By Dr. Abubakar Mohammed Sani
The National Assembly is first and foremost the most critical and most distinguished aspect of a democratic government. It is the legislative arm because it is the only thing that differentiates a democratic government from non- democratic ones. Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, afforded Nigerians the right to elect certain people they consider worthy and credible to represent them in government. This is because there is no way everyone can directly participate in governance. The acceptable practice is for the electorates to elect representatives to represent them at both the State Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly. This informs the reason we have some people called Honorable Members and Distinguished Senators, representing 200 million Nigerians in government. They are to make laws for the land, make budgetary appropriations and provide oversight functions where necessary. Therefore, people like Senators Ahmed Lawan, Kabiru Gaya, Oluremi Tinubu, Orji Kalu, Muhammad Ali Ndume, Honorable Femi Gbajamiala, Usman Jaha, Gudaji Kazaure and their colleagues are expected to represent and say the interest of Nigerians in the National Assembly.
Yesterday, some members of the Senate revived their sinister agenda of calling for the resignation of the Service Chiefs, simply because they reckon that the Service Chiefs have underperformed and failed woefully in the discharge of their duties. The Distinguished Senators are of the opinion that the Service Chiefs are responsible for all the myriad of security challenges confronting Nigeria. Whether this is a right step taken by the senators or not, it is for Nigerians to decide. However, I want to clearly state my opinion as a stakeholder and a Nigerian.
Before I proceed to give my reasons, I want to categorically say that members of the National Assembly should know that Nigerians don’t consider them credible representatives, except for the heavy security given to them by the government’s security apparatus. Nigerians would have by this time overrun the entire National Assembly Complex to vent their anger on them. Nigerians are still angry about the 37 billion naira votes for the rehabilitation of the National Assembly complex, which is today a symbol of monumental corruption, greed and nepotism. Their acts of extortion, unexecuted contracts, contract inflation, partying and drinking at the expense of the people they claim to represent, is widely known and viewed with great ridicule by Nigerians and other nationals. The way and manner Nigerians from all walks of life rallied behind Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Labour and Productivity after the senators tried to cajole and harass him, is clear evidence that Nigerians now see them for who they are.
Now sentiments aside, let me tell Nigerians why they should ignore the demand of the senators for the resignation of the Service Chiefs.
1. How did we find ourselves in this quagmire of the cantankerous cacophony of security impediments that are now trying to spread to the once serene North-western region of the country? A lot of you reading this article will agree with me that it is because of the failure of our leaders, especially elected representatives to provide purposeful leadership and quality representation to their people. There is a disconnect between the elected representatives and the electorates, and the authorities in the local government councils. It is the duty of the elected representatives to make the average youth in Batsari or Jere to feel the presence of government, and not service chiefs.
2. If the Service Chiefs agree to disappoint they’re Commander-in-Chief and listen to the sinister demand of the senators and resign today, what workable solution and winning formula does the senators have in place apart from the replacement of the service chiefs? What guarantees do they have that those who will replace the Service Chiefs will perform better than the present Service Chiefs?
3. What is currently happening in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) probe is an indictment on the legislative arm that takes oversight duties to extreme limits. Those embezzled funds were meant to cushion the pains of the people of the Niger Delta, but regrettably, ended up in personal accounts. NDDC is not the only bastion of corruption, because I am sure that, if we beam our searchlight into the affairs of the North-East Development Commission (NEDC), we shall see another can of worms. The North- East Development Commission is one government institution that is saddled with the implementation of the Buhari Plan, which I truly believe if it had been implemented, the causes of insurgency in the Northeast region would have been mitigated. None of the senators is talking about the NEDC with a view to ascertaining how they are discharging their mandate.
4. What did the senators do to put in place a strong deterrence mechanism to prevent insurgency, terrorism and banditry in Nigeria? It is on record that the Nigerian troops have on numerous occasions arrested insurgents, terrorists and bandits, but weak laws made it easy for these criminals to be freed or be rehabilitated with kid gloves. Did the senators make any moves to put in place a strong mechanism by way of making laws that will make the consequences of aiding or collaborating with insurgents and bandits to be very grievous? Is it not one of them that recently submitted a Bill for the rehabilitation of terrorists? How does a Bill like that deter people from joining the ranks of the insurgents and terrorists? Let our very Distinguished Senators take a trip to Egypt and see how legislators there are enacting stiffer laws to deal with insurgency and terrorism. Let them go there and see how legislators are collaborating with the military and President Abdulfatah Al-Sisi to safeguard Egypt.
