The Afenifere, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBL), and advocacy groups have taken a swipe at Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Yusuf Buratai who blamed the setback suffered by the Nigerian Army in its anti-insurgency operations on inadequate commitment by soldiers on the front line.
It would be recalled that Buratai had at a “Transformational Leadership Workshop” held on Tuesday, June 18 said there were proven cases of lack of willingness on the part of soldiers to carry out their assignments as directed adding that professional capacity alone is not a sufficient condition to succeed in a task.
“It is unfortunate but the truth is that almost every setback the Nigeria Army has had in our operations in recent times can be traced to insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks or simply insufficient commitment to a common national/military course by those at the front lines.
“Many of those on whom the responsibility for physical actions against the adversary squarely falls are yet to fully take ownership of our common national or service cause,” he said.
But SMBL, in its reaction said the Chief of Army staff being in office for too long could be the reason for the soldiers’ low morale and called for his sack.
“Why are his men, who signed up to defend Nigeria, who have put their lives on the line, no longer committed?
“For us, the chief of army staff being in office could be one of the reasons. All the Nigerian service chiefs should have been long retired. Their continuous stay in the office has truncated the careers of many officers. His stay in office and other service chiefs’ cannot be a morale booster within the armed forces,” said the spokesman for the group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin.
Afenifere agreed with SMBL and called for Buratai’s removal.
The leader of the group, Chief Ayo Adebanjo contended that if the Chief of army staff had openly confessed that the soldiers were not committed it is incumbent on President Muhammadu Buhari to relieve him of his appointment.
“Why did he (Buratai) say so? If that is what he said, then the Commander-in-Chief should change them. They have not performed; if the chief of army staff said his men were no longer committed, it behoves on the Commander-in-Chief to change them and put committed people there. The Commander-in-Chief has been slacking not to have sacked them. When they say they are not committed, then you should sack them and replace them.
“If he doesn’t do it, it shows that he is incompetent. That is why I said some time ago that he himself should have left the post because he is no longer capable of protecting lives and property in the country.
“I said that long before now. Is the president saying he does not have the courage to change the incompetent officers? Are we going to leave those who are not committed to defend us? They have shown that they are not competent; he should have sacked them before now.”
Similarly, a Second Republic politician, Dr. Tanko Yakassai described Buratai’s statement as “disheartening.” and urged President Buhari to admit that his strategies for fighting the Boko Haram insurgency had failed.
“It is disheartening to hear from no less a person than the Chief of Army Staff that the army which he commands is to blame for recent losses in the battle field.
“That the head of an army that is the backbone of the fight is making such a statement is disappointing. Before President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015, the Boko Haram insurgency was our main security challenge.
“Today, four years down the line, Boko Haram is still strong despite claims to the contrary by those in government. We have no less than five other active serious security challenges confronting us, instead of reducing, our security challenges have multiplied.
“The President must admit that his strategy has failed and that he needs to return to the drawing board by first, changing his security team-perhaps the new team will come with bright new ideas to deal with the problem,” he said.
For its part, the Arewa Consultative Forum acknowledged that the statement credited to Buratai was an honest assessment.
However, it said factors such equipment, troops’ welfare and logistics should be taken care of.
“The statement credited to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, that “apathy among young generation of soldiers has caused recent setbacks in the fight against insurgency is in my opinion an honest assessment by the Chief of Army Staff who knows the soldiers better.
“It is in realisation of this that the Army organised a transformational leadership workshop to enhance officers and troops’ professionalism and efficiency.
“However, factors like adequate equipment, troops’ welfare and logistics are necessary ingredients in addition to professionalism and patriotism which the Army should pay attention to for effective performance,” said the national publicity secretary of the ACF, Mr. Muhammad Ibrahim-Biu.
But the head of Transparency International in Nigeria, Mr. Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Buratai’s outburst as “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”
He said it was a worrisome development to hear the chief of army staff making such an allegation against his soldiers’ inability to fight insurgents.
“If you look at the alleged corruption in the military procurement, look at the recruitment process, we will not be able to deal with all these problems. Sincerely speaking, it is very disheartening and very demoralising.
“There is no way you can have a patriotic, committed security outlet who will give their lives, while others are siphoning their resources that is meant for their allowances and their wellbeing, as well as their promotions,” he said.
For a former director of the Department of State Services, Mr. Mike Ejiofor, Buratai had lost control of the troops and called for the removal of all the service chiefs.
“If the army chief actually meant this statement, that means he has lost control of the troops. There must be something responsible. It may be that they no longer have confidence in him and this is very dangerous. Besides, this statement is capable of demoralising the fighting troops. Officers and soldiers are being killed and barracks are being attacked. There must be something fundamentally wrong.
“The president appointed the service chiefs. We can have our opinions. If the man feels they are not doing well, then it is time for a change.”
“If the commander cannot vouch for the integrity and seriousness of his troops, then I think that commander should be allowed to go,” said Ejiofor.
Like Ejiofor, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) called on the president to sack the service chiefs over renewed Boko Haram attacks.
The deputy national publicity secretary of the PDP, Mr. Diran Odeyemi, described as “worrisome” that after budgeting huge sums of money to tackle Boko Haram and kidnapping, insecurity was still high in the country.
“The leadership of these security outfits need to be questioned…If the head of Daura community could be kidnapped, who else is safe in this country? We are not safe. The United Kingdom just gave a directive to its nationals that Nigeria is not safe for them to visit. This is very unfortunate. We call on Buhari to declare a state of emergency in security and act fast.
“The service chiefs should be sacked with immediate effect. They deserve to be sacked. He should sack all of them.”
For his part, the national chairman ZLP, Mr. Dan Nwanyanwu, also decried the worrisome growing insecurity in some parts of the country.
“Of course, the tenure of the service chiefs has expired and the job has become monotonous for them. There are young military officers who want to prove that they can do something and they must be given the chance,” he said.
Similarly, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) called on the president to sack the security chiefs.
Spokesman for CUPP, Mr. Imo Ugochinyere, also asked President Buhari to tell Nigerians the truth about his alleged inability to address the security challenges of the country.
“You can see the Chief of Army Staff telling us that the morale of some of the troops is low… First of all, the President should sack those incompetent people who are heading the security agencies.
“These people have been heading these agencies for the last three or four years. The first responsibility of any government is the security and welfare of the citizens. Let him sack them first and then declare a state of emergency. Everything is not politics. Tell the nation the truth that this war, you are not winning,” said Ugochinyere.