Nigeria: A battle of the gods

In Nigeria, there is a god, a deity of a special genre. It is called the military. Many things are fused into it. The Army, the Navy, the Airforce. Three components, one entity. The Nigerian military is theomorphic by reputation. It is worshipped, almost, by everyone.

And just like gods of its nature, it assumes some all-knowing, all-conquering power. The ordinary people dread the military and whatever it stands for. And it stands for many things: aristocracy, lawlessness, brigandage, high moral values, bad behaviour, good behaviour, roguery, pristine virtues, power show etc. It is a mixed bag. It stands for coup, betrayal, back-stabbing, discrimination. It is a hotbed for ethno-religious partisanship.
The Nigerian military is the reason why Nigeria is still where she is: a Grade A third world nation with all the attributes of cavemen republic. The military is a mysterious club of demi-gods, of serio-comic men, of jokers and jesters, clowns and wags. Graduates of the military is a rare mix of patriots and parasites; guzzlers and goblins; statesmen and grumpy old men.
Let’s consider some of these graduates: Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Muhammadu Buhari, Dan Ali, Theophilus Danjuma. These are all statesmen, grumpy old men and gods in their own right. They have shaped the destiny of the nation and they still do. Men of their stature are considered unassailable. No mere mortal or bloody civilian can contend with them. Not even gentleman Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in the peak of his famed political fortune. As president and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, Jonathan was overtly beholden to the military and its powerful graduates.
On January 8, 2012, in those brutally bloody days of Boko Haram accentuated by bombs and bombings in the North down to Abuja, a helpless President Jonathan could only but voice his frustrations to Nigerians. He trusted the military to dislodge the insurgents but the military had other ideas. The money Jonathan advanced to the military hierarchy to buy arms was used by the Khaki men to satiate their luxurious lifestyles, buy palatial houses at home and abroad and serenade their mistresses in the poshest parts of the world.
A terrified and obviously disappointed Jonathan openly told the nation that members of the extremist Boko Haram sect have succeeded in infiltrating his government. He made the disturbing disclosure during a church service at the National Ecumenical Centre as part of that year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebrations. Jonathan pointedly said that the Boko Haram sect has succeeded in planting its members in government agencies and security outfits.
Jonathan as chief security officer of the nation was speaking from a position of strength and authority. His submission was a theorem too true to be dismissed. And there were indicators to justify it. Some military personnel swore that Jonathan was right. They said each time a preemptive attack was planned against the insurgents, they (insurgents) always found a way of escape, meaning certain persons within the ranks of the troops were feeding the Boko Haramists with accurate information. The military never refuted this.
Fast-forward to March 24, 2018. Occasion: maiden convocation ceremony of Taraba State University, Jalingo. Speaker: Former minister of defence, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd). The subject matter is Fulani herdsmen, a cousin of Boko Haram, ranked just like Boko Haram, as one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world. Gen. Danjuma, a recipient of honorary doctor of science degree by the university dropped a bombshell. He accused the Nigerian Armed Forces (military) of colluding with the killer herdsmen to kill Nigerians. His words were weighty and unambiguous: “The Armed Forces are not neutral. They collude with the armed bandits that kill people, kill Nigerians; they facilitate their movement; they cover them….the ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State, it must stop in all the other states of Nigeria. Otherwise Somalia would be child’s play”. These were not the words of a commoner or a bloody civilian but the voice of a god in the military club of gods and demi-gods.
Now, compare what Jonathan said of the military in 2012 and what Danjuma said of the same military in 2018, both on different occasions and different subject matters. The common denominator is compromise. They both point to a compromised national security apparatchik. And this is where I disagree with Major Dan Ali (rtd), the minister of defence and the Army. They both dismissed the statement of Danjuma as a non-issue.
It is a big issue and it calls for introspection not dismissal. It is not in doubt that there are many good military men and women but you cannot also dismiss the reality that there could be Judases within the military fold – those who collude with killer herdsmen and Boko Haram insurgents; those who give them both information and cover. The manner the killer herdsmen and insurgents have operated with faultless precision over the years points to the existence of fifth columnists and moles within the military rank.
When Boko Haram members abduct hundreds of school girls in Chibok and Dapchi in truck loads and return same in convoy of trucks, buses and SUVs unchallenged, there is a reason to worry. When killer herdsmen overrun communities in Taraba, Benue, Ebonyi, Delta among others, plunder farmlands, kill natives and share the spoils of their conquest without resistance from those constitutionally mandated to defend the people and the nation’s territorial integrity, we should worry. I expect the military authorities to worry and examine the make-up of their operational personnel. Can Jonathan and Danjuma be both wrong? Did they not speak from their positions of influence?
But Nigerians should not fret. There is an emerging pattern. The military is fighting the military. Danjuma and Obasanjo were part of the club that installed Buhari. Both men now feel a sense of disappointment. On another end of the tether is Babangida who himself has voiced his anger and disappointment at the state of insecurity in the nation. Dan Ali has urged well-meaning Nigerians to disregard Danjuma’s call for self-defence, meaning Danjuma himself is not well-meaning. These men, without exception, are all retired Generals, graduates of the theomorphic Nigerian military. They are all gods, deities of sort. No mere mortal should interfere in this combat of the gods. It is called theomachy, the battle among the gods.
All mere and ordinary Nigerians should stay away from the roped arena. Let the gods battle themselves and with themselves. Those who packaged Buhari and sold him to Nigerians as the best democratic product on the Nigerian shelf are the ones baying for his blood and labelling him sectional, incompetent, and unable to lead and lead well. And you just wonder; at what point did Buhari go wrong with his colleagues? Why has Danjuma suddenly realized that there is attempt at ethnic cleansing? Why is Obasanjo, the arrowhead of the Buhari-for-president campaign of 2014/2015 telling Nigerians in 2017, that the same Buhari is no longer the anointed one? One reason suffices: the gods are not all-knowing after all. They are not even as wise as we thought they were. These gods are just human; at the very best a club of failed leaders themselves. Only a fraternity of failed leaders will install a failed leadership. Meantime, let the war of attrition continue among the gods.

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Author: Uche Atuma