In January 2014, former President Goodluck Jonathan in his own wisdom, decided to appoint Air Marshal Alex S. Badeh as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Almost immediately, a United States-based Nigerian journalist Abiodun Ladepo circulated an opinion on the web suggesting that Badeh was too fat to head our military. I thought my colleague’s opinion particularly his assertion that Badeh was “the most out of shape officer” he had ever seen was rather harsh and uncharitable. When Badeh assumed office, he spent ample time pointing accusing fingers at a section of the press for being anti-government.
I imagined that he probably had people like Ladepo in mind. Two issues convinced me to further investigate Ladepo’s critical assessment of the then CDS. First, at a show in Lagos last year, one comedian said he too could become Nigeria’s Chief of defence Staff. His claim to the office was that he was almost as fat as the incumbent. He also said that when Badeh was appointed CDS, Baba Obasanjo laughed for a very long time adding that the last time he saw the former President, Baba was still laughing over the appointment. Knowing the dangers of Obasanjo’s unending laughter, I convinced myself at the end of the show that Badeh was a man to watch.
After a while, I found too many problems with his management of the Military but felt that whatever went wrong ought to be overlooked in view of those difficult days of Boko Haram when our troops ran away from the enemy claiming that they were ill-equipped; while their families embarked on public demonstrations against the posting of their bread winners to the battle front.
At a point, some soldiers were tried for mutiny and sentenced to death, as Badeh spoke tough at public fora to condemn the perceived cowardly act of those soldiers. But were they really well equipped? In an interview with the Nigerian Defence Magazine, Badeh did not only answer in the affirmative, he was reported to have also said that “the Nigerian military is very well taken care off. We live in houses we don’t pay accommodation for. We have buses that bring troops to work every day and take them back home. We don’t pay for light; we don’t pay for water. Our salaries are good compared with what is paid in the civil place. If someone with school certificate joins the army, by the time he is five years in the service, his salary has doubled that of a graduate.”
But the day he left office, the then CDS sang a new song as he blamed the failure of his military to defeat the insurgents on poor equipment. According to Badeh, the last time weapons were bought for the Nigerian Army was in 2006 while the military in his days flew the oldest fighter jets in the whole world. Badeh also confirmed that Nigeria lost many soldiers who walked into Boko Haram’s ambush facilitated by collaborators from within. Why then were some soldiers tried and convicted for what their former CDS chose to confirm at his own convenience? Although he had argued that the military was well looked after, Badeh asked government when he was leaving office to build barracks for the military so that they can recruit more soldiers. With the benefit of hand sight journalist Ladepo and the Lagos comedian got their facts right
It was a sharp departure from the gloomy picture of the past lasst Thursday at a public workshop in Abuja on the need for the media and our security operatives to build and sustain harmonious working relationship that could facilitate the end to insurgency in our country. The conference was organized by the National Orientation Agency which appears to have regained its mandate to vigorously pursue value reorientation of Nigerians. Brigadier Rogers Nicholas, the Chief of Civil/ Military affairs spoke with confidence accepting some limitations of his constituency while educating the forum on steps being taken to bring insurgency to an end..
It is indeed, heartwarming that the military had within a short period reversed the nation’s sense of hopelessness. First, unlike its predecessors that fought their own war in Abuja where there were no real adversaries, the present military leadership is at the heart of the war front purposefully leading its operatives. Our military is no longer on the defensive, instead, what comes out of the war zone these days, are reports of achievements to the extent that the target date of clearing the insurgents is looking more realistic. More importantly, the old order of lack of synergy between our different security operatives is now a thing of the past. The other day, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, publicly commended the Department of State Services (DSS) for effecting the arrest of a high profile terrorist in Maiduguri metropolis. On the occasion, Buratai revealed that the DSS had over time proven to be dependable partners in the quest for a secured Nigeria.
It can be argued that this piece of eulogy is too early. There are indeed many Nigerians who will take our encomiums with caution bearing in mind that the abducted queens of Chibok are yet to be liberated. But for us, this is the best time for the rest of us to begin to show appreciation in view of the winning signs that are showing. The war is not only being prosecuted with vigour, the military is asking for the cooperation of the civil population to enable them conclude successfully. Such support in our view ought to include the clamour by the citizenry for better funding to make our military the perfect force of our dream. This writer in particular having incessantly criticized the military for its use of mundane tactics and obsolete facilities is morally bound to also lead in supporting such claims as well as helping to boost the morale of our fighters. This no doubt explains why today’s piece is an appeal for us all to appreciate our gallant military hoping that such public support may turn out to be the required tonic for ending the insurgency.