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National security or tribal triumph?

The fact that the patriotic and nationalistic antecedents of General Dambazau were based on his career records as a staunch professional soldier and well-educated officer…

The fact that the patriotic and nationalistic antecedents of General Dambazau were based on his career records as a staunch professional soldier and well-educated officer who never associated with the political adventurism that distracted several top military officers, was conveniently swept under editorial desks of the media. It also ceased to matter that as the Chief of Army Staff he dexterously steered the affairs of the Nigerian Army in and out of many politically-charged civil disturbances without ever relenting in reiterating and upholding the army’s unconditional subordination to the constitution and civil democratic authority. The significance of this modus operandi in re-orienting army officers and other military personnel was quite manifest in the almost surreal detachment of the army as an institution from the heat and tension of the political arena during Yar’adua’s illness. There were repeated declarations of apolitical stance and pre-occupation with the professional and constitutional confines of the military in the face of undisguised overtures from myopic politicians.

In the end, everything ended well without the slightest manifest threat to the survival of democracy except, ironically, the overzealous recourse to superfluous extra-constitutional exigencies by the very “guardians of democracy” who should have been more confident and committed to the existing constitutional process of transiting out of the apparent quandary. President Goodluck Jonathan has now proved beyond reasonable doubts that he did not lose his head while others were urging him to embark on a draconian replacement of all the strategic appointees of his ailing boss, with particular reference to General Dambazau and other service/security chiefs. President Jonathan was able to distinguish between playing safe and playing to the gallery, having focused his mature mind on the demands of national security rather than on the dictates of personal interest. He retained the service chiefs, including the “scarecrow” General Dambazau because, as he explained, in the absence of tangible justification, such a precipitate action would have done more harm than good-  even though he only needed to pronounce them sacked if he wished.

Given the throes of geo-political animosity unleashed at the height of the so-called clash of the cabals, it must have taken a great deal of statesmanship, sagacity and patriotism for President Jonathan to rise above the mob-mentality that was packaged in the compromised media as an unavoidable offensive to enforce his ascension to the Presidency, for which the advocates were more desperate than their conscripted client.  Sadly, our worse fears of the re-emergence of ethnic-powered threats to national unity and state security cannot be satisfactorily allayed despite the exemplary patriotic statesmanship President Jonathan is endowed with. You only need to have read “2011: The Virtue Naivety” by Chudi Offodile lavishly promoted on the back-page of ThisDay of June 17, 2010 to realize that even someone identified as a lawyer and former member of the House of Representatives, can openly canvass crude retrogressive ethnic sentiments and damn the grave consequences on the crucial pillars of unity in diversity and national security that sustain our nationhood. It is even more disturbing that a national newspaper of ThisDay’s stature could lend its pages to such catastrophic campaigns.

As far as Chudi Offodile and his fellow tribal champions are concerned, President Jonathan’s well-considered reasons for retaining the service chiefs, particularly Chief of Army Staff General Dambazau, and also appointing Professor Attahiru Jega as INEC Chairman are “naïve and dangerous” because he is practically “entrusting his political fate to Northern Muslims from the same constituency as his main contenders for power in 2011!” The entire article is a barefaced and jaundiced attempt to fan ethnic embers of distrust and separatism to pitch the South-South against the Northern Muslim constituency in a wicked ploy to secure an opportunistic avenue for the South-East Igbos to enter into an unholy political marriage of convenience with the people of the South-South to clinch power in 2011. It is made distastefully clear that ethnic identity and the primordial prejudices associated with it should be the overriding factor in pursuit of a presidential ticket for Jonathan in 2011 and the Northern Muslim constituency must be avoided like a plague by President Jonathan. For this preposterous purpose, no northern Muslim should have been appointed to high office, regardless of qualification, acceptability and proven capability.

It will not be necessary to belabor the patent primitiveness and crass ethnic blackmail and opportunism being propagated by Mr Offodile since it is unwittingly self-destructive, particularly to the proposed beneficiaries of its abominable agenda. It is even more unlikely that President Goodluck Jonathan will descend to the very pits of such political infamy having already demonstrated his principled nationalistic instincts. The only reason why it is being referred to here is to raise the consciousness of the majority of responsible and civilized Nigerians not to take our hard-earned national unity and still fragile national security for granted. We should collectively be vigilant and uncompromising in advocating and upholding the tenets of unity, peaceful co-existence, national security and an all-inclusive practice of democracy and good governance that respects popular mandate and recognizes merit and capability respectively.

Olakunrin is of the Nigerian Nationalist Forum, Iwo-Oshogbo Road, Ibadan  

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