By Ifeanyi Izeze
It is very painful that my people perish for lack of knowledge and have continued this long to deceive themselves. To think that what is happening in the northeast and now north central is a northern phenomenon would only amount to naivety at best because it is an evil wind that will blow no section of the country any good. Is it not surprising and at worse embarrassing the increasing sophistication and clinical coordination of the group of attackers we still call cattle rearers that have meted chained terror to our people in the North Central states of Kaduna, Benue and Nasarawa and now Zamfara in the northwest?
Is it deliberate that our leaders have preferred to insist these people are “Fulani herdsmen,” or is there more to this awkward branding of our invaders? A problem is half solved if it is properly identified/labeled and the continued diversionary tact of calling these organized terror gangs “Fulani hersdmen” whether deliberately or ignorantly is in itself suspect in this entire terror menace. These attackers, do they go with their women carrying their nono? Do they go with their less than ten-year old boys? If yes, do both the women and boys carry rifles and machine guns to join in the wanton killings each time they operate? If all the answers to the above questions are no, then these attackers are not our own Fulani herdsmen. Period!
Has it ever occurred to the managers of our national security that we more likely are having the emergence of a sister terror group or even that the Boko Haram sect has deliberately chosen to operate with a different identity in the north central region? Who knows what name they are going to emerge with in the northwest, southwest, southeast and south-south? Of course the level of sophistication and the dastardly acts of these attackers makes it compulsive for any enlightened mind to unequivocally say that these men are not our own Fulani brothers who though had been cantankerous in the past had never displayed the level of horrendous actions we are seeing today in northern parts of the country.
The question to ask is: why is it that these people always take our security operatives unawares? They always finish their dastardly acts before arrival of our counter-insurgency security forces. Haba! And instead of sitting together to marshal out a coordinated approach to address this challenge, our service chiefs are embroiled in foolish rivalries and are more interested in power grabs for themselves all because of what is in it for them.
With the security challenge we have in our hands, do we need to tell our service chiefs that this country can ill afford the diversion of energies on account of these rivalries among the service chiefs and the Minister of Defence, especially at this time when we are dealing with a dangerous enemy to our national security- the ominous emergence of terrorism-which is a relatively new security challenge? Rivalry for whatever reason should not be allowed to overshadow the larger goals of confronting the unprecedented security challenge brought on by terrorism. Vested interests should not hold the country back either in the face of the stubborn determination of the terrorists to undermine national security.
In the light of the unambiguous provisions of the Constitution and the Armed Forces Act, as explained by the Lagos –based Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana, the Chief of Defense Staff and the Service Chiefs are answerable to the Minister of Defense to whom the President has delegated his executive powers with respect to the defense of the federation.
As said, pursuant to section 218(3) of the Constitution, “The President may, by directions in writing and subject to such conditions as he may think fit, delegate to any member of the armed forces of the Federation his powers relating to the operational use of the Armed Forces of the Federation”. The President pursuant to section 147 of the Constitution equally appoints the Minister of Defense. But the President has, in exercise of his powers under sections 5(1) and 148(1) of the Constitution, delegated his executive powers of managing the defense ministry to the Minister of Defence.
Apart from such power of superintendence, the Minister is recognized as the head of the Ministry of Defense by the Armed Forces Act (CAP A20) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. Thus, in the Armed Forces Council and the National Defense Council the Minister of Defense is higher than the Chief of Defense Staff and the service chiefs in the ranking of the members. For the avoidance of doubt, the Minister of Defense is the Chairman while the Chief of Defense Staff is the Vice-Chairman of the Army Council, Navy Board and Air Council (See sections 9, 12 and 15 of the Armed Forces Act). It is pertinent to note that the permanent secretary who is a civilian is the accounting officer of the Ministry of Defense and a member of the governing councils of the armed forces.
Now that the embarrassing row between the Minister of Defence, Aliyu Gusau and the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh seemed to have been covered up, the issues at the crux of the power tussle need to be thoroughly addressed so that we don’t have a future reoccurrence of such ugly incident especially with the likely implication of the rift on the government’s effort at foiling an increasingly complicated and bloody insurgency by extremist groups.
Ifeanyi Izeze, is an Abuja-based Consultant: email@example.com