March 29, 2020

Re: Why Service Chiefs Cannot Be Changed

with Suleiman Uba Gaya
0803 567 6295 (Text Message Only)

Even before Senator Ali Ndume made the now famous remarks last week, to the effect that technically speaking, Nigeria is at a state of war and cannot afford to change the service chiefs heading different branches of the Nigerian military, I was one of many discerning Nigerians who have consistently argued along the same lines.

Our compatriots that are critical of the appointment of the service chiefs, or of their remaining in office, need to know the depth of commitment and sacrifice that these officers and gentlemen have made for this great nation of ours.

The service chiefs, though appointed by a President who means the best for Nigeria, and who himself was an army General, have been operating under severe conditions and limitations. Yet, they have remained unrelenting, ensuring that terrorism is being wiped out of our psyche, and limiting bandits and terrorists mostly to soft targets. For the first time in four years, we can, In most parts of the country, operate freely without the fear of terrorists bomb getting detonated to snuff the life out of us.

With a budget that is only a fraction of that of New York Fire Service, the Nigerian military, under the current service chiefs, has managed to achieve what the best militaries in the world could only achieve with more sophisticated weapons and almost limitless budgets.

Nigeria service chiefs

Fighting guerrilla warfare has always been a mighty challenge that has defied even the most sophisticated militaries globally. That informs why the United States, mighty as it is, militarily, is still in Afghanistan and other places. The wars being waged are simply not conventional. It is a war where the enemy has no respect for rule of engagement. He can dress like the victim, and use that to inflict heavy casualty.

Given this very reality, and against the backdrop of our own reality as a nation, the military law that suggests a two year tenure for service chiefs must be amended with the highest dispatch. It is heavily ridiculous and we cannot afford that kind of law that dictates a heavy turnover of service chiefs in Nigeria.

If there is one institution desirous of continuity in Nigeria, it is the military where at present, the army alone is engaged in almost all states of the federation, either keeping the peace or fighting terrorists and insurgents.

Take a look at this example: if even one service chief is changed today, it will take at least a year for his successor to fully study the handover notes and comprehend the issues at stake. That is, even if the one appointed is close to the one currently holding the office. Nigerians need to ask themselves the setback the country will suffer just because we are intent in replacing the service chiefs.

Luckily, as mentioned earlier, President Buhari is a retired army general who knows more than we do, about these intricacies. He knows more than we do, the fact that it will be counterproductive to change the highest commanders of the war against terror at a time international terror cells are not just taking deep interest in Nigeria, but are also waging a heavy war against us. The ISIS West Africa (ISWAP) is one such example.

The military have in the last four years succeeded in crushing Boko Haram, such that only the remnants exist today. But what of those international terror groups that are far more sophisticated and ruthless? All that they will need to possibly overrun our country is the gap that will be created if our service chiefs are changed at this point in time.

Certainly most of those agitating for change at the top have their vested interests. Some are doing it for religion, forgetting that of the four service chiefs, two are Muslims, while two are Christians. It is evenly balanced. Whatever the case or consideration, we cannot as a nation allow any vested interest to override our national interest.

Let the present crop of service chiefs remain in office for as long as they continue squeezing water out of stone to score victories against insurgents and terrorists, inspite of the monumental challenge of inadequate funding, arising from our corrupt past, militating against them.

I have refrained from commenting on the royal tussle currently rocking my home state of Kano because I may be seen as an interested party. Firstly, I voted for Governor Ganduje’s second term of office, not just because I see in him a leader embodying humility, but also because of his massive achievements especially in infrastructure development.

From whatever dispassionate angle one looks at it, Ganduje is a gamechanger; a Governor who, inspite of being accused of corruption, is managing to massively develop the entire state, and also pay salaries of civil servants as and when due. Ordinarily, payment of salaries should not count as an achievement, but then that is what it has become in this clime where elected leaders always complain of dearth of financial resources for largely the reason that they hardly see beyond their nose. Most of our governors are not innovative enough to squeeze water out of stone and create other means of generating revenue. Only in Nigeria would a governor sitting on massive wealth, with his state having several mineral resources, be complaining of paucity of resources.