5. What are the senators doing to help the military to end this insecurity? I still remember the proactive and daring measures Senator John Mccain took to visit Syria and Iraq to engage with troops and other stakeholders on how to achieve peace in those countries. What kind of contribution are the senators making in the areas of intelligence gathering, dialogue and negotiations for the cessation of hostilities, since most of the insurgents and terrorists are known to them? I have it on good record that some of them have relatives who were directly or indirectly involved with the terrorists and bandits?
6. Are our senators and representatives even accessible to Nigerians? They are supposed to represent the masses in government, but I can tell you that none of them is accessible. They don’t reply to SMS or answer calls. Youths in their constituents don’t have access to them. These youths don’t have jobs or start-ups to initiate small businesses. As a result, they are now tools in the hands of terrorists and insurgents.
7. Just recently, I met Senator Ali Ndume in Maiduguri and also at the Maiduguri NAF Base and I heard how he was condemning the Federal Government, especially the Finance Ministry because, according to him, not a single dime was released to the military for capital projects since January 2020. What is exactly his position on issues of national security? His position is that a change of Service Chiefs will not make any difference. In fact, he never raised the motion to call for the sack of the Service Chiefs.
8. Did the senators forget about the National Security Adviser, the DG, State Security Services and the DG National Intelligence Agency? What about the IGP? Why are they not talking about them? If they have any personal grouse with the military, let us know.
Instead of the senators to think proactively and support the President and the Armed Forces with good ideas that will help the government, they are calling for the resignation of Service Chiefs, which to me is a matter of concern, because they are encouraging mutiny in the armed forces. What the senators are doing, in the long run, is going to be counter-productive to the counter-insurgency war, and even the entire democratic government of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is why the President should be commended for refusing to listen to the unfruitful and unproductive grumblings of the senators. The prompt response given by the Commander in Chief yesterday is a step taken in the right direction.
What the senators should do
What I expect the senators to do is to create effective back door channels for dialogue and negotiations with the insurgents and terrorists, who I understand are mostly Nigerians. I expect the senators to advise the government to create a National Counter-Terrorism Agency that will be saddled with the responsibility of addressing internal security challenges like terrorism and banditry. I expect the senators to tell some of the State governments to be more proactive. For example, the Zamfara State Government implement the Security Report of the IGP Abubakar D Mohammed, if it is truly committed to safeguarding the lives and property of its people. I am aware that many notable personalities, including judges, politicians, traditional chiefs and some security personnel were indicted in the report. Is the government trying to hide the report to cover these privileged people?
The senators should listen to Senator Ali Ndume, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army because he has a clearer understanding of the matter at hand. In an interview he granted to Channels Television recently, Sen. Ndume said that the Army needed equipment like drones and helicopters, and boost to their numeral strength. He empathized with the Army because of the numerous operations they are conducting across a country of gargantuan landmass with an Army of 200,000.
As for the issue of the resignation or retention of the Service Chiefs, I don’t think it is necessary to lobby or advocate for the retention of the Service Chiefs, because the President knows what he is doing; he knows the sacrifice some of them are making to keep this country safe. While it is true that no man is indispensable in this life, we believe that this is not the time to talk about the resignation of the Service Chiefs. In any case, the Revised Armed Forces of Nigeria’s Harmonized Terms and Conditions of Service 2017 (HTACOS) empowers the president to extend the tenure of the security chiefs, irrespective of age or length of service. Part 1 of the HTACOS, Section 11.09 of the document states that “the foregoing notwithstanding, the President/C-in-C reserves the prerogative to extend the tenure of a CDS/Service Chief irrespective of his age or length of service.”
Nigerians are proud of the Military and many of us are ever ready to support and defend them.
Dr. Abubakar Mohammed Sani writes from Maiduguri