Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is tasking President Muhammadu Buhari on a major national challenge the Buhari administration is not likely to rise up to before its expiration in 2023.
Wike wants Buhari to leave behind him a legacy of strengthening the combat capability of the country’s armed forces particularly the Nigerian Army.
The goal of such investment, according to the governor throwing the challenge, should be to make the Nigerian Army the strongest and the best in Africa.
This is even in spite of the fact that the daring governor had earlier blamed the festering security crisis in Nigeria on the country’s military officers. He laid the weighty blame right before the new Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Farouk Yahaya, who paid him a courtesy visit in Port Harcourt, the state capital.
He was however, challenging the Buhari administration while speaking on the theme of an event entitled: Building Capacity of the Combat Support Arms towards Optimising the Utilisation of Indigenous Technology in Support of Nigerian Army Operations.
While blaming the military for the wave of insecurity the country is experiencing, Wike said, ‘’the fight against insecurity has suffered set back because Army officers became partisan and could not stand on the side of professional practice because of their bias.’’
Continuing, he said in Rivers, Nigeria’s capital of oil and gas, the Nigerian Army allegedly turned the 6 Division into an election collation centre during the 2019 general elections.
‘’Rivers women also stopped the Army from rigging the 2019 general election’’, Governor Wike said while urging the new army chief not to allow his officers abandon their professional duties and get involved in mainstream politics.
The governor said at the Government House, Port Harcourt that his administration is always willing and ready to work with all the security agencies in the fight against criminality in Rivers, stressing, “I don’t understand why we cannot remove politics from our jobs.
‘’Let’s do our jobs and keep the country going. I can tell you that I’m willing and ready to work with all the security agencies, not only the army. The gun boats we are providing are almost ready. We have paid for everything. We will also provide vehicles. All I need is security of my people. I’m here to partner with you.
“I am here to make sure that lives and property are protected. I do so by giving support to the security agencies to protect lives and property, and to protect our natural assets.”
The tough-talking governor pointed out that banditry, kidnapping and agitations are different dimensions of crimes that have put Nigeria in dire situation, adding that while no form of criminality should be condoned, those agitating against perceived injustice and seeking to address their grievances, should not also adopt violence.
While restating his belief in the unity of Nigeria, because it is God who has put the different people together and such decision cannot be a mistake, he adds, ‘’there must be differences. There must be anger. It is for us to sit down to discuss it. I have said generally that I am not against anybody agitating for whatever you want to agitate. My take is that you cannot be violent.
“So, if anybody says they’re agitating, I have no problem. But don’t agitate to say I’m part of you. No, don’t do that. I am the governor of Rivers, with all due respect. I must make sure the territory called Rivers State must not be taken away by anybody or group of people. It is my responsibility to protect it.
“I believe in the unity of this country. I believe that God did not make mistake to say there should be a country called Nigeria.”
Governor Wike explained that his administration is ridding the state of shanties that have served as criminal hideouts for hoodlums who are disturbing the peace of the state, pointing out that the action is not targeted at any group of persons and urged them to stop reading ethnic or religious coloration into government’s action.
He commended the new army chief for the proactive measures taken since he assumed duties to address the threats that have challenged the sovereignty of the country, noting that the challenges will be enormous, but if the current tempo is sustained and also improved upon, the desired success will be achieved.
“You should continue to maintain integrity that respect for the Nigerian Army. It is very important. Even if you leave office today, you can say that while I was Chief of Army Staff, I maintained that the integrity of the army must be protected at all times.”
Earlier, General Yahaya, said he was in Port Harcourt on an operation visit to 6 Division of Nigerian Army, having just assumed command of the Nigeria Army recently.
According to him, he is also using his visit to officially open the Combat Support Training Week and has invited the governor to be their Special Guest of Honour. “It is usual to go round formations and units under the command to see on the ground the troops, interact, and assess their readiness including their achievements and challenges.
“In doing that, it is also usual to pay respect and courtesy on the governor of the state. I want to appreciate you, having received brief from the Nigerian Officer Commanding on all the supports that you have been providing for the Nigerian Army, indeed the military, in Rivers state”, the army chief said.
On the seeming herculean task to Buhari, Governor Wike gave the challenge while delivering a keynote address at the Nigerian Army Combat Support Arms Training Week 2021 christened COSAT WEEK 2021, in Port Harcourt, on Tuesday.
According to him, ‘’there should be increased commitment to national defence with robust security budgetary allocation that will engender adequate mobilisation of resources to support the implementation of strategic initiatives in developing indigenous defence technology.
“All over the world, countries are rapidly modernizing their armies, increasing their weapon systems lethality and strengthening the efficiency and combat readiness in response to the increasingly changing nature of the modern times battlefields.
“Nigeria cannot be different if we are interested in having a military force that can easily deter external aggression, meet our international and regional military objectives as well as defeat internal insurrections and existential threats to national security
“Our national strategic goal in this regard therefore, should be, to create and have an entirely self-reliant defence industrial sector that is driven substantially by local technological inputs that meet the needs for assembling modern military weaponry, equipment, including missiles and other combat capabilities.
“Nothing should therefore be spared by the federal government to build the most modern and strongest army in Africa and restore our country and the black race to the position of strength, pride, and prosperity.”
Wike noted that the Nigerian Army since its formation has worked so hard with other components of the armed forces, to defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and internal security of Nigeria, adding, ‘’aside the challenges of political crisis of the first republic, the 30-months needless civil war that would have made Nigeria relics of history, Boko Haram has remained a huge threat over a decade now.
“Consequently, countries whose superior military technology are better placed to outperform others, and win the battle than others who do not have and have to depend on the support from the advanced countries.
“Unfortunately, Nigeria is among the countries that are currently lagging behind advancements in science, technology, and innovation.”
Continuing, Governor Wike asserted that the quality, operational capacity and competence of Nigerian Armed Forces is contingent on the ability to provide impregnable fortress and safeguard to the sovereignty, security, development and the interest of Nigeria.
He said as a government, great satisfaction is taken in the presence of the army in Rivers defending the foundations of Nigeria, the country’s democracy, securing lives and property similar to what they do across the country.
“That is why we have always been available to render whatever support we can give to advance the professional capability of the armed forces to perform its external and internal constitutional duties, both within and outside Rivers.
“As a matter of fact, the 11 new armoured-plated gun boats we recently committed to procuring for the army and navy formations in the State are underway. We will soon invite the Chiefs of Army and Naval Staff to come over and take physical possession of these boats as part of our contributions to strengthen their offensive and defensive operations capabilities on our waterways.”
Declaring the COSAT WEEK 2021 open, the army chief, General Yahaya said the training week is an avenue for participants to brainstorm and re-strategise towards providing effective support to all operations of the Nigerian Army.
According to him, one of the key enablers to the recorded success in their operations is the undaunted support of the Combat Support Arms in providing effective counter-insurgent operations in the North East as well as other operations across the country.
“I am glad to observe that the significant progress made by the Combat Support Arms in patronising local vendors. A case in point is the domestication of production of some of our equipment currently deployed for operational use.
“This, alongside other innovations and inventions, has further enhanced the Nigerian Army’s capacity and capability at defeating the adversary.”
The Corps Commander Signal, Major General Abiodun Owolabi, in his welcome address expressed optimism that the 2021 Combat Support Arms Training Week will contribute significantly to achieving the vision of the Chief of Army Staff’s vision of building a professional army that is ready to accomplish assigned missions within a joint environment in the defense of Nigeria.