Obasanjo’s Visit to Jonathan: Why Military Experience Counts

(By Nasiru Suwaid)

Yes, I can confirm that I met with Mr. President (Goodluck Jonathan) on his invitation, in fact, he had wanted to come down to Abeokuta, but as a sign of respect to the Office of the President, I had to go. We had discussion on the country’s security issues and that’s all – Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

You do not need a clairvoyant soothsayer to know that the relationship between President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo is bad, as both sides had through various cronies or subordinates, accusatory long correspondences, which have been pejoratively tagged un-presidential love letters, indeed, by mere observation of the body language of the duo, it is clearly obvious that something is glaringly amiss in the relationship. And, the reason for the disagreement is purely power games, which is about who is to succeed whom and whom is to extend his tenure of office or to put it more clearly in the open, it is a disagreement premised on the personal guile of a promise not kept or the alleged refusal to adhere to the unwritten gentlemanly agreement not to seek for a second term. On the other side, the dispute seemed it is about the oppressive and controlling attitude or behavior of a very demanding father figure a la a godfather, who does not know when to stop or give the much needed breathing space to a highly resenting godson.

In fact, as late as at last week, Chief Obasanjo was granting interviews about the seeming disappearance of the middle class and why the present government is the one to blame, cleverly comparing the present administration with the benevolent dictatorship of General Sani Abacha, which was not only a draconian ruling dynasty that rode roughshod on the Nigerian citizenry, the regime clearly emasculated the national economy. If you ask anyone within the media circles, two things are glaringly evident about the statement, which are that Baba does not like Abacha very much, but who would blame him, considering how he was roped into a phantom coup against the dark goggled General and the other is that to be compared with his sworn enemy, makes you something he thinks of with huge negative connotations towards. Yet, despite all this negative sentiments between them, the president dared to invite the Obasanjo for a security parley, which had the presidential spokesperson so wrong footed, that his response for the confirmation of the meeting, was to affirm that it took place but he was unable to give details of what had happened in the discussion.

While quite many of the citizenry, saw the visit as the usual presidential consultation on challenges bedeviling the polity, the mere symbolism of the mutual convergence portrays a deeper meaning, thus, therefore, reveals a possible key and an opportunity to confront the emerging leadership crises afflicting the nation. It is a notorious fact to all and sundry that the Nigerian nation is in a state of war, what with the military progressively losing ground and territory to the seemingly highly motivated insurgents, with an emerging problem of low morale amongst the soldiers, insufficient, ineffective and even obsolete combat weaponry and need I say, sheer cowardice exhibited by the Nigerian troops. To not a few of the Nigerian people, many have posited that the problem might be that of the leadership of the fighting forces, who is the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Meaning, the individual who is to command them, must understand their mentality, be sufficiently linked to them as to comprehend the needs and wants of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

To put it more succinctly and bluntly, it was in such an effort that President Goodluck Jonathan invited a civil war hero and commander, to explore his experience and expertise on how to tackle the menace and affront of a very destructive religious sect, especially as they have started to shed the toga of a guerilla fighting force and had began to maintain territories by proclaiming sovereignty over them. One of the unique unwritten codes in electoral democracy during the times of war, which has even become an unspoken convention, is for political parties to limit the choice of person who are stand for the office of commander-in-chief, to persons who have had combat experience of commanding troops or having relative experience in managing the defence establishment. Because, the challenges of managing a country during the time of peace is uniquely different from the pressures of governing a country during the state of war, as by their inherent nature and of course, the regimental ethos and disciplinary etiquette of the chivalrous military tradition, soldiers hardly complain or exhibit clear dissenting behavior and were it to occur, it is measured and regarded as a criminality and a mutiny.

Thus for an organization that hardly tolerates dissent, managing it to avoid the clear subversive petulance, being witnessed in the theatres of conflict in the North East of Nigeria, requires someone who is to occupy the office of the commander of the armed forces, to have a specialist foreknowledge of the institution, which enables him or her to get feedback beyond the commanding Generals and from the lower officer corps and even the rank and file. Indeed, had this been the case presently, the unusual open complaints and need I say morale defeating revolts, being exhibited by the soldiers into the media space, would never have arisen, as the troops have the privilege of having a listening ear of their principal national commander. It is noteworthy that two of the persons aspiring to the office of the Nigerian presidency have had such a requisite experience, while one was a former military head of state and a war hero, the other served as a defence minister to an ebullient and security conscious former soldier civilian president.

Source: Abusidiqu

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