BusinessDay

Nigeria at war under absent commander-in-chief (II)

Propelled to power on the promise of safeguarding the security of Nigerians by putting an end to Boko Haram and other forms of insecurity in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari, many say, has gone to sleep on his many promises since assuming office.

Since taking office in May 2015, unprecedented massacre and destruction of communities in Plateau, Benue, Kaduna, Taraba, Katsina, Zamfara and Niger states have been openly, blatantly and systematically advertised by terrorists, normalised as bandits by the government.

“We thought that since he was once a military head of state, he would know how best to handle the insecurity that the country was faced with. It was like Boko Haram would be forgotten within six months of Buhari’s becoming the President,” Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a retired brigadier-general and former governor of Osun State, told the BBC in July 2021.

“It is now obvious that he wanted power for the rituals and pageantries of the office, not for the responsibility of the job,” a retired senior military intelligence officer said.

Aloof, unsociable and provincial, Buhari’s kinesics show he is more comfortable with those who share his worldview.

“The President is not listening to anybody. He doesn’t care. Does he read?” Rotimi Amaechi, the immediate past transport minister, said in a leaked audio in January 2019.

Morgan Housel, a partner at the Collaborative Fund, said people underestimate how influential a tribe is on their thinking. Everyone, he argues, has views persuaded by identity over pure analysis.

He said: “Tribes are as self-interested as people, encouraging ideas and narratives that promote their survival. But they’re exponentially more influential than any single person. They are very effective at promoting views that aren’t analytical or rational, and people loyal to their tribes are very poor at realising it. Tribes reduce the ability to challenge ideas or diversify your views because no one wants to lose support of the tribe.

“People are drawn to tribes because there’s comfort in knowing others understand your background and goals.”

Amy Chua, Yale law professor, agrees that humans are tribal. She argues in her book, ‘Political Tribes’, that tribal affiliation exerts a crucial, powerful force on individuals’ behaviours and identities. Humans’ need for “bonds and attachments,” she said, “fulfils an instinct to belong but also to exclude. People will sacrifice, and even kill and die, for their groups”.

A former minister who served in his government told BusinessDay that the President “does not like to hear that he is not doing well and so, he surrounds himself with people who give him only an aromatised view of the happenings in the country.”

Read also: Nigeria at war under an absent commander-in-chief (1)

“They know his attention span is very brittle and they use his apathy for negative news and his inattention to control him. He is very uncomfortable with people including ministers who tell him that the economy is sinking, that corruption is growing and insecurity is thriving. This is why he is very comfortable being in the midst of a few people who tell him what he wants to hear, and who refuse to tell him that terrorists have vowed to kidnap him. They use him to enrich themselves and he uses them to live in denial,” the ex-minister added.

“This is where clannish, tribal and religious bigotry has brought all of us to,” a retired senior military intelligence officer said. “They make us all fools as generals; they have no clue how to strategise and deal with terrorists, insurgents and criminals.

Last week, Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, an Islamic cleric, lamented the huge amount of money spent by the Buhari administration on security and the insufficient gains from it. The federal government’s attempt, he said, “in trying to find a scapegoat to justify its glaring failure after wasting over $16 billion in the last seven years without any commensurate result on security and efforts to blackmail certain media organisations for their patriotism in reporting the crisis is unfortunate and should be resisted by all responsible media organisations”.

President Buhari, he added, should make his security chiefs to be fully accountable and responsible for any failure and to account for the billions of naira at their disposal.

“When a Commander-in-Chief rewards failure with ambassadorial appointments in a system and a society that records increased attacks, when security agencies cannot even protect Abuja and especially when the Guards Brigade cannot even protect themselves, not to talk of the President, then why blaming the media for such failure and ineptitude?” he lamented.

In June 2021, Buhari appointed his immediate past service chiefs as non-career ambassadors. Former Defence Chief Abayomi Olonisakin, former Army Chief Tukur Buratai, former Navy Chief Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas and former Air Chief Sadique Abubakar, who had all served for nearly six years and were unable to make appreciable impact in ending terrorism and terrorist attacks in the country, were handed ambassadorial appointments as their golden handshake by Buhari, who commended them for what he called their “overwhelming achievements in our efforts at bringing enduring peace to our dear country”. Their appointments as ambassadors were pilloried by many as a reward for failure.

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