Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu is an interesting character. He is always excited, haughty and very mouthy. If Nigerians perceive the current Senate more as a punishment chamber than a parliament, its because of leaders like Ekweremadu.
His soul mates in the red chamber have conspiratorially turned the senate into an undemocratic mental torture chamber for Senators, where voices opposed to its leadership are muzzled and dubiously punished. Sadly, Ekweremadu is failing to check his tongue.
Senator Ekweremadu belongs to the clan of Senators who are irretrievably tied to the old order of impunity and disorderliness on issues of public governance, famed with the PDP. For them, it’s not possible to change anything.
He is therefore naturally blind to the illumination provided by the changed government of the APC led by President Muhammadu Buhari. Under the expired national government of the PDP, nothing was impossible provided it serviced the egos of its minions. That era has gone, but since Ekweremadu is yet to purge himself of the PDP mendacious inclination, he still functions under such false illusions.
Therefore, a few days ago, Senator Ekweremadu had the effrontery to foul the air by dragging the Nigerian military and specifically, the Nigerian Army into politics . Senator Ahmed Ogembe, representing Kogi Central had a raised a motion alleging that Kogi state Governor Yahaya Bello, sponsored thugs to disrupt his empowerment programme for constituents.
But in a rather asinine twist, while contributing to the debate, Ekweremadu deviated from the core issue by declaring, “The problem in Nigeria is that our democracy is receding. Who says army cannot take over? Let us not joke with our democracy.”
There was no correlation at all. So, the reference to the Army by Ekweremadu was spiteful and intended to stir enmity and air of disloyalty between the Commander –in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, President Buhari and the Nigerian military.
And it has exposed the extent Ekweremadu has lost touch with the reality in Nigeria, a country, which signed a creed in 2015 to severe itself from the culture of the past, by its embrace of democracy and building of strong or thriving military and democratic institutions.
Perhaps, steeped in the sentiments of opposition politics, and the desire to blackmail, Ekweremadu is oblivious of the changes around him. He neither knows the new face of the Nigerian military under the leadership of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Gabriel Olonishakin nor the Nigerian Army, under the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai.
To again redirect the attention of the likes of Ekweremadu to the reality they have refused to acknowledge, the Nigerian Military have been disciplined and re-professionalized. It has consistently demonstrated to the world in words and actions that there is no alternative to democracy. It cannot be persuaded by such outbursts to discard their toga of professionalism and support to democratic institutions.
The Nigerian Army particularly have elected upon itself to serve as guardians of Nigerian’s democracy evident in the struggles to protect and preserve Nigerians democracy and the absolute subordination to civil authorities.
The current leadership of the Nigerian military led by Gen. Olonishakin as well as the Nigerian Army under the guidance of Gen. Buratai, much as other Service Chiefs have proven beyond doubt the military is an integral part of this great nation. It exudes more interest in assisting Nigeria’s democracy to blossom to full maturity.
It has confined itself to its core professional duties and values of safeguarding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Nigeria. The Nigerian military has proven to be a responsible and responsive fighting force, patriotically defending the country from both external and internal aggressors, with delight.
And this streams from carefully articulated and implemented re-orientation measures, like professionalism, discipline, integrity, and seamless civil/military relations anchored on international best practices. The Nigerian Army under Gen. Buratai has no reason to harbor thoughts of dabbling into partisan politics.
It is much more remote that the Army would even ruminate scuttling democracy as insinuated by Ekweremadu. Buratai’s mastery in leadership of the Army has tackled explosive issues which hitherto served as baits or motivation for soldiers to engage in coups.
For instance, soldiers are no longer under the yoke of stalled promotions. They are now promptly promoted and this itself is a great moral booster for any Army anywhere in the world. The current leadership of the Army under Gen. Buratai has consistently provided incentives to soldiers by appreciating and decorating deserving officers with medals for exceptional performances.
Gen. Buratai worships and rewards merit, and has completely deleted favouratism in the administration of the Army, as glaringly reflected several times in the ongoing counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast. To say the least, the commitment of the Army leadership to reward officers and men of the Nigerian Army is unflinching and indiscriminate.
The inculcation and enforcement of the values of discipline in soldiers have been Gen. Buratai’s topmost agenda from the outset. What leads the Army into coups most times is indiscipline. The anger is fired in instances where some officers and soldiers are favoured on either ethnic or religious affiliations. Again, Army personnel are no longer penalized on account of neither hatred nor sentiments’, but on the weight of proven misconduct’.
The rules and internal control measures apply to all and sundry, as circumstances demand, without sentiments, as evident in routine reshuffling of the executive command positions without recourse to religion or tribe.
So, the Army leadership has assiduously worked and conquered these defects and there is no possibility that such soldiers would nurture any coup ambition.
Furthermore, the Amy leadership has prioritized welfare and introduced various incentives to personnel. Gen. Buratai extends welfare of soldiers to even their families. The famous warlord, Sun Tsu said, “Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.”
Therefore, when soldiers face the hardest of tasks assigned to them courageously and victoriously; it’s because they have no psychological trauma on hanging welfare packages. The facelift of military barracks and the improved general living conditions of officers and men are motivations for the Army, which have voluntarily made Army personnel to remain apolitical and loyal to civil authority in Nigeria.
And above all, Gen. Buratai has ensured transparency and accountability in the leadership of the Nigerian Army. He has blocked loopholes that enabled looting or misappropriation of Army resources at the expense of the wellbeing of personnel. This previously accounted for mutiny on the battlefield in protest of neglect and deprivation. The Army now is a contented force.
The era of a few officers and soldiers getting rich quick is gone. The prudent management of lean resources by the Lt. Gen. Buratai led Leadership has restored confidence, respect and accorded dignity to Army personnel whose first and last focus is concentration on their constitutionally defined professional roles.
No Nigerian, moreso, a leader, like Ekweremadu who is aware of these changes would deliberately attempt to rejig the narrative with the flavor of his bizarre idiosyncrasies. But Nigerians are not surprised because Ekweremadu is a product of a corrupt past, which is deeply ingrained in him. The old system made the Army susceptible to such thoughts, but certainly, today’s Army is different.
So, he finds it strange to align with the new order. But let it be known to Senator Ekweremadu that the Army has been re-professionalized and disciplined. Nigerians are not fooled that his call for a coup by the military is a veiled attempt to save looters who are facing litigations in court over corruption charges. He is used to coups and a product of political coups in the National Assembly, but let him spare the Army. This call can neither survive nor fly.
Okanga writes from Agila, Benue State.