Undoubtedly Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai has emerged Nigeria’s most powerful chief of Army staff since the return of civilian rule. And Nigeria’s police are no more than boy scouts, with no duty other than as body guards of the wealthy cabal, despite being some of the most heavily armed in the world, carrying AK47s where UK police have batons and US police have only pistols.
Nigeria’s army chief has usurped the role of the police as the nation’s primary civil enforcer. Whereas the Nigerian constitution clearly defines the army’s role as the defence of the nation’s territorial integrity and as a second line in aide of the police, the army under General Buratai has become the first line, reminiscent of military eras.
The question is: did Nigeria’s president, ex-General Muhammadu Buhari authorize Buratai’s draconian engagement across the nation in what is termed “martial law?”
Section 217 of the 1999 constitution states the role of the armed forces:
(a) defending Nigeria from external aggression
(b) maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders…
(c) suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an act of the National Assembly and
(d) performing such other function as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
Even if the army is to be engaged in civil enforcement, what has happened to the constitutional chain of command? Should orders to deploy the arms of the military, be they army, navy or air force, not first come from the Minister of defence under a democratic dispensation? Should the orders not go through the the Chief of defense staff before the army, navy or air force is deployed? Is Minister of defense Mansur Dan Ali merely in office to attend meetings, sign cheques and award contracts? Buratai appears to have become an authority of his own and the implications have not been vaguely pleasant to memory.
The latest order by Buratai, to “terrorize” the South east during the upcoming elections with expected voter intimidation and inhibition of turn-out, is the latest in continuous often deadly, deployments by Buratai.
In Sokoto this January, the army reported “arresting” seven for political disturbance. The term “arresting” is in inverted commas, because the army cannot arrest. Only police can arrest. The army does not have handcuffs and cannot press charges. To arrest, you must be able to press charges. No police in Sokoto?
One wonders what happens to citizens the army “arrests” or as some say “kidnaps.” When the police arrests, notes are taken for appropriate and accurate charge filing with the courts. Do the soldiers narrate who did what to police for charges to be pressed? The accuracy of soldier narrations to police for onward transmission can be painfully imagined. Or do the soldiers take the suspects to a Judge and tell him or her what happened? Perhaps they simply kill them off. That is easier in a sick sense. Secret mass graves have been reported in Zaria and Onitsha after events of Buratai’s military dances and smiles. [See: https://www.premiumtimesng.com/investigationspecial-reports/205176-special-report-onitsha-massacre-pro-biafra-supporters-coordinated-sss-operative.html]
Again, emphasizing the new abnormal role the army under Buratai has taken, soldiers are being sent to lead “investigations” into crimes as was the case when late former chief of army operations, General Ibrahim Alkali was killed in Jos south local government. The army cordoned the area, allegedly intimidating and harassing locals while “investigating” the crime.Again the term “investigating” is in inverted commas. Again, no police in Jos?
Buratai appears to act as Nigeria’s all in all, perhaps more powerful than the president of Nigeria. He orders the army to raid journalists and media houses at will and even when Buhari ordered the release of detained editors from Daily Trust after Buratai shut their offices down, the army under Buratai, delayed by over 24 hours, regional editor Othman Abubakar’s release, in disobedience to the presidency’s call till protests forced his hand.
Python dance, crocodile smile, and now operation safe passage or safe selection are some of the recent boorish deployments of the military across Nigeria. In many of these cases, hundreds of civilians, mostly youth have been massacred with all ranges of military arsenal. Of course as Fela sang, “Zombie way na one way…shoot and kill.” The army has no water cannons, rubber bullets or handcuffs. When the army meets resistance it only knows how to shoot and kill and deaths of Nigeria’s youth have trailed the path of Nigeria’s unrestrained, supercharged army chief. A recent documentary by the New York Times captured how Elite forces of the presidential guard massacred minority shia Muslim youth in Abuja. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6-6wV0agvs]
Sadly, while Buratai is unconstitutionally assuming police duties across the nation in what several lawyers have described as terror, defined as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives,” the Boko Haram plagued northeast falls apart in continued hopelessness and helplessness. The one place where Buratai should be fully engaged with the few and fully stretched troops not further drained with nationwide police duty deployment.
Before he was locked up, civil activist Deji Adeyanju exposed a memo which soldiers told PremiumTimes was “intimidating, distracting and disturbing,” in which the army chief warned “poorly fed, poorly kitted and poorly armed” soldiers of dire punishment if they run, rather than die when overpowered by Boko Haram. Below is from PremiumTimes:
“The troops, who spoke under strict anonymity to avoid being punished for unathorised interaction with the media, said Mr Buratai completely failed to discuss the real triggers of the recent killings of soldiers and the general resistance of Boko Haram fighters.
“He’s supposed to provide strategic intelligence to the troops,” a commander said. “But had severally informed them and the world that BH is completely defeated.” [https://allafrica.com/stories/201808030230.html]
Accused of being behind the lockup of Mr Adeyanju, the army while denying said, ““Having noted the foregoing, it would suffice to add that the NA is not ignorant of all the recent false information concerning NA Operations been peddled by @adeyanjudeji on twitter as well as abusive and libelous outbursts of the same handle on the person of the COAS.” The army today is everywhere, even in attendance at the high table at APC political launchings.
It is scary to once again be under military rule, albeit “pseudo.” There is no denying that Nigeria is being run by Buratai. Is it because Buhari is an ex-General who feels restrained in civilian attire that he has secretly authorized Buratai to be in charge of the nation?
In his only media talk, Buhari while describing the Zaria massacre in which forces under Buratai’s command massacred hundreds of unarmed Shia Muslims in more than five independent and unrelated locations across Kaduna, said when asked if he felt infuriated, “I realize my position, I am now a sitting duck.” Victims say as many as 1000 were killed, but Buhari still felt like a sitting duck. [Watch Buhari say so here: https://youtu.be/k6ncKD4JdKk]
Has Buratai gone rogue by himself as a military cabal like the two or three men who take advantage of the president and the nation according to his wife, and run Nigeria, or is Buhari living through Buratai?
With no repercussion, Buratai is getting wilder and wilder. Thankfully, the global climate and changes to the Nigerian system inhibit military take overs, perhaps Nigeria would have witnessed a Buratai full coup by now. But then, what is the difference?
Written by Dr. Issa Perry Brimah