Ihejirika and Northern Elders Forum
“We are against relocation of sophisticated weapons to the Southern parts of the country” – Northern Elders Forum.
By Onyiorah Chiduluemije Paschal
The above statement credited to Northern Elders Forum, coming at the end of their recently held meeting in Kaduna state, does not only smack of curiosity but also betrays – knowingly or unknowingly – the actual grouse behind their ongoing cowardly and misplaced plan to drag the immediate past Chief of Army Staff – Lt. General Azubike Iherijirka – to the International Criminal Court in Hague over what they claim to be the extra-judicial killings of the “innocent people” of Bama community in Borno state of Northern Nigeria, alleged by these hawks to have been perpetrated by the Nigeria Army under the leadership of Lt. General Azubike Ihejirika.
No doubt, for those sufficiently informed about the pre-Jonathan Nigeria military and the present order in the Force vis-à-vis its modus operandi, it can hardly fall short of stating the obvious to submit that in Nigeria today not a handful of ethnic nationalities are beginning to develop a sort of an increasingly strong feeling and sense of collective ownership of the Nigeria military, with specific regard to the Army, as opposed to the recently old order which completely offered quintessential studies on how a component unit of an apparently politically independent country can arrogantly use the military to advance its parochial political and religious cause through the mechanism of internal colonialism and imperialism directed against other member nationalities of the Federation.
It is essentially unarguable that part of the sins of Lt. General Azubike Ihejirika, which people who call themselves Northern Elders Forum had chosen abini tio to speak about only within the four walls of their bed rooms, arose primarily from his fearless and successful attempts to make the Nigeria Army and the military in general wear and reflect the structural character of the Nigerian Federation – a development we all have no illusions about the predictable inclination of the people of Hausa-Fulani stock in particular. It is thus important to recall that right from the day the announcement of the then major-General Azubike Ihejirika as the Chief of Army Staff was made (and of course coming in the aftermath of the demise of President Umaru Musa Yaradau), the people of the far Northern states comprising mostly the Muslim dominated Hausa-Fulani folks had nursed a great deal of smoldering resentment borne out of fear of possible Igbo brutality against them for resorting to the phenomenon of terrorism as way of registering and/or venting their displeasure on the person of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan over his ascendancy to power – which they are wont to believe is their exclusive preserve. Incidentally, in an attempt to ridicule and impugn the ability and capability of Lt. General Ihejirika and his service Chief colleagues, some of these so-called elders of the North were widely reported in the media as saying that only military officers of Northern extraction (whether in service or out of service) had got the competence, expertise and what have you to stem the tide of the then unabated incident of Boko Haram activities and the attendant anguish being unleashed on the innocent and unsuspecting Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike at the time.
Meanwhile, it will be recalled that these same elements were later to call for the immediate removal of General Andrew Oweyi Azazi (of his blessed memory) as the then National Security Adviser (NSA), all in a bid to pave way for the emergence of their own tribe’s man as the latter’s successor. Of course there is no gainsaying that this was exactly one request swiftly granted them by President Goodluck Jonathan. However, whether Col. Sambo Dansuki who eventually took over from Gen. Azazi has been able to substantially do more than his predecessor in terms of reducing the dastardly activities of the Boko Haram sect (in contradistinction to the earlier mentioned boastful remark credited to some Northern elders that only Northern military personnel – either in uniform or “agbada” – had the competence to tackle the Boko Haram menace) is clearly left for historians to judge with time.
What is more, that these same elders of the North were the first set of people to resort to clamor for a declaration of amnesty for the terrorist elements of the region at a time they began to sense that the Ihejirika-led Nigeria Army was increasingly containing the offensives of the Boko Haram sect and thus had been able to crush scores of its members through the introduction of viable counter insurgent and/or counter terrorist measures speaks volumes about these elders’ aberrant attitude towards issues of terrorism, amnesty, human rights violation, extra-judicial killings as well as their jaundiced perception of the man called Lt. General Azubike Ihejirika.
But beyond the foregoing, perhaps it gladdens the hearts of these so-called elders going by the rate and manner people are increasingly being butchered in almost hourly basis and in virtually all parts of Northern region. For sure, it is no longer news that Boko Haram members and those of their “cousins”, otherwise known as Fulani helmsmen, have been having a field day killing and maiming people with impunity, especially soon after Gen. ihejirika and his Service Chief colleagues ceased to hold fort. In fact, nothing speaks volumes about this ugly trend than the recent report carried by an online media – Premium Times – that no less than two hundred and fifty (250) people have lost their lives in the Northern part of the country just within a couple of weeks. Obviously, this does not include the pathetic demise of the Zaria based Islamic scholar, Sheikh Mohammed Albani, his wife and son as well as scores of innocent and hapless others who lost their lives a few days ago in places like Plateau, Yobe and Kaduna states as a result of vicious operations of the Boko Haram sect and Fulani helmsmen.
Strangely enough, Nigerians are yet to hear the voices of the Northern Elders Forum speaking out in total condemnation of these ongoing wanton killings by the Boko Haram members. Indeed, if death toll, extra-judicial killings or crime against humanity as well as the violation of human rights of Northerners are really factors responsible for the contemplation of Northern elders’ obsession to drag Lt. General Azubike Ihejirika to the International Criminal Court, then one would expect that this group of apparently “concerned citizens” would have first of all done well by compiling their own names for onward submission to the ICC for aiding and abetting Boko Haram activities by dint of series of their unguarded utterances and conspiracy of silence thus far.
Today, the new reality about the Nigeria military is that no ethnic nationality can be said to be enjoying total monopoly or dominance of the military command structures or having sole access to and control of the offensive weapons, arms and ammunitions – as opposed to what used to obtain in the recent past. Accordingly, it need not be belabored that this is one aspect of the reforms that the Nigeria Army under the leadership of Lt. General Azubike Ihejirika did not trifle with. Good enough, that each of the six geo-political zones along which the various ethnic nationalities of Nigeria now enjoy a seemingly full sense of belonging in the running of their National Government can today boast of having their own Army Divisions is no mean feat bequeathed to this country by the Ihejirika-led leadership of the Nigeria Army. Needless to say that by implication and in practical terms, this novel and strategic development has to a large extent, though yet to be sufficiently noticed by all and sundry, helped to further discourage and undermine the propensities of politically ambitious military personnel and/or their penchant for interference in politics or governance. This is more so worthwhile given that to plot and execute a successful military coup in Nigeria now certainly demands a good deal of wider consultations of these various Divisions in order to elicit their maximum and unalloyed cooperation, which only God knows how feasible that would be in view of the present day emotionally charged Nigeria. In fact, going by these novel structural arrangements in the Nigeria Army, there is no gainsaying that coup plotting among military elements and/or its successful execution has somewhat become a more hazardous task than ever.
Basically, to therefore submit that the Ihejirika-led leadership of the Nigeria Army was to a reasonable extent able to balance the military strength of the Federating units of Nigeria through the subtle pursuit of the policy of equal and equitable balance of instruments of terror is too significant an achievement to be ignored or downplayed. Interestingly, this could be the actual hatred the Northern Elders Forum harbors against the person of Lt. General Azubike Ihejirika and, perhaps, the prism through which their actual grouse about the alleged “relocation of sophisticated weapons to the Southern parts of the country” can be well situated.
Onyiorah Chiduluemije Paschal, Abuja -(08037738607).