- Post 10 February 2013
- Last Updated on 10 February 2013
- By Ademola Bello
The Chief of Army Staff General Azubuike Ihejirika recently postponed his “Press Conference” to address the controversy in which Igbo officers benefited substantially from the new appointments. Since Aguiyi Ironsi ill-equipped administration Nigeria’s Army has never been enmeshed in serious ethnic industrial complex scandal.
Although, their circumstances were different but like General Ironsi, Ihejirika is thrust unexpectedly into a position of power. Nigeria as a nation we refuse to learn from history. One of the lessons of the 1966 coup that turned septic was that the head of the Nigerian Army aside his usual military procedures, must have a political instinct and should not alienate a major ethnic group through his decision.
General Ironsi alienated northerners, through contentious Army promotions that benefited Igbo officers; thus raising fears of a growing Igbo takeover of the Nigerian military. Unfortunately, General Ihejirika that ought to know better intentionally or unintentionally reinforced that ethnic hegemony through mishandled Army promotions that has divided the Nigerian Army culture, reduced morale, integrity, loyalty, responsibility and trust. While his postponed Press Conference, created more resentment and conspiracy theories.
Nigeria’s Army promotions should reflect National and Federal character, diversity and gender equality. If they cannot find women, they should look for binders full of women. There are brilliant and skillful Nigerians from each ethnic group in the Nigerian military and they all deserve equal treatments.
General Ihejirika’s action is troubling in the sense that as the Chief of Army Staff you don’t want to be seen as the leader whose actions would lead to fear and resentment by other major ethnic groups. And you also want to avoid sinister rumors and conspiracy that your actions are geared towards alienating officers that are not of Igbo descent.
Moreover, it does not help your cause, that your fierce defenders are members of your own ethnic group yelling meritocracy to justify your actions.
Nigerians are improbable actors, with repository of new and radical theatrical forms. Our politicians are Middle Ages, superstitious, and ignorant in comparison.
The problem with us Nigerians is that our actions tend to be about “What is the benefit for me or my ethnic group in this scheme? What’s in it for me or my ethnic group? We cry of marginalization when things didn’t go our way, and we keep quiet about the perceived tribalism and marginalization or lauded both as meritocracy when political appointments and military promotions favors our own ethnic group.
I don’t drink the Kool-Aid, however, If anyone of you readers believe meritocracy is the norm in Nigeria today, wait a minute; I have a bridge to sell you. If meritocracy is today’s argument. That also means, no one should cry about lack of integration into mainstream Nigeria after the civil war, or marginalization of the past, present and future.
Ride on! The bandwagon meritocracy is the norm advocates. And simplicity soccer analogy of Stephen Keshi and Super Eagles is not going to win you any beauty contests.
I personally, think the size and budgets of the Nigerian Army needs to be reduced for greater efficiency. I will advocate retention of the current size and budgets unless they are fighting the Second Punic War in which they are going after Hannibal who escaped to Tunisia, where he was defeated by Scipio Africans. The budget and size reduction will also make military to be more focus to devise brilliant strategies and logistics to combat Boko Haram and fight Al Qaeda in Mali. The present system is unsustainable because it is a bloated Military Industrial Complex.
Finally, General Ihejirika can rejoice as the owner of today, he can raise someone’s rank from something to something. He surely will get away with his nepotism under the weak Presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. The Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah-Ogiemwonyi can fire the remnants Yoruba people at the Federal Airports Authority and refill the slot with her own people. “Two steps forward one step back” As Chief Awolowo once said, “Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression.” Yesterday wouldn’t be too soon. No condition is permanent. Someone from a different ethnic group will take advantage of his or her own power in the Army or Aviation Ministry in future to do ‘justice’ reflect ‘national character’ redress imbalance and reverse action. We have seen this before, history recalibrates time. We must live with the consequences of our actions.