I have every other reason to hate Ganduje, but then these reasons are personal, and definitely not enough to make me turn a blind eye to his achievements.

Secondly, Gaya, my ancestral hometown, is a key beneficiary of Governor Ganduje’s policy of bringing traditional authority closer to the people, being one of the four emirates created by him.

It is deeply saddening that the rigmarole around the creation of four emirates in Kano State has lingered for many months, and is fast threatening cohesion in a state that at a time in our history, had the notorious record of erupting in violence at the slightest prompting.

Now, let’s look at the issues one after the other: Firstly, though Governor Ganduje is constitutionally empowered to dethrone and appoint emirs in his state, the mistake he made was making this look like an act of vendetta. There are credible reports of the governor telling those intervening in the face-off between him and the Emir of Kano, Malam Muhammadu Sanusi II, that the later mobilized against him during the gubernatorial election earlier in the outgoing year, and that before then, the Emir was fond of criticizing his government publicly.

For me, though I always believe the current Emir of Kano is a major asset not just to Kano, but Nigeria as a whole, he has no cogent reason to aspire for the role he is now occupying, though also by right, he is entitled to it. I say this because Malam Sanusi Lamido will always be Sanusi Lamido. He has always been a rebel of a sort; a man who does not, and cannot keep his mouth shut on any matter he disagrees with. Sadly, being a man of deep knowledge, he sees wrong in many situations. He plays his life as perfectionist, forgetting that no human being, himself inclusive, is ever perfect.

While, on the surface, there may be nothing wrong with this kind of posture, there is everything wrong with it when you are the Emir of Kano and in many respects, the conscience of the people, but operating under a system that places limitations in your actions.

There was a time in our history when emirs and kings are the alphas and omegas whose words on any matter could not be challenged. But with modernity comes changes, which at present, in every state in Nigeria, ridiculously places emirs below a local government chairman.

For any king or Emir to remain in his position therefore, he must not stir the hornets nest by publicly criticizing the government of the day, or even advising it in a manner that suggests criticism. All emirs, especially that of Kano, has unfettered access to the sitting Governor, and in many cases, even to the president of the country. The expectation, therefore, is that any advice they have should be tendered through the instrumentality of private audiences with the Governor That way, more often than not, they get the best for their subjects, the people they preside over. The late Emir of Kano, Sanusi’s predecessor, used this to maximum effect, and it was for that reason Kano prospered under his leadership.

But Sanusi knew from the word go that he is not cut out for this kind of role. Those who know him very well will tell you that he has been a thorn in the flesh of successive administrations for many years, long before he realized his childhood ambition of getting appointed the Emir of Kano.

If SLS, as he was more popularly known before his current post had done a deep introspection, he will have kept a distance from occupying the post of Emir and go for politics, instead. If he had done that, chances are that he might have been the governor of Kano State today.

So as things stand, the reality is that no matter the depth of intervention on the part of all or any of the powerful committees currently seeking to resolve the impasse, the Emir will inadvertently, on the long run, breach the terms, in as much as they will include the proviso that he cannot advice or criticize the state government publicly.

To be fair to the Emir, though, this has nothing to do with any disrespect for Governor Ganduje, as is being alleged. It is just his nature, and there is little or even nothing anyone can do about it.

For any peace to be lasting, therefore, Governor Ganduje should be made to understand that the acts of insurbodination that he alleges against Emir Sanusi, are hardly personal. So it is his option to accept the man as he is, or find an alternative.

Secondly, since it has been proven that Emir Sanusi has breached his office by taking sides in the last governorship election, he must he made to apologize to the Governor privately, even if with cabinet members of the government around. The apology should never be made public, as the Emir represents an institution the people hold in awe.

