East week, Nigeria’s ambassador to Washington blasted the United States for refusing to sell his country the weapons needed to deliver “the killer punch” to Boko Haram.
In the most ill timed and ill informed speech I have ever heard from a diplomat, Ambassador Adefuye dismissed as “rumours, hear-says and exaggerated accounts” allegations of human rights abuses by the Nigerian army in its crackdown on the Islamist extremists.
The speech, delivered in the US came at a time when his country men at home were just wondering what kind of a military they are currently saddled with. A few weeks before Adefuyi’s attack, Nigeria’s Chief of defence staff, Alex Badeh announced a truce with Boko Haram, calling on all military men to lay down their arms.
His position was confirmed by Hassan Tukur, the private secretary to President Goodluck Jonathan. Mr Tukur explained further that following a one month negotiation effort in Chad, Boko Haram announced a unilateral ceasefire, making it incumbent on the Nigerian military to do the same.
Boko Haram’s reaction to this ‘good news’ was to intensify their military campaign, overawe the Nigerian military who had laid down their arms in obedience to ‘oga at the top’ and seize large territories of Nigeria. In the most audacious move since their military campaign started five years ago, they captured the home town of the army chief who announced the truce and took over Mubi the commercial nerve centre and second biggest town in Adamawa state. The tragedy of it all is that Mubi was supplied with a large and fresh cache of arms a day before a 64 man band of the insurgents came overpower a whole battalion of Nigerian army. They looted the whole armoury and massacred Nigerian troops and civilians. Is this the kind of army the US should continue supplying their weapons to, I may ask
Ambassador Adefuye sees it differently. In his words, “We find it difficult to understand how and why in spite of the US presence in Nigeria with their sophisticated military technology, Boko Haram should be expanding and becoming more deadly.”
In reaction, the State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said there were concerns about Nigerian military’s protection of civilians when conducting military operations. “Earlier this year, we denied the transfer of some cobra attack helicopters to Nigeria due to concerns about Nigeria’s ability to use and maintain this type of helicopter in its effort against Boko Hara,” she added.
The Ambassador’s verbal jibes in the US seem to me a desperate attempt to export to that country the uncouth behavior of the president’s men here, led by Doyin Okupe who daily assails us with their insensitive conduct and puerile arguments.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, all hopes that the Nigeria military and their civilian overlords will conduct themselves in some civilized manner have come to naut.
Consider these facts – the military invasion of Benue state in 2001. These days, I often stop over at Tse Adoor on the way to my remote village to greet Mama Adue Malu Adoor. One story she never tires narrating to me is the invasion of her home by the military late in 2001.
“They held a gun to my head and told me that they were sent from Abuja to kill me. They said they took pity of me as an old woman and will not kill me but I must do all they want me to do. I told them I’am the mother of all Nigerian soldiers and will be happy to die in the hands of my children”.
The soldiers asked the woman, then over 80 years of age to lie down, open her eyes and face the sun. When she could not do that, they roughly pushed her to the ground and insisted she must keep her eyes open as she lay on her back, facing the blazing, scorching, afternoon sun!
Mama Adue Malu invited this bestial treatment on herself, all because she gave birth to a son, Samuel Victor Leo Malu who joined the army and rose to the rank of Lieutenant General and Chief of Army Staff. A thoroughbred combatant, he avoided the lure of political office throughout his career when it was more fashionable for soldiers to stage coup’s and take over political offices or become cringing boot leakers to the coup makers so as to get some political office.
Gen Malu was in love with guns and the jungle. He held Bakassi for Nigeria throughout the Abacha era when Cameroon could have overrun it easily; rubbed Charles Taylor’s nose in the mud in Liberia and restored some semblance of peace in the chaos that was known as Sierra Leone.
In the search for an army chief who would restore professionalism in a politicized army as Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, both President Obasanjo and General Danjuma his Defence Minister were agreed on one man – Victor Leo Malu. But the romance between Malu and his Commander-in Chief did not last long. Obasanjo and his newly appointed military chief disagreed over a secret pact with Americans. The Commander in Chief reacted with frightening military anger. He fired General Malu.
But he was not finished with him yet. An opportunity offered itself in the form of the perennial Tiv Jukun tribal wars.
As the low grade civil war raged on, an army platoon sent to the troubled area in Taraba State, supposedly to keep the peace soon joined the affray and became as notorious as the Jukun militia in attacking Tiv villagers in both Benue and Taraba, looting foodstuffs and raping women. The band was soon ambushed, outwitted, taken hostage and brutally murdered in Zaki Biam. Then all hell was let lose.
Even though the soldiers were murdered in ZakiBiam, about twenty kilometers away, Obasanjo sent soldiers to General Malu’s country home at Tse Adoor and his mother and other family members were special targets. His uncle of over 90 years and his wife were killed even as his mother of over 80 years was subjected to military drills.
The Nigerian military has not only proved that it could be a private force of personal vengeance, it has shown that it can easily give out their weapons, supplied by America as gifts to the terrorists and insurgents it ought to be fighting. We have the case of Gen Azazi under whose watch the Nigerian Army armoury was burgled in Kaduna and the hardware there supplied to Niger Delta militants. Indicted in a government report and retired, the man amazingly resurfaced as a National Security Adviser to the President Goodluck Jonathan.
Given this background, Ambassador Adebowale Adefuye should save us further international shame and ridicule by speaking in America when the facts at home do not support his pompous speeches.