He is still a soldier’s soldier even at nearly 80. He still knows when to strike at the enemy’s solar plexus thereby inflicting maximum damage. For someone who abandoned college to enroll in the army, it must have taken considerable efforts to criticize the institution that made him publicly.
Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma’s words last Saturday at the Taraba State University’s maiden convocation ceremony in Jalingo, the state capital, should be examined more critically than the fulminations of President Muhammadu Buhari’s supporters. After all, whenever it suits them, they tell us to ignore the messenger and focus on the message, a piece of advice they needed now more than ever. Danjuma is not a flippant person and taciturn as ever, one can count on the fingers of one hand how many interviews he had given or how many times he actually accepted to chair public events. I remember how a senior colleague and I attempted to get an interview with him at an event in Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos years ago. We ended getting an appointment in his house but still no interview.
So when a masquerader like him decides to come out, we should listen carefully. Of course, he is part of the ruling class that led us to the morass of governance we are currently enmeshed as a country. He has been part of the lead actors for long that he cannot be excused from whatever we are suffering from presently. But on a week that billionaire Bill Gates spoke truth to our leaders, Danjuma followed up with scathing words for his constituency, the military, or “armed forces” as he said in his address. I have a feeling that many who are condemning the man did not listen to his words completely as he did not say anything new than what some Nigerians have said before
The damnable part of Danjuma’s address for me is where he said, “The armed forces are not neutral, they collude, they collude, they collude with the armed bandits, they kill people, they kill Nigerians, they facilitate their movement, they cover them.” What would make a general turn on his primary constituency like this? Lest we forget, Danjuma’s rise to prominence in our political life as a nation was via the army, which he rose to serve as chief, the army gave him all literally. By the way, did he say anything different form what international observers like Amnesty International have been saying about our armed forces? Vast swathes of the northern part of Nigeria are witnessing low intensity warfare presently, waged ostensibly by either Boko Haram, whichever variant, or terrorists under the guise of herdsmen and the way we’ve handled them says so much about the value we place on human lives.
Have we forgotten also that our army has confessed that they are overstretched and so cannot keep up with the security needs of the country? Further, why do we pretend not to know that the armed forces are complicit in many areas they are carrying out different operations? There have been cases of soldiers aiding herdsmen in some states just as we all remember how the police responded in the sad incident of Benue State. Just as the way the Buhari government handled the herdsmen menace across the land, tardiness in coming to terms with the enormity and severity of the clashes with insensitive comments from the president himself and the defence minister combined together are enough for citizens to lose faith in government’s ability to deal with the crisis. Hopefully, nobody will claim again that anti-grazing law enacted by some states is responsible for the herdsmen-farmer clashes since Kogi does not have such.
Of course an eye for an eye leaves all blind, but the general’s warning cannot be ignored. ‘If you’re depending on the armed forces to stop the killings, you’ll die one by one,” Danjuma warned. It is easier preaching turning the other cheek when one is not at the receiving end; try telling that to Benue and Kogi citizens who have been at the receiving end of the herdsmen menace. Trust eagle eyed Nigerians, they’ve dug out the words of the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, which he spoke on November 15, 2014 at a weekly recitation of Quran in Kano where he urged Nigerians to defend selves against Boko Haram, so, in essence, what did Danjuma say that has not been said before? Or how different is it from the numerous security levies we pay to secure our neighbourhood even when we have police?
People may huff and puff over what Danjuma said, but the fact remains that our armed forces have proven too incompetent and far enmeshed in crises that it is foolhardy depending on them to rescue us in times of danger. The critical question is not how did we get to this sorry state, but what are we doing to get out of the mess. That is the major essence of the words of the man from Takum, and a wise person will ruminate more on them.