Okonjo-Iweala Vs The Military By Sam Nda-Isaiah
I have always known it will eventually come to this. The military last week accused finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of starving them of funds badly needed to discharge their duties. I know that every other unit of the nation’s security superstructure may soon join the fray and demand the minister’s head. It is something waiting to happen because the Nigerian military, historically known and acknowledged as among the best and most accomplished in the world, given their achievements in the numerous international peacekeeping engagements, are now ridiculed and pilloried as incompetent and cowardly. Their collective pride has been hurt and, understandably, they may choose to fight back to restore their image.
To be sure, I have not met a single serving Nigerian minister or head of any government agency who has not complained about the finance minister. And a few of them are extremely frustrated by Goodluck Jonathan’s total abdication of his responsibility as the president: he refuses to call her to order. Okonjo-Iweala’s response has been that the military received N130 billion in the last four months. Maybe we should start by asking how much was appropriated by the National Assembly to the military last year and how much was actually disbursed to them that year by the minister. This is a very serious question that the National Assembly must follow up because the souls of the more than 3,000 innocent people who have been murdered in cold blood by insurgents will haunt all those responsible for this if they don’t do their jobs. But let’s go back to the minister’s alibi.
Okonjo-Iweala said she has disbursed N130 billion to the military, which consists of the army, navy and air force. The payments, I assume, should cover their salaries, logistics, uniforms, equipment, allowances, accommodation and mobilisation in the war against insurgents. Is she really serious? This N130 billion or less than $1 billion is what she has disbursed in four months and yet expects any meaningful results? What is the total amount that she is supposed to have disbursed and when did she disburse the funds? Was it disbursed as at when due or after the fact? These are the queries that are germane at this point. Besides, there are doubts in respectable quarters that this amount has actually been disbursed. The Sultan of Sokoto, who himself retired as a general in the army, virtually echoed that doubt at the weekend.
The disbursement to the police is even much worse. Since Jonathan came to power, there have been years that the police received less than 10 per cent of their appropriated budgets. The situation is now so bad that even state governments that used to supplement the shortfall in funding from the federal government, out of their own enlightened self interests, now receive only about 50 per cent of what they are supposed to receive from the Jonathan government. State governors, including those from the ruling party, have talked and talked; they have complained and complained, and are now tired. Even Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State that once threatened the federal government with court action is tired and just watching, probably because he would not want anyone to ask him, “Na only you waka come?”
That Okonjo-Iweala can proudly say she has disbursed N130 billion to the military and expect Nigerians to clap for her shows that those who run this government do not really care about the safety and security of Nigerians. As I have said, let her also tell us what she is supposed to have disbursed. The theft that is going on in this government – epitomised by the $49 billion not remitted by the NNPC – has grounded the Nigerian state. No nation can continue like this and time is obviously ticking for Nigeria.
Okonjo-Iweala wants our military of today to operate like the military of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The minister and her boss must be told that the nature of crime and the threats that nations now face are totally different from what they used to be. Today’s threats are defined by terrorism and the internet, and nations must respond accordingly. Nations must now respond with technology, new methods and new ideas. These require new investments and retraining. Jonathan’s government seems totally unaware of this. Even the way our soldiers are kitted, compared to what happens in other nations, shows we just don’t get it. The modern soldier is kitted with new modular combat uniforms, sunglasses (some with magnification capabilities), smoke grenades, modular helmets, modern combat tents, night vision goggles and other 21st century accessories. I am not totally excusing the military high command or in any way suggesting that they may not themselves be corrupt, but let’s start diagnosing the problem from the stratosphere of the government. Even the Ministry of Defence has absolved itself from any acts of corruption as Okonjo-Iweala deals with the military directly.
Any leader who intends to become the commander-in-chief but does not know that the threats to nations have changed and that the old knowledge and received wisdom are no longer adequate for today’s world should look for another job. And if you add corruption, the type that has defined this government, to the mix, then you will end up with precisely what we have in Nigeria today.
Now The Americans Know
In a very embarrassing response to a question relating to the stolen $20 billion during the last “Presidential Media Chat”, President Jonathan said if indeed $20 billion was missing, Americans would know. The president spoke as if he reports to America. It was a pedestrian and scandalous response. Well, from the feelers coming out of the United States government, the president would be disappointed to know that the Americans indeed know much more than he credits them for. Last Wednesday, Sarah Sewall, who is the United States undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, asserted that it was massive corruption that was hindering Nