By Bala Ibrahim
The disclosure by the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (Rtd.) today, that President Muhammadu Buhari has berated his Service Chiefs over the spate of insecurity across the country is a testimony to the fact that the serving service chiefs have exhausted their collective capacity to confront and conquer Nigeria’s insecurity.
The President had a meeting with the service chiefs in the state house this afternoon, at the end of which Gen. Monguno addressed the press, where he said, the President told the service chiefs that their best is not good enough, as far as the challenges facing the nation are concerned. According to the NSA, the President had warned the service chiefs that excuses will no longer be tolerated, because he expects them to live up to expectations.
And precisely this is where I feel the President should have done more, by relieving the service chiefs of their portfolios and appointing a new set with immediate effect. This is not the first, second or even the third time the President is giving such a warning to the service chiefs, but for some reasons, the desired result is yet to be achieved.
Shortly after taking over in 2015, and while swearing in this very set of service chiefs, the President gave them a three-month deadline to defeat Boko Haram, because, prior to taking over, he had vowed to tackle the six-year hydra-headed insurgency head on. To meet that objective, the President made it clear that the service chiefs will work closely with Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic, under a joint regional cooperation that would hasten the defeat of the terrorists.
In another instance, while declaring open the 2018 Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference in Maiduguri, the President again warned that the war against terrorism is a must win, and ordered the military to eliminate Boko Haram threat with immediate effect. “It is a must win war. I want to encourage our troops not to be distracted by speculations but remain focused and committed to the task of eliminating Boko Haram from the surface of the earth. Iam tasking you to totally eradicate the terrorist group”, he said.
To say the President is giving such a warning or matching orders for the umpteenth time to the service chiefs is simply an understatement. He had given them such orders many times before, and as a General and twice the Commander in Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces, it would be laughable if the President’s warnings are not taken with unpleasant emotion, or the threat they are expected to carry.
Terrorism seem only to be changing in pattern but not diminishing, as banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling have become the newly added vices, with Katsina state, the home state of the President, almost taken over by bandits. The state is profusely bleeding on bended knees.
This set of service chiefs were appointed in 2015, and their tenure was expected to expire in 2018, but the tenure was extended by six months. Even at that, it ought to have elapsed by December 2019. The initial thinking was that the extension was given because of the good job the service chiefs did for ensuring law and order in the country during the 2019 general elections.
In January, worried by the overstay of the service chiefs, alongside the reluctance of the President to replace them, despite the fact there is a growing concern about the law of diminishing returns setting in on their performance, the House of Representatives passed a resolution, calling on all of them to resign. The resolution said the President should fire them if they fail to resign on their own. They never did and the President did not fire them.
By similar resolution, and much earlier than that of the House of Reps, the Senate had also called on the service chiefs to go. Like the House of Reps, the resolution of the senate is a reflection of the public frustration at the inability of the military chiefs to overcome the insurgency.
Those conversant with the politics of the military say the ambition of every officer is to become a General, and possibly rise to the zenith of the carrier, which is to fly the flag of the service chief. If you continue to extend the tenure of a service chief, you are making it impossible for those behind to achieve their ambition, because the incumbent would outlive them in service.
If we go by the principal objective of competition law, which aims to promote efficiency, and the natural human instinct of aspiring to be the best, we cannot deny the hunger of other officers whose goal is equally to see themselves in passionate action at the top. When that is not realizable, it is natural for them to have a rethink in the type of service contribution they give.
Some may be demoralised, some would lose zeal, while the bad ones may even venture into acts that may undermine the successes of the team. We all know that one is unstoppable when his desires to succeed are fueled by ambition. And the reverse is the case when such ambition is frustrated, through whatever means, including where some people are made to look as if they have a monopoly of knowledge.
Adolph Rupp said, “If A Coach Is Determined To Stay In The Coaching Profession, He Will Develop From Year To Year. This Much Is True, No Coach Has A Monopoly On The Knowledge Of Basketball. There Are No Secrets In The Game. The Only Secrets, If There Are Any, Are Good Teaching Of Sound Fundamentals, Intelligent Handling Of Men, A Sound System Of Play, And The Ability To Instill In The Boys A Desire To Win.”
According to NSA Monguno, the president had expressed displeasure over the lack of synergy amongst the security forces.
That synergy is missing because they are more in competition for succession, than cooperation for the conquest of the common enemy. That is where the desire to win is lost. That desire to win would come only if there is the motivation of achieving one’s desires.
Make the achievement of that desire transparent, Mr. President, you would see the best in your military officers, because you know better than me that the service has groomed many to be the BEST.
Mr. Ibrahim writes from Abuja.