Penultimate week, precisely on June 23, the circumstances surrounding the arrest and detention of a soldier serving with the Nigerian Army, lance corporal Martins leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of patriots, particularly those that subscribe to the ideals of good governance anchored on the rule of law.
The courageous and committed soldier was picked up in Sokoto and ferried to Abuja, for making a video lampooning the then Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Yusuf Tukur Buratai and other service chiefs that exposed their incapacitation to remain in the service holding the portfolios they held then.
In the video that went viral, Martins expressed his disappointment with Buratai and others for allegedly failing to stop the incessant killings of Nigerians by Boko Haram, Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), bandits and kidnappers. The ‘patriotic’ soldier, who looked quite dauntless while making the allegations, directed his anger specifically at Buratai; the Chief of Defense Staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin; the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Baba Abubakar, and the National Security Adviser, Gen. Babagana Munguno. He alleged that the service chiefs had failed by not showing enough commitment to ending the wanton killings of Nigerians.
Martins revealed how the military had allegedly ordered the arrest of some soldiers for just demanding better weapons and ammunition to fight terrorists and bandits. He said he was ready for any Court Martial and acknowledged that he might be arrested or even killed for making the video, but he was ready for the sacrifice in the interest of Nigeria. Great of him!
I believe the arrest of the courageous and bold soldier as directed was far from the crux of the matter. Yes, it may be the way the military deals with such cases when they occur, but this particular issue goes beyond that. One is more concerned with the allegations raised by Martins because of their wider implications for national security. Were they baseless or true? Only a discreet investigation will shade more light and reveal the reality that is if the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces develops interest in the drama which Nigerians doubt. The body language of the Commander-In-Chief to issues that affect his ‘almighty’ service chiefs was usually treated with levity and instead, he rewarded them with ambassadorial positions to remain close to him.
If soldiers are not well motivated or are ill-equipped, there is no way they can put-in their best and only their best is good for the security of the country. Could the soldier’s allegations be part of the reasons why we are not making much sustainable progress in the anti-terror war? Are Nigerians including the president fed with lies of performance and bogus stories while the terrorists are silently killing our soldiers with expertise and courage?
Nigeria has expended a lot of funds on arms and welfare of troops. Nigerians are demanding for good results not cook and bull stories of fictitious victory while the situation worsens.
The President and Nigerians should not be fooled to believing fiction while terrorists and bandits celebrate victory unannounced. From the allegations of Martins, one can say that we seem to be dancing round in circles in the prosecution of the war against terrorists and bandits.
Nigeria has been regaled with tales of our gallant forces decimating the insurgents and bandits only for them to resurge and visit more calamitous upsets on already weary communities that have lost hope.
It is a monumental national embarrassment, insult and disappointing seeing our soldiers jubilating in April when Chadian troops led by their president (now late), Idriss Derby Itno taking the battle to the den of the terrorists and dealt with them a terrible blow which we failed to do for over 10 years.
The courage and end result of the Chadian troops formed the basis for the call by Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum for Nigeria to engage the service of mercenaries to fight the terrorists for positivity. His call, as expected was hypocritically misunderstood and misinterpreted by the military high command. Let’s cast our mind back to 2012 when Nigeria declared war against the insurgents. President Jonathan was ill-advised by the military high command to have declared that war that has defied solution. The then Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Azubuike Iherijika was mean with the truth to have committed Nigeria to a war unprepared. His perception of the capacity of the insurgents to sustain the war proved him wrong. There was neither cogent intelligent report on the insurgents nor adequate preparation to fight the guerilla war.
Wizened by a never-ending security upheaval, Nigerians clamored for the sack of the service chiefs and the appointment of a Presidential National Security Committee to be chaired by a retired military officer not below the rank of a Lieutenant General with the required experience in warfare, and the technical knowledge to pave way for the injection of fresh ideas and tactics in the anti-terror war than tolerating the present situation in the presence of options. The calls resonated across the country, most especially at the wake of the mindless killings and other depredations unleashed on most parts of the country by bandits and other killer gangs. Sadly, the authorities do not seem to be swayed by the calls just as was made at the advent of Boko Haram insurgency in 2009. Some of us advised against the declaration of a war and we supported our arguments with indisputable facts based on first hand information at our disposal then, and we were aware of the simple fact that our soldiers are trained in conventional warfare not in guerilla style of war which is the war style of the terrorists. The authorities thought we were kidding and today, we are all regretting engaging the beasts in a war that seems to have no end unless the needful is done which may not be done until the worst of the worst come to happen and we go for fire brigade approach.
It seems however that President Buhari, who is the nation’s Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, and who appointed and retained the failed service chiefs and appeared to be in support of their ‘success’ stories suddenly lost patience and sleep courtesy of their glaring failure to secure Nigeria despite the whooping sums wasted.
The President told them this much when he met with them at the seat of power. He said their best was not enough and that he would no longer expect and accept excuses, adding that he would henceforth expect them to live up to expectations which most Nigerians doubted despite the warning.
For Nigeria to defeat its security challenges, higher authorities need to take more than a cursory interest in Lance Corporal Martin’s allegations and ensure that they are not swept under the carpet to cover any one involved in any mess. Nigerians deserve to know how those humongous resources channeled into fighting the insurgents were expended and the end results from the expenditure. Issues raised by Martins must be thoroughly and discreetly investigated and dealt with squarely to put the needed impetus into the war against terrorists and bandits including kidnappers which are fast becoming intractable.
In an article released on the social media meant to launder the battered image of the Nigerian Army particularly that of the Chief of Army Staff Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai (now Nigeria’s ambassador to Benin Republic), former Director of Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Sani Kukasheka Usman (Rtd) labored in vain to change the narrative because he only enumerated some achievements recorded by Buratai but failed to address the allegations raised by lance corporal Martins. What was expected from the retired army general were glaring facts to debunk the allegations of Martins not a ray of uncalled achievements of no value to the war against the insurgents.
The arrest and detention of Lance Corporal Martins’ wife and subsequent release made the matter worse and worrisome. What was the offence committed by the poor house wife against the military authority to have warranted her arrest and detention? The issue deserves further investigation which may break the camels’ back for the better of Nigeria. The service chiefs had overstayed their welcome against the wish of most Nigerians. Nigerians are calling for better vibrant hands to pilot the nation’s security apparatus with a National Presidential Committee put-in-place as a back-up.
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues