Speaking the Nations Mind

Nigerian Armed Forces and the limit of politics


By David Obaju

The Armed Forces of any nation are the only omnipotent institution which has the onerously pathetic responsibility of its members compulsorily risking their lives to protect others in comfort of homes in times of dire insecurity situations. It is a personally signed official national duty, the Military undertakes at the darkest moments in the history of any country at all times.

The Military have a disciplined and strict culture tethered on professionalism and observance of officially certified etiquettes which defines the entirety of their existence. It does not matter whether colleagues are in active service or retirement. But the spirit of comradeship has never waned at any time. It’s an indestructible cord in that confined league of warriors.

Therefore, it is dreadful for any country to consider operating an Armed Forces controlled by a clan of politicians of whatever adoring jargons, laced in the niceties of legislations which seeks to outsmart the singular regulating apparatus about the Military. Unfortunately for Nigerians who argue along such sentimental dimensions, the proposals are not possibly permissibly anywhere in the world.

Let the tattletale’s activists of such abomination gaze elsewhere because every nation trains, ethically purifies and preserves its Military strictly for lawful professional duties. And it is all about the protection and defence of sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country.

It is the standard conventional practice all over the world. It justifies why the Nigerian Armed Forces should be insulated from politics wholesale. And Nigerians must consider is crucial and avertable because indulgence or deviation of the Military into partisanship or posture violates national interest, which most times is lost along the line of corrupting influence.

However, Nigeria is an eccentric country. And politicians have always sought the control of the Military in disparate and cunny ways for partisan reasons. It is the same desperate politicians who yearn for a better democratic country. Nothing can be more condescending!

But in sardonic swagger, they ignore or are not satisfied with the Constitutional clause empowering them to append a seal on Mr. President’s nominees for Service Chiefs. Through the backdoor today, Nigerian parliament schemes to control even when Military Chiefs should be sacked, what the Nigerian Constitution, the supreme law of the land, vests exclusively powers in the hands of Mr. President.

That’s why in the 9th Republic Nigerian Senate, some members of the National Assembly (NASS) attempted to legislate and pass an illegal law to wrest such powers from the jurisdiction of President Buhari by transferring it to NASS or humongous politicians directly. The proposed law contemplated a Special Military Board, comprising politicians to decide appointment and sack of Service Chiefs any time they consider it necessary, instead of the Commander-In-Chief of the nation. Where has it ever happened in the world?

But Nigeria is full of surprises which no longer astounds anyone. They injected other very obnoxious clauses in the proposed law, which would empower all manner of politicians as approved by the legislature to decide the fate of Service Chiefs in a country where patriotism has been on sabbatical leave for dozens of years.

The resentful law crushed itself on the altar of truth and did not see daylight. But before this period, there have been countless times Nigerian politicians’ have interfered with the professionalism or tried to pollute the sanctity of soldiers. That’s why from 1983 to 1999, Nigeria was compelled to contend with different Military dictatorships. Almost all leaders of past military Heads of Government claimed they were invited by civilians to intervene and save democracy.

Generally, the world is no longer receptive to Military coup d’états. Africa is caught up in this new wind of change and with it, Nigeria which has reluctantly mooned the consciousness of a re-ordered world. It has nevertheless cautioned or appeased fifth columnists or political shenanigans and power hawks. Once in a while, especially when these despoiled politicians fail to garb democratic leadership through the ballot, they attempt to induce the military to seize power.

Nigeria has dragged the Military into civil duties which are in discord with their defined constitutional mandates. For a start, the drafting of soldiers for Election Duty; the attempts by some political moneybags or possessors of Nigeria’s illicit wealth to financially induce soldiers on such special assignments or Internal Security (IS) operations to gain certain favours are not exciting. But the society demands it. There are also other such demeaning acts which have always exposed Nigerian Military to risky temptations capable of compromising their professional ethics.

Of course, Nigerians would still remember the shambolic outing of soldiers on Election Duty which foisted former Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti state. Soldiers played ignoble roles leading to an indictment by a formal Military Panel of Inquiry and verdict, when President Muhammadu Buhari came on board as Nigeria’s democratic leader.

It’s still fresh, the attempt by Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike to bribe the GOC and the soldiers he deployed on Election Duty during the 2019 general elections in the state. It proclaims and confirms the ever-gassy determination of Nigerian politicians to corrupt the Military by all means.

It only took the grace of God for the GOC and the soldiers under the COAS and leader of counter-insurgency operations he assigned to resist Gov. Wike’s overtures of bribe in order to compromise the electoral process. But thereafter, a relentless Wike, like typical Nigerian politicians, followed it up with blackmail and executive rancorous intimidation of the Nigerian Army.

No doubt, Gen. Buratai has done everything possible to reposition the Nigerian Army to operate or function professionally at all times. The refined conduct of soldiers is generally much-admired by Nigerians anywhere they are deployed for special assignments. It’s a tempo the country should strive to sustain. And separating the Military from politics should be the inviolable obligation of every Nigerian.

But some Nigerian political elites and leaders have always advertised themselves as people who learnt nothing or any valuable lesson in a lifetime and so, have forgotten nothing! Some of them still nursing personal grudges and grievances against President Buhari have many times struggled to instigate the military to carry out a coup in the last five years, but it failed. President Buhari trusts his Service Chiefs whose first and last preoccupation is loyalty to professional creeds.

Meanwhile, unconscionable politicians whose permutations to grab power crumbled have fruitlessly and repeatedly attempted to drag them into politics. After failing variously on this agenda, they are also not relenting in other “clever” ways to smear the reputation of the Nigerian Military, so that they can use the Military to get at their political enemies. And President Buhari has been at the receiving end of their destructive designs.

President Buhari has suffered so much in the hands of these politicians hellbent on forcefully and illegally terminating his administration with their angry swords by persuading the military to stage a coup d’état to dethrone him. When Buhari had persistent health issues beginning of May 2017 and travelled to London for medical attention, the politicians plotted to use the Army to overthrow his Government.

The underground plots to illegally oust Buhari out of power rang to the point the speculations of a potential coup assailed Nigerians everywhere. A vigilant Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Buratai countered them. The Army is more suitable for such odd jobs.

So, first, Buratai issued a repeated stern warning to all soldiers to isolate themselves from politics. He also stepped up security measures and instantly transferred several senior officers prone to inducements for a coup. Only these actions saved the day.

Gen. Buratai thundered; “Any officer or soldier of the Nigerian Army found to be hobnobbing with such elements or engaging in unprofessional conducts such as politicking, would have himself or herself to blame.”

Also, the weeks preceding President Buhari’s inauguration for a second term in office experienced clandestine coup plotting actors by mid-May 2019. The Department of State Services (DSS) alleged plots by another set of politicians under the auspices of Nigeria Continuity and Progress (NCP) to overthrow President Buhari.

The planned coup was targeted to strike and disrupt President Buhari’s inauguration for second tenure before May 29, 2019, by the subversive agents and adversaries of democracy. There were attempts to garb it a military revolution.

And the strategy of these subversive elements using the Military was to create artificial atmosphere of insecurity; spark or induce widespread violence and use same to transplant disaffection in national psyche and prod the military to overthrow the Government for failing to protect lives and property of Nigerians. It also failed flat like a pack of cards because Gen. Buratai corpulently descended on the suspected Army officers.

But Nigerian politicians hardly give up on any evil mission. They have been scouting for other means to fascinate the Armed Forces and its leadership into politics. But Buratai particularly and his colleagues have proved very difficult to overwhelm with their intended antics on the Military to indulgence in the political affairs of Nigeria. The hatred of these Service Chiefs by Nigerian politicians’ is therefore understandable.

Nigerian politicians should sleep and reflect. The Army is an indispensably a standing Military institution which should not be this consciously destroyed, nay the Military. Politicians should conscionably recoil from dangling these tempting carrots of politics to the military and allow the Army focus on its mandate of protecting the territorial integrity of the nation. #

Obaju is a lecturer at Federal College of Education, Okene.