Thirdly, Emir Sanusi must accept the fact that Governor Ganduje is his boss. And so is any other person that will succeed the governor, for as long as he remains the Emir. He therefore has no option than to accept the other emirates created by the governor, and wholeheartedly embrace the four emirs, eventhough they were his subordinates. The provocative acts of sacking emirate members of staff who show allegiance to the Governor must stop immediately. If possible, those sacked should be recalled to their duty posts or to some other role.

Then perhaps the biggest of all: the Governor should, as a matter of serious urgency, redraw the map of the five emirates to ensure that the four kingmakers of Kano remain part of Kano Emirate.

Even when the late Governor Abubakar Rimi created four emirates in the 80s, he was tactful not to tamper with the kingmakers, because doing so approximates to tampering with the rich history of the people.

It was not for nothing that Emir Dabo, one of the best administrators in history, created these kingmakers two hundred years ago. They are a deep part of the tradition of the people of the state, and the traditional branches or houses that they represent have been in existence for a thousand years.

There are apologists of the Governor who argue that people make history, and not the other way round. That is of course true, but only to an extent. Governor Ganduje has every right to make history by creating four or even more emirates, provided the state could afford to fund them, but he must be very careful not to tamper with traditions that have been serving the people very well for centuries.

Those kingmakers: Makama (Jobawa), )
Sarkin Bai (Dambazawa)
Sarkin Dawaki Maituta (Sullubawan Tuta)
Madaki (their leader, from Yolawa) represent the nine ruling houses that waged the Jihad of Shehu Usman Danfodio. They are the soul and conscience of Kano Emirate, in every sense of the word.

No reform should puncture this aspect of our history, in the same way a child cannot change his or her parents. The nine of them are Malam Dangabuwi, Malam Jamo, Malam Dabon Dambazau, Malam Sulaimanu, Qadhi Usmanul Hausawi, Malam Muhammad Gyane and Malam Jibir. Of course it could be argued that the ninth, the house of Malam Dantunku and Gebe are now in Kazaure Emirate, it must not be forgotten that Kazaure Emirate was recognized by the founder of Sokoto Caliphate, Shehu Usman Danfodio.

Placing the four kingmakers under another Emirate is a misnomer of deep proportion, and it is one mistake Governor Ganduje, a man I genuinely see as a man of peace, should correct without delay. The governor should never allow any of his palace courtiers to instigate him to do what it wrong, because at the end of the day, history will remember only him and hold him to account. It will never reckon with any of the chorus singers saying negative things about Emir Sanusi. The same people now urging Ganduje against Sanusi will be found around his successor, even if the next governor is his enemy.

I know for a fact that many of the current political appointees of Governor Ganduje have secretly started making overtures to Engr. Abba Kabir Yusuf, when it appeared he was winning the 2019 governorship election. Ganduje should therefore be very careful and allow his conscience and good guidance to govern any action he is going to take on this or any other matter.

Lastly, the Governor should also call some of his loquacious aides to order and instruct them to stop openly insulting Emir Sanusi, just as the Emir should also keep a distance from singers who sang songs that are openly insulting to the Governor.

There is no doubt that Governor Ganduje has started very well, and is definitely one of the highest achieving governors in Nigeria’s history. This is definitely not an act in sycophancy. Before me, APC governors have said the same thing. It is just the plain truth.
He must remember that of the four years remaining in his second tenure of office, he has so far spent seven whole months. The governor must resist the urge to allow any enmity with Emir Sanusi to distract him and ultimately destroy his legacy.

Governor Ganduje must also always keep in mind that his deep level of tolerance and patience got him to the high office of Governor of one of Nigeria’s frontline states. He must not squander that on the alter of personal enmity with anyone, whoever the person might be.

Compliments of the season to the growing fans of this column. May the year 2020 be the best for us all.

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