I would have written about the recent purge in the Army, but I am being careful not to dabble into security matters – which, by the way, are a fetish the people in power use to intimidate and browbeat the rest of us into silence. In the face of injustice!
But my predicament is made even worse by the fact that the Army is insisting that only 38 ‘officers’ were sacked – when the initial list I got had about 50, with another report, claiming that over 200 were actually laid off. And that there were no sentiments involved. The oracle has spoken. God’s case, no appeal!
For instance, who amongst all those making noise about witch-hunt in the recent retirements knows what ‘Service Exigencies’ means? Yet, it was on the strength of that that Army spokesman, Col. S.K. Usman, said the affected officers were kicked out. That is why I insist that ‘security matters’ are a fetish, only comprehensible to the initiated. No matter the side on which you weigh in, you’ll always be wrong. It is, therefore, better to just keep silent.
Now, don’t even ask me when, in recent memory, our Army was genuinely apolitical? I don’t know the answer. In fact, if you ask me, I may be compelled to explain things I don’t know anything about – like why it’s always soldiers of other extractions that are usually sent to quell protests in areas other than their places of origin. For instance, how many Igbo soldiers were sent to confront IPOB protesters in Aba, Owerri, Onitsha, etc? Has it got anything to do with the fact that such soldiers would have no qualms when they need to mow down innocent (and often unarmed) protesters? Of course, that’s not politics!
And talking about corruption, how come we have so many billionaire retired Generals if indeed the Army only recently became corrupt under Goodluck Jonathan? I guess, it’s a case of “everybody steals, but it’s whoever that is caught that gets to be called a thief.”
But, like I said earlier, this is a purely military matter that bloody civilians, like myself, can never understand.
My only quarrel is with the people who have again put the blame for these latest retrenchments on PMB and his perceived sectionalism. What can President Buhari do to satisfy you people?
Until, now, we’d been complaining that PMB had concentrated everything (appointments, budgetary capital allocations, security interventions/assistance, etc.) in the North – to the detriment of the South. In fact, just a few days ago, a group of prominent South West leaders gave a press conference, where they broke everything down to facts and figures. They said about 70% of all PMB’s appointments had gone to the three zones of the North, while a meagre 30% had been given to the three zones of the South. So, shouldn’t these ‘pesky’ Southerners be happy that, for once, a list that has more Southerners than Northerners has finally been approved by PMB – even if it is a sack list?
All my efforts at convincing the ‘wailers’ that the recently released list of Ambassador-nominees was equally representative of our federal character have also fallen on deaf ears. They said they’d only comment after the portfolios have been assigned. Insatiable wailers!
Unfortunately, these same wailers have gone back to the creeks, where they’re now causing more problems for Buhari.
Now, I’m one of the few people who do not believe that the masked guys (wielding all manner of sophisticated weapons), who appeared on national television a few days ago, claiming to be members of the dreaded Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) have anything to do with group, blowing up oil pipelines and holding our economy by the balls.
They did not sound convincing enough. Everything looked like the usual Nigerian arrangee thing. But who arranged them?
But, if indeed they were the Avengers, then they definitely have no idea of what they’re ‘avenging’. Put differently, they might well be mercenaries fighting a proxy war. Another person’s personal war! They’re not avenging anything they believe in.
Unfortunately, we have to negotiate with them. I’m not one of those who would be grandstanding at talkshops – at venues far away from the theatre of war, telling Buhari not to negotiate with blackmailers. That was what we told Jonathan (and Yar’Adua before him) about Boko Haram, until the thing became the Frankenstein it is today.
Luckily, Buhari who is holding the strings to the national purse is daily seeing the financial bottom line. He knows that much as we gloat about how one part of the country produces all the food we eat in the entire country (and that Niger Deltans cannot drink their crude oil), we need the proceeds from the crude oil of Niger Delta to buy fertilizer and sustain the farmlands of the North – at least for now.
As we speak today, no fewer than 25 states, including both the farming and the oil-producing ones, are insolvent. In some states, otherwise vociferous governors have comically joined the workers’ strike to protest the inability of the same state government to pay salaries. Comedy of errors!
In one particular state, the Aluta Governor has even borrowed a leaf from the bible of communism, which long held that religion is the opium of the masses. Weighed down by largely self-inflicted debts and unable to pay salaries, let alone embark on any capital projects, the governor has plunged the citizenry into a divisive religious face-off. He can now have some breathing space while hungry citizens redirect their anger on one another, fighting over whether children should wear Hijab or Sutana or Habit or amulets to school – as if that has any bearing on the several months of unpaid salaries of teachers! But that’s story for another day.
For now, our economy is going down. Our oil production is down to a 20-year low. Naira has crashed to below 350 to the Dollar. Foreign reserve is down. Herdsmen would not let farmers in the Middle Belt to farm. Boko Haram has sacked farmers in the North East. Tomato Ebola has launched an onslaught from the North West (and coming southwards). Food insecurity is staring us in the face. Our only way out for now is to sell crude oil, no matter how cheaply, and get the things we need to survive for now, while we try to get our acts together. Yet some people are grandstanding over negotiating with NDA – an NDA whose audacity is as annoying to the southerners as it is to the northerners.
Interestingly, this foolish pride is not just a Northern ailment. Some people in the South also think along that line. They not only think the South has no need for the North, but even among the southerners, some think themselves more important than others. That is why some people think some oil producing states are more important than others – simply because they are the ‘core’ Niger Delta states. Even MEND, which is pushing for negotiation, chose no representatives from Imo and Ondo states – each of which produces more oil than Edo and Cross River.
The summary of all this is: We will continue to run in circles until we come to the realisation that we all need one another. The world would be such a boring place if we were all smart. The smart people need us, the foolish ones for their brilliance to manifest. But, most of all, just as we can’t hold the entire nation to ransom because we’re the goose that lays the golden egg, we also can’t shut out a whole section of the country from government simply because their son lost an election.