Politics and Policy

TY Danjuma: Why Tread Dangerously?

There are few names in Nigeria as synonymous with influence and prestige as T.Y. Danjuma. It has a certain ring to it that can only be fit for, not just any famous person, but one whose influence endures for a long time.

General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (rtd), the former Nigerian chief of army staff (1975 – 1979) and Minister of Defense (1999 – 2003) always has a national audience when he speaks on issues, especially on national security. In a speech at the maiden convocation ceremony of the Taraba State University, Gen Danjuma alleged that the Nigerian Armed Forces were “not neutral”, that they “collude with armed bandits to kill people, to kill Nigerians” and that “If you wait for the armed force to stop the killing, you all die one-by-one”. He also referred to the killings happening around the Middle Belt, including in his home state of Taraba, as an “ethnic cleansing” and called on everyone who was paying attention to begin defending themselves.

Hours after the speech, images of at least one razed building from Taraba surfaced on social media. It seemed as though there was “positive” feedback to the retired General’s rally. But how positive could this be for Nigeria’s peace and the present administration’s progress with improving the state of internal security?

To be sure, the idea that an ethnic cleansing is being perpetrated in parts of the Middle Belt is popular among persons from that part of the country. The killings in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, and Kogi are of a number and frequency that ridicule assertions by the government that it is working hard on a solution. There were killings even while President Buhari was visiting in Plateau state about ten days ago. The level of bloodletting across Nigeria, from Numan to Birane, has been unbelievably nauseating.

This makes an allegation of Army collusion a grave claim set to have negative implications. Having virtually taken over the internal security duties of the police all around the country with its checkpoints and road blocks, a heightened sense of distrust and disgust can be the only result of any association of the Army with the atrocities happening around the country. It further breaks down the relations between citizens and members of the military whose reputation as thick bullies and terrors on the street has worsened over time, accumulating from their brutal treatment of camouflage wearers and other such actions.

Potentially worse is the scenario where people actually start heeding to the call to defend themselves. Without proper measures for checking who owns fire arms, a descent into anarchy will be inevitable, fatal and gruesome.

An Army which should be focused on the war against Boko Haram and other ‘external’ threats to Nigeria’s security should not have to be the subject of comments made by one of their esteemed own. The Military’s response to Gen Danjuma regrets the elder statesman’s “unfortunate” comments but would not join words with him, rather focusing on reminding every Nigerian to remain law-abiding and disregard the call to resort to rebellion.

The Nigerian Army is not perfect but unless an allegation is with proof (like when they make a physically challenged person frog-jump), it is ultimately counter-productive and dangerous for the nation. It chips away from the passion and confidence of soldiers, and their influence on securing peace. General Danjuma showed passion in Taraba but his influence certainly could have been more positive for peace.

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