By Mark Adebayo
HINDSIGHT continues to make the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates into one corporate Nigeria look like an avoidable unmitigated disaster and an unnecessary imposition of painful coexistence in what amounts to a shotgun marriage of convenience. After more than a century, Nigeria has remained an excruciating nightmare being rendered asunder by egregious leadership failures, enervating corruption and retrogressive ethnoreligious antipathies deliberately promoted by entrenched political cliques as a mechanism of dividé et empera to ensure a permanent domination of the people with a view to guaranteeing state looting on large scales.
In my book published in 1998 titled ‘THERE IS NO NIGERIA YET’, I described Nigeria as “an incomplete noun and when used as an adjective, it qualifies nothing and identifies nobody”. For instance, the Urhobos are more proud of their Urhoboness than being Nigerians. Same for the Yoruba, the Ijaws, Itsekiris, Ibiobios, Igalas, Igbos, Bini’s, Jukuns, the Tivs, Hausas, Fulanis and over two hundred other ethnic nationalities within the “geographical expression” named Nigeria. Each feels stronger allegiance and love for their ethnicity than to Nigeria. This is obviously due to decades of misrule and marginalisation suffered mostly by the minority ethnic groups.
When a country’s military institution is hit by mass resignation in the middle of a major war against terrorists and organised bandits threatening its sovereignty, it’s a sign that the country is in decline and in danger of disintegration.
In the year 2005, the US National Intelligence Council commissioned a research and released a report titled “Mapping Sub-Saharan Africa’s future” which came out with scary conclusions and painted a gloomy picture of what would befall Africa should Nigeria collapse, but it didn’t emphatically state that Nigeria would collapse in 2015. This study is a scenario-painting methodology employed for academic researches including security projections about nations, subregions and continents.
However, a former US ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, predicted in 2011 and again in August 2014 that Nigeria would not exist beyond 2015. That prediction was as scary as it was foreboding. But for the singular act of political altruism and heroic statesmanship displayed by the then President Goodluck Jonathan who quickly conceded defeat and congratulated the incumbent against pressures from his Party and associates not to do so, that prediction would most certainly have come to past.
The basic characteristics that qualify a space to be recognised as a nation or country are; Population, Territory, Government and Sovereignty. The qualifying factors under these are a central government strong enough to defend itself against external aggression and maintain order within its borders. Secondly and very crucial is to have citizens who are loyal and proud to be citizens of that nation or country – patriotism and nationalism. Obviously, it is becoming increasingly evident that Nigeria is losing the capacity to defend itself and maintain internal order. Majority of Nigerians are not too keen anymore on the concept of the nationhood of Nigeria which they can identify with passionately in the manners, for instance, that an American or an Israeli or a Palestinian is unequivocally in love with his/her nation and even prepared to pay the supreme price defending the territorial integrity of that nation space. Rather, many Nigerians today, especially the youth generations, are desperate to escape from Nigeria abroad or escape Nigeria via self-determination that gives them a separate nation of ethnolinguistic homogeneity where they can feel respected, safe and not treated like second-class citizens.
There is nothing more threatening to the sovereignty of a nation than the weakness or ineffectiveness of its military. Nigeria is an endangered species in the comity of nations presently due to the series of unsettling developments within its military. Mass indiscipline and loss of morale among the rank and file occasioned by abjectly poor welfare package, belated, poor and irregular allowances, mass casualties in the theatres of battle, poor fighting equipment and alleged mass corruption in the military high command which has led to the siphoning of billions of dollars meant for modern military weapons and soldiers’ welfare.
On June 22, 2020 one Lance Corporal Martin Idakpeni openly condemned the Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Tukur Buratai, and alleged him of incompetence inter alia. That’s not a good sign. Recently, Major-General Victor Ezegwu, General Officer Commanding, 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maimalari, narrowly escaped being lynched by irate soldiers under his command who were protesting poor treatment and zero welfare. That’s mutinous and sacrilegious in military tradition. That’s a very bad signal.
A few months back, one Major-General Olusegun Adeniyi, Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, was seen in a viral video complaining seriously about inadequate military equipment in the battlefronts where he had taken heavy casualties while repelling a massive Boko Haram assault. He decided to do an open and recorded briefing of the COAS on the desperate situation of dearth of good and adequate equipment. He was promptly relieved of his command and redeployed to Army headquarters. He is rumoured to be facing a military court martial for that singular action praised by most Nigerians home and abroad. We’ve been told time and again that victimisation based on ethnicity is rampant in the Nigerian Military. Favouritism based on the same sentiments is making cohesion and dedication in the military a herculean task.
The final straw was in July 3, 2020 when 356 soldiers fighting insurgency in the northeast and other theatres of battle applied to the COAS for voluntary retirement citing “loss of interest”. It was an unprecedented embarrassment to the military authorities and the country at large. In the typical Nigerian leadership malaise, rather than address the concerns of the troops with a view to fixing the issues raised, the COAS, Tukur Buratai, through a 17-page circular approved their application to disengage from the Army not minding the critical security threats that move poses to Nigeria in terms of releasing such large number of battle-hardened soldiers into the society without a mandatory post-service reorientation and adequate remuneration upon which they could build a new life as civilians plus the significant reduction in the country’s military manpower that is just about 200,000 in number.
Recently, a senior military officer, Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, who is the Commander of Operation Safe Haven in Kaduna, lamented the lack of adequate manpower by the military to tackle the security challenges of Southern Kaduna which has claimed thousands of lives and still counting. Therefore, it is extremely ridiculous that it is at such a time that the army is losing a whole battalion of soldiers quitting for reasons of things that could be fixed if we had a more committed and competent leadership in both the military and government.
It could be safely posited that Nigeria is in a state of partial state failure with a high possibility of fulfilling its projection for disintegration as predicted by Campbell and the National Intelligence Council of the USA.
When a country is at this type of fatal crossroads as Nigeria currently is, it requires a visionary, revolutionary and capable leader to fix the imbroglio that has the potential for a total meltdown of the space called Nigeria. The president has remained intransigent and refused to replace the service chiefs who have clearly failed to deliver and have run out of ideas. Nigerians, including the national Assembly, have been united in our demand for the replacement of the service chiefs who are not only incompetent but have substantially lost the confidence and loyalty of the rank and file of the Nigerian Military and with heavy loads of corruption allegations hanging around their necks, they are not positioned to rectify the worrisome situation.
To replace the service chiefs is not as important as who they are replaced by. To identify competent military commanders is also a function of the competence of the appointing authority.
Nigeria needs to rejig, reorganize, and re-equip its military quickly to the highest levels of professionalism. I hope this government would see the urgency and act decisively in the overall interests of Nigeria before too late. The disintegration of Nigeria as predicted should not be a fait accompli.