Open Letter to President Jonathan
I hope this letter reaches you in the best position of health and wellbeing, and I do hope you will find the time to go through the content of this letter. I feel duty bound as an ordinary citizen of Nigeria to draw your attention to some of the critical decisions that your government has taken. These decisions are very critical and could determine the stability of our country.
I am aware that you have advisors who have the responsibility to guide you in taking decisions, because as the leader of the country you will have to rely on the expertise of these advisors before you take a final position on issues. But I am also aware that a lot of government appointees are more interested in advancing their personal interest rather than guiding the president in the right direction.
Mr President, after the unfortunate church bombings in Jaji, the Chief of General Staff Admiral Ola Saad Ibrahim ordered the removal of two senior Military officers from their respective positions in Jaji. They are, Air Vice Marshal Abdullahi Kure and Major General Muhammad D. Isa. As the president and Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed forces, I am sure you will agree that this critical decision cannot be taken without your consent. I also believe that you must have acted on the counsel of some of your advisors, but whether this is the right advice is an issue that you need to find time and think about. But the most important thing is the implication of this rushed decision which I would like to highlight.
First of all, the two senior officers were removed from their positions without proper investigation being completed. Professionally, there is need for caution in handling matters like this especially in a country like Nigeria where religion, ethnicity and regionalism constitute an unwritten form of constitution, and whatever the circumstance, a leader has to take this into consideration if he is to maintain the unity and peace of the country.
Secondly, both officers that were removed are Muslims, and immediately replaced by non Muslim officers. If you feel strongly, that these senior military officers have to be redeployed from their positions, you have the right to take action as the commander in chief; but looking at the security situation in Nigeria, and the division and lack of unity since the controversial 2011 general elections, you need to be cautious by replacing them with Muslim officers, that may douse the tension such action might generate; at least there should be enough Muslim Army Generals of the same calibre with an unquestionable loyalty to their country.
Thirdly, by replacing them with Christian officers under the current security climate, and if we are to believe newspaper reports that the entire control of Jaji is now in the hands of Christian officers after the redeployment of Air Vice Marshal Kure and Major General Isa, be rest assured that such a move will cause rancour and ill feeling especially from religious leaders, as it will definitely be seen as an attempt to use divide and rule tactics in favour of one religion over the other.
Mr President, beyond the points I have raised, my main concern in writing this letter is actually the wider implication this move could have on the stability of the Nigerian Army. The military institution in Nigeria is in my opinion the most professional, disciplined, and the fit for purpose institution in the country. As imperfect as the army may be, the brave Nigerian soldiers have stood for the country in the most difficult circumstances. They fought a bitter civil war to keep the country united; they have extended their professionalism in bringing stability to foreign countries like Congo in the 1950s, Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 1990s, and are currently serving in the region of Darfur in Sudan aimed at bringing stability.
But their most important contribution recently is staying away from politics since the return of civilian rule in 1999, and even at the time when cynics thought they could truncate our democracy when President Yar’Adua was sick, they worked hard to remain in the barracks, which enabled you to become Acting President and later President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The composition of the military command at the time, comprising of both Muslims and Christians officers working together must have contributed greatly in stabilising the polity; and I believe you can learn a lesson from that.
Finally, Mr President I advise you to avoid anything that will divide the Nigerian Army under whatever circumstance, because the implication of that will not be good for our country. I strongly recommend that you create time to read more about the political history of Nigeria especially between 1960 and 1970, and try to learn the lessons of what disunity in the Army could cause the country. I also advise that you consult widely with former Nigerian leaders and senior military officers who are still alive on issues related to the military, as they have the experience that current members of the armed forces may not have.
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria
By Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u
Dr Yusha’u is a senior lecturer in media and politics at Northumbria University,
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.