By: Idoko Ainoko
A story is making the rounds about a petition to Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo on behalf of the 38 senior military officers that were compulsorily retired in June of last year having be found to be corrupt, partisan or ethnic in the performance of their duty. The petition written on behalf of the disgraced officers by one barrister Abdul Muhammed produced headlines like “How Buratai, Dan Alli and Olonisakin Destroyed the Lives of 38 Senior Army Officers.”
To say the least, the petition is an insult on the intellect of every Nigerian that believes in the country making progress economically and democratically for it collectively painted us all as persons whose memory do not go beyond the span of 12 months. The document is a slight on the integrity of Professor Osinbajo by insinuating that he lacks the capacity to personally and independently decipher events and bereft of capacity to recall whose import he was aware of at the time of their making.
Barrister Abdul Muhammed must have his assumption for wasting productive time in drafting the incoherent petition and apparently chief among them is misplaced belief that Nigerians have forgotten the knife edge uncertainty that the actions of some of these officers placed the country upon by their unprofessional act. If the lawyer was genuinely deluded, the citizens have the painful burden of asking a pertinent question: Have We Forgotten So Soon?
How can we forget that some of these officers that are today being portrayed as saints took it upon themselves to descend into the arena of politics? They were this close to polarizing the military along political lines. So nauseous were their conducts that that they were on the verge of foisting their own brand of power through the barrels of gun on the people by actively conniving to sabotage the ballot as the only recognized means for the people to express their desire and choice of leaders. Does this lawyer seriously think the disgraceful act engaged in by someone like Brigadier General Aliyu Momoh, who sat in a hotel room to pervert the will of Ekiti people and bestow the disaster called Ayo Fayose is a trait that should be allowed to persist in Nigeria’s revered military?
If the Brigadier was punished for maliciously and criminally abusing troops under his command and corrupting them to tarnish that which they were sworn to protect in the small enclave that is Ekiti state, why should those that repeat the same bad behaviour on a national scale not be dealt with on a more intense scale? Perhaps, the expectation was that they would be left in place after threatening Nigeria’s democracy so that they would be in place to strike a final damaging blow at a time of their choosing.
There is no point wasting too much time detailing the damage done by those that were shown the way out for dipping their hands in the public till in acts that ultimately led to the death of some troops. But in a country where even convicted thieves and corruption suspects on trial are feted as the credible opposition one is barely surprise that the disgraced officers are the latest on the list of those that are now considered victims that must be immediately canonized, washed with media bleach and presented as saintly frontrunners in the next general elections.
It is best we do not raise the issue of those that were ethnic champions among the retired officers. It is to the credit of such failures that we owe the mutation of ethnic agitation that has become a singsong in the land. If elite military men sank into the opprobrium of seeing their nation as less than their ethnic stock when matters are reckoned then there is no basis to expect nationalism from a barely educated and definitely unenlightened artisan or petty trader. It is the realization of such banality that has made the crimes of the former officers in question deserving of the punishment meted out and more.
It will therefore appear the group of 38 misled their lawyer because being a learned fellow he must know the implication of trying to pull a fast one on Nigerians and Professor Osinbajo. Or is it that the lawyer, going by the address of his chambers in the domain of the former president that was defeated in the polls, was intent on mischief for its face value? This could be another in the series of the spoilers that have been lined up to paint the current government in bad light.
It is apparent in the new desperate bid to taint the Minister of Defense, Mr. Mansur Dan Ali, Chief of Defense Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, when all the allegations raised in the so called petition has been disposed of, having been found to be without merit. What could then be the objective of presenting the re-hash of the same none-issue to the Acting President? Could it be that they think Nigeria has suddenly become tolerant of corruption or that there is a new approval making political soldiers the toast of the town? Whatever drove them and their wig for hire lawyer to submit that petition is irresponsible.
More irresponsible however is their decision to leak their petition to the media, a copy that bears no mark of acknowledgment to prove the Acting President’s Office received it anyway. The leakage nonetheless betrays the true intent to blackmail Professor Osinbajo into reversing decisions taken to sanitize one of the important institutions in the country, the military. What is reassuring is that the Acting President is by now wise to the antics of this gang and will not be taken in for a minute.
He must note that these people are the ones planting stories in the media to discredit the military. It is their new stock in trade and is proof that throwing them out of the Armed Forces was a timely decision that saved the country. Had these political soldiers that have stashed away slush funds as war chest with their ethnic backing not been exposed, God knows they would have overthrown the democratically elected government by now. The Acting President must therefore properly read this petition for what it is, an attempt to test the waters and see how easily he could be shaken, a prelude to the attempt they will make to snatch power from him. We have not forgotten so soon how toxic these characters can be.
Ainoko, a public affairs commentator writes from Kaduna, Kaduna State.