By Philip Agbese
Like Chinese revered war veteran, strategist and tactician, Sun Tzu, once asked the world albeit rhetorically; “Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?” Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is also asking Nigerians whether they have any inkling about what his Government can do with the resurgence of Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism?
The President is stylistically questioning the reason for the anxiety in people who seems to have gleefully forgotten the deadly blow the Nigerian Military handed down to insurgents under his administration. And why they think it is impossible to treat renewed insurgency with same dosage.
Mr. President is searching to know exactly the mindset of some Nigerians who are canvassing and campaigning for the removal of his appointed current Service Chiefs for mundane excuses. The most dominant of such excuses anchored are either resurged terrorism or death of troops in the frontlines.
Losing troops in battle is such a bad experience. But the sad experience cannot obviate reality in war situations. Its simple wisdom that no military chief, with all his acclaimed best expertise will insulate any troop from death in the battlefield, except God.
Except those with faint memories, or else, they ought to know that aside troops combating Boko Haram terrorism in the Northeast and other parts of Nigeria, even the Police and the Department of State Security Service (DSS) have so many times lost officers and personnel in the course of maintaining national security. Assuming it were possible, this could be avoided; but it is a fate only God determines.
Several Police personnel have lost precious lives in encounters with armed robbers or protesters and so forth. And likewise, the DSS. The incident of Ombatse cult killings of security operatives in Nasarawa state and scores of others are handy examples of such unfortunate incidents, which are unavertable in security operations. But the solution does not reside in sacking the Heads of such security units.
But most times, undue pressures from some Nigerians as done now do compel the President to prematurely terminate the appointment of brilliant officers who came with a clear mind to usher in the necessary reforms. But the persistent clamor and excuses bordering on age, retirement and high-wired politics have compelled kicking out of such priced personnel and all their ideas just to bow to political correctness.
Sun Tzu said; “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
So, experience has taught the country regrettable lessons in this direction, but people crave for a repeat of same mistakes. The present campaigners for the sack of Service Chiefs have chosen to ignore or downplay the incontestable fact that President Buhari himself a hero and venerated retired Army General.
In his military career while in active service, he fought a dozen battles and also commanded Battalions and troops at the warfronts. It implies that he knows the intricacies and psyche of commanders and their mutuality with the troops under control at special times like war.
Like other war heroes of his status have resonated elsewhere, the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces knows when to effect a change in the hierarchy of Military leadership. And he knows when crisis or emergencies make such contemplation abominable, unnecessary and absolutely detrimental to the pursuit of victory.
President Buhari is aware like repeatedly thundered by Sun Tzu, globally acknowledged as the oracle of war that; “If there is disturbance in the camp, the general’s authority is weak. If the banners and flags are shifted about, sedition is afoot. If the officers are angry, it means that the men are weary.”
As the then a serving Army General who earned his ranks by dint of hard work, Buhari does not require the counsel of people on the right and beneficial decisions to adopt on military leadership; much less, from non-experts, who have never been privileged to fire a shot from the war trench. It explains why he silenced the campaigners gunning for the sack of Service Chiefs with a presidential declaration that he meticulously and diligently searched before appointing the Military leaders to superintend on the termination of insurgencies and insurrections in the country.
The Commander-In-Chief was unambiguous that he accepts full responsibility for whatever is the actions of the Service Chiefs. But he will not succumb to external and overtly malicious and instigative persuasions for their sack because outside the commendable performance of the Service Chiefs, such a hasty step, from his experience can ricochet dangerously in emergency situations particularly in the Nigerian context.
But the emergency advocators for the removal of Service Chiefs should also not forget that the Commander-In-Chief, as an ex- General came on board and inherited a disheveled military personnel and polarized Armed Forces. Everyone knows that it provoked displeasure and anger in President Buhari as a Nigerian statesman and former Army General.
It is unthinkable for any Nigerian to expect that he would have served as the democratic leader of Nigeria and still left the Nigerian Military in such a disfigured shape. It is unpatriotic and an inclination to impatience for those clamouring for the sack of the Service Chiefs who are anchoring these reforms and innovations in the Military mid-way.
The Service Chiefs are operating in the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria with a savvy only akin to what Sun Tzu’s wisdom echoes as “What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.”
Therefore, the hired crusaders for the sacking of the incumbent Military leadership must not forget that the decision of President Buhari to retain the Service Chiefs is beyond combating Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism alone. It has much ado about the healthiness and professionalism of the nation’s Armed Forces. But from the cocoons and narrow-mindedness of these politicians, even if given 30 years ahead, they will neither sight nor understand the need for a good institutional foundation for the Nigerian Military.
However, unarguably, that President Buhari has seen the laughable state of the Nigerian Armed Forces which he inherited; he is not ready to leave it in shambles anymore. And retaining the Service Chiefs to complete one of the assigned assignments is something that Nigerians will appreciate, behold and cherish so much in the future.
It is needless to flog the unwilling horse. The Nigerian laws are clear as to the tenure of Service Chiefs and the President has acted within his prerogative as Commander in-Chief. Sun Tzu again says, “The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness.” President Buhari has such traits in abundance. And Nigerians owe him the obligation of support to bequeath to the nation, an Armed Forces that will be the pride of all citizens and the envy of the world.
Agbese is an author, publisher and human rights activist in the United Kingdom.