By Jackson T. Oruata
With the nomination of Osita Chidoka, outgoing FRSC Corps Marshal as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the battle line is drawn for a new helmsman. As speculated in the media few days back, the contenders are a British trained combatant but now retired major General Lawrence Onoja against serving 8 Deputy Corps Marshals (DCMs) namely; Yemi Oyeyemi, Adeyi Abu, Demola Lawal, Ojeme Ewurujakpor, Chidi Nwachukwu, Danjuma Garba, A.K. Hassan and Yemi Omidiji. Onoja belongs to what a school of thought acclaimed to be an “Outsider”, while the eighth contestants are the “Insiders”.
Onoja was a two time military governor and served under President Ibrahim Babangida as his first Principal Staff Officer and was later General Sani Abacha’s Principal General Staff Officer (PGSO) and a driving force in the regime’s think tank that created the six geopolitical zones. As PGSO, he was in charge of the 36 military administrators and the 774 LGAs. In addition, Onoja who commanded troops during the Nigerian civil war, has three degrees namely; Bsc. Political Science, Masters in International Relations and a Ph.D in International Law and Diplomacy. The co-contenders are said to have mostly civil service experience and none with paramilitary or military training. Does this give Onoja an edge over them? Only Mr. President has the final say.
As customary in African politics, leaders vacating their offices would always want their stooges or cronies to take over in case of future investigations especially if it involves fraud or maladministration. No case of financial scandal has been said about Osita, but as a human being, he is likely to have a candidate who might be an insider. Of course seeing the tone of the media hype over the “Insider” factor and their arguments, it is my opinion that somebody has something to hide.
The basis of this opinion is that some schools of thought are saying anybody emerging as Corps Marshal being it the speculated general or anyone else that is not a staff of the corps must be disallowed to emerge. In the view of this group, one of the newly promoted DCMs or their assistants should emerge as according to them that standard obtains in other para-military agencies. While this argument sound very tenable to the unsuspecting public, has the advocates of this theory remember how most of these DCM, ACMs got to their present status? If they were in the core civil service, could they all be permanent secretaries? I disagree.
It might interest Mr. President to know that 95% of the serving top brass of the corps were people that came from other agencies of the Federal Government on transfer of service and not premier staff of the FRSC. Can anybody from a government agency transfer his service to the Customs, Prisons, Immigration, Nigeria Police etc without going through their rigorous and professional trainings? Could they have by now become Deputy Controller Generals, Deputy Inspector Generas of Police, etc? From pioneer Olu Ogunloye, all past including the outgoing Corps Marshal was appointed from outside, yet the heaven never fell. Why would some funny Nigerians be sponsoring an unnecessary campaign tagging any contender as an outsider?
I am of the view that the issue of an insider as Corps Marshal is a myopic argument and should be thrown to the dustbin. Rather Mr. President should consider anyone including the reported general if his academic, professional and command qualifications are outstanding. As a Nigerian and having followed the history of the FRSC, any general or retired military officer to be appointed should possess a doctorate degree and have reached the rank of a major general or its equivalent while in service. It is worth noting that in other climes, retired general are made to head the Police. Egypt is a typical example.
It is pertinent to note here that those clamouring for an insider corps marshal are not telling Mr. President the truth that the personnel of the agency are jubilating over the exit of Osita and would prefer an outsider that would put right what has gone wrong under the outgoing regime. Mr. President should note that staff morale has fallen to the lowest ebb in the agency right now. This is without sentiment. For some time now in the agency abnormal staff transfers without payment of the requisite allowances has dampened the spirit of personnel. In this same vein, unusual deductions under the guise of sports wears, stockings has dwindled the monthly salaries of staff. Inability of the outgoing regime to build offices or funding the state and zonal commanders has seriously demoralized the morale of staff, leading to low productivity.
The insider DCMs, ACMs should tell Mr. President what has happened to the Locogoma Staff Housing Estate project. What is the status of the project and the position of UBA that provided the counterpart loan with the FRSC Cooperatives? These are questions that those currently at the top wanting to be Corps Marshal are not likely to have the guts to tackle if appointed. Is Mr. President aware that these redundant DCM and ACMs has blocked young officers from rising in their career because there are no vacancies for promotion? Now it is young officers that are retired prematurely instead of these dead woods. It is my view that the FRSC needs an overhaul and this cannot be done by the so-called insiders. Let an outsider that is the choices of Mr. President do it. Simple.
It is my candid opinion without sentiment that for Mr. President to achieve result and restore the lost glory of the FRSC, a new helmsman outside the agency be appointed. Such officer must have a career record of unequal pedigree in the Nigerian military or para-military in the past. After all, section 7(1) of the FRSC Establishment Act clearly stated that appointment should be on merit and not sentiments. Mr. President should ignore this misleading sentiment of an outsider, so that FRSC will recover its lost glory.
Jackson T. Oruata wrote in from Warri, Delta state.