, Buhari, by the record of his outings in his previous national engagement was in 2015 believed to have faith in the nation. Even as he today struggles to fulfill his destiny, we have no evidence Buhari has lost faith in the country. Nigerians no doubt feel betrayed by President Buhari who thinks he knows what the people want without asking them. If Nigerians however today feel more frightened about their future that they felt six years ago, it is more on account of impunity and indiscretion of some of his ethnic compatriots that have today become the greatest threat to the survival of Nigerians and even the president’s own legacy.
Nigerians are haunted by recklessness of Miyyetti Allah, who behaved responsibly, taking photographs-shops with President Jonathan but with emergence of Buhari started to issue orders to elected governors of federating states asking them to choose between the well-being of their citizens and their cultural practice of open-grazing. Nigerians are frightened by the error of judgment of Sheik Gumi, who doubles as bandits and herdsmen spokesman, the tactlessness of Abubakar Malami, the mischief of Shehu Garba and the cheekiness of his other minsters and service chiefs. Unfortunately, while we are all under siege of bandits, herdsmen and their sympathisers, President Buhari who Nigerians look up for protection is completely missing.
Obasanjo admitted there’s criminality and insecurity in Nigeria and warned against allowing “Boko Haram and herdsmen activities to become a tool to Fulanise West Africa and Islamise Africa”. Wole Soyinka spoke of “a huge mass of people descending into a state of brutishness and warned that “the country was undergoing horrendous descent to the abyss”. What the president’s men think about is setting up a radio station for Fulfude-speaking Fulani, building cattle colonies with Nigerian taxpayers’ money for immigrant herdsmen or reactivation of non-existent pre-independence grazing routes.
All around, anywhere you turn, impunity hits one on the face.
Two weeks ago, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, an indigene of Kano State went to hawk an approval to establish a naval base in a landlocked Kano to his governor who praised him for being a good son of Kano and promptly allocated 1000 hectares of land for the proposed naval base. The CNS with indecent haste, immediately named a Captain Muhammad Abubakar Alhassan as the Acting Commander.
Following public criticism of what many experts said was not a well thought-out project by the Nigerian Navy that “should be concerned about the inter-territorial integrity of the country through the waterways which is its primary function”, an abuse of office and a “contravention of the federal character principle”, Navy spokesman, Navy Commodore Suleman Dahun, said the naval base is designed to decongest its presence in Lagos area adding that “While naval operations bases should typically have a waterfront or be located in a maritime environment, some naval bases do not necessarily need to have a waterfront”.
Pan Niger Delta Forum PANDEF spokesman, Ken Robinson, reminded him that the north controls 14 out of 17 heads of top military, paramilitary and intelligence agencies in the country.
But such impunity did not start with Vice-Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo. In 2019 the Chief of Army staff Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai established an army university approved by the National Universities Commission even as the Federal Executive Council gave its nod for a N2bn take-off grant to be accessed from Tertiary Education Trust Fund in his Biu village in Borno State. This was despite the fact that the Kaduna NDA, a degree awarding institution attended by the current crop of officers, has for years remained underfunded.
In 2020, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique also decided to emulate Buratai by establishing Nigerian Air Force University in his home state of Bauchi without any objective criteria. Governor Bello Mohammed who hailed the air force chief as “worthy son of the state’ also commended him for the Air Force Special Operation Command earlier established in Bauchi.
For the air force chief, a politician in military uniform, it counted for little that nearby Kaduna hosts the Air force Institute of Technology, established in 1977, upgraded in 2004 to meet the requirements for the award of National Diploma, secured affiliation with Cranfield University in the United Kingdom for the running of postgraduate programmes in Aerospace Engineering for officer graduates of engineering/sciences from the NDA and other universities and was formally transformed into the AFIT with effect from March 12, 2008.
As someone has argued, our problem is more of impunity than corruption. Our military institutions remain underfunded even as our politicians and military chiefs smile to their banks as revealed by various probes in the last six years.
Under President Jonathan, the $2b loan meant for military hardware and welfare of fighting soldiers were shared by politicians and top military leaders without giving a damn about their fighting soldiers. Thus in 2012, the Jonathan administration had to sign a $103 million contract with Global West to protect the country’s maritime areas and stop piracy and oil theft, a job the constitution vested on the underfunded Nigerian Navy. For this, Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo was paid N1.5 billion monthly for his pains. But as it later turned out, “crude oil theft, according to a report by a civil society group “increased from 250,000 barrels/day before the contract to 400,000 barrels/day since the ceding of Nigeria’s territorial water to a private company without any record of experience in similar service”.
Many Nigerians including Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed warned against “rewarding terrorism with mouth-watering pipeline protection jobs” and along with others asked that the Nigerian Navy be equipped with the necessary equipment and resources required to enable them appropriately safeguard our waterways.
Sadly, military chiefs under Buhari prefer building universities in their villages and naval bases on land-locked areas leaving the fate of their priceless assets-soldiers in the hands of audacious politicians including minister of defence who declared after the retirement of the former security chiefs that “preliminary investigation showed the funds are missing and the equipment are nowhere to be found” and Shehu Garba, who insisted that the $1b from the Sovereign Wealth account referenced and which was authorized by the governors was not missing. Both however agreed the military is under-funded and has deficit of fighting equipment.
Impunity breeds many iniquities ranging from breach of federal character, waste of taxpayers’ money, misplaced priority, betrayal of our military institution and even ‘fulanisation and nepotism depending on where you stand.