Did Irabor Usurp Civilian Power?- A Rejoinder
By Abdulsalam Mahmud
The title of this piece may appear as a rhetorical question to many readers, but not to one Mr. Tayo Oke, who writes a backpage column for The PUNCH, every Tuesday.
Oke, surely knows that he was about to stir an hornet’s nest when he summarily concluded that Gen. Leo Irabor, the Chief of Defence, CDS, usurped civilian power in some matters relating to internal security.
First, while no one can actually decipher the ‘sincere’ motivation behind the Op-ed article of Oke, it becomes difficult not to believe that the title of the treatise is starkly mischievous.
But while it surely looks as if Oke is having an axe to grind with Irabor, there is a need for the general public not to be deliberately misinformed, if not disinformed on some certain security issues that Irabor intervened, and which Oke raised in his piece.
Apparently to launch his diatribe against Irabor and in extension, the entire men and accomplished officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Oke heralded his column with this parochial statement: “Saying it as it is, the Nigerian armed forces love being in charge. Unlike their counterparts in Western democracies, who carry out their duties diligently behind the scenes, away from the limelight, the Nigerian Armed Forces not only love being seen, they insist on being heard as well”.
It is embarrassing to learn that a columnist like Oke who writes for a widely-read tabloid such as The PUNCH, will throw caution, morality and decency to the dogs, and recklessly accuse the military of having an obsession with been on the klieglight. How does the Nigerian military loves to be seen? And who has it compelled to always listening to its voice?
Oke would the go on further to say: “The star-studded epaulettes on their (Nigerian military officers) shoulders make them feel rather special. The front view of some of their uniforms can be rather mesmerising; adorned with so many shiny plastic ornaments, senior armed personnel look like the caricature of battled-hardened World War II veterans showing off their exploits to a grateful nation. Never mind that the ‘enemy’, many of them would have probably ever confronted, would have been a fellow Nigerian”.
And I am quick to ask: does Oke want officers of the Nigerian Army to shun global military convention by refusing to adorn their uniforms with the ‘star-studded epaulettes’ he is referring to?
Is he having any issue with Nigerian military officers embellishing their uniforms with the epaulettes? If Irabor and our other celebrated military officers henceforth stop displaying the honorific items on their uniforms, will that make Oke be in cloud nine? Or can Oke show the public the result of the study he had carried out which proved ultimately that the epaulettes are distracting our gallant officers and troops from discharging their constitutional responsibilities?
Besides, I don’t think anyone will have qualms knowing that the ‘only’ enemies confronted by our illustrious military are fellow Nigerians who have since declared war on the country and its citizens, which Oke is one of.
There is every reason to conclude that Oke is only sounding alarmist otherwise, how can the presence of uniformed personnel in civilian life (as he claimed) indicates that the country is indeed under some type of military rule, just because insecurity has become the topic of discourse among members of the Executive branch and the National Assembly, in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, at a time insecurity is threatening the foundation of Nigeria, as a sovereign entity, it is tragic to learn that Oke, in his ‘baseless’ piece, picks a hole with the overtures of Irabor to State Chief Executives, and media organisations, with a view to lobby their support towards addressing the country’s security threats.
The recent media parley the CDS held with media executives, editors and Bureau Chiefs of various media organizations in the country, including The PUNCH, which Oke writes for, could not be described as a jamboree by anybody.
As an editor who physically graced the parley held last Tuesday, I wish to intimate Oke, who wasn’t invited to the forum for only God knows reasons, that contrary to his thoughts, the sheer number of editors and notable media executives at the parley, including that of The PUNCH show that even if Irabor is ‘unpopular’ in Nigeria’s media circuit, he still commands huge respect, and influence, in the eyes of his guests.
And for God’s sake, how can Irabor, a prominent Nigerian, not even as the consummate head honcho of the Nigerian Armed Forces, regularly pay visits to military formations across the country to interact with troops and Governors on ways to tackle security threats, and the reports of the familiarization tours not be of special and great interest to the media. Just how, Mr. Tayo Oke?
Now, 2023 is inching forward and Nigerians have never been apprehensive over the conduct of a general election. Yet, as a supposed intellectual, Oke apparently does not like the fact that Irabor, who heads the only security agency that can help guarantee a peace poll, to constantly assure and reassure the electorates and teeming Nigerians that, with the support of his men, they will still be able to cast their ballots peacefully, amid ravaging insecurity. Sad!
Let me quickly give Oke a pat on his back for acknowledging Irabor’s quintessential personality, when he said this (in his piece): “Prior to being appointed CDS in January 2021, Irabor, from Delta State, has had a stellar military career, taking charge of some elite military units at the army HQ; Training and Doctrine, Training and Operations among others. Educated to Masters’s degree, and numerous overseas training to boot, the general is obviously not short on confidence”.
But I shudder in great disbelief when Oke thereafter, posited: “Nonetheless, managing public expectations on security or political tension is never the job for the military and it is certainly not one of Irabor’s fortes”. Whose job is it then, constitutionally? And if the role is not for Irabor, and the CDS yet executes it in style, should anyone damn give a hoot?
It is imperative that public affairs analysts in the country eschew dishing out commentaries bereft of verifiable facts, and which are capable of stoking the embers of mutual hatred for not only Gen. Leo Irabor, who remains committed to ensuring that under his watch criminal elements holding Nigeria to ransom are defeated, but the officers and men of other security agencies in the country.
In particular, there is the need for Mr. Oke to be more broad-minded and always look at the larger picture when analysing actions, policies and programmes of the CDS. Irabor, has never shown any interest in usurping the role or job of any civilian or political authority.
His overriding concern is for Nigeria to be rid of terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, ethnic secessionists, ritualists, armed robbers, and other criminal elements. Hence, the claim by our dear colleague, Mr. Tayo Oke, is one that is everything but factual. It is grossly erroneous, wicked and mischievous, to put it HARSHLY.
Abdulsalam Mahmud is an author and Deputy Editor PRNigeria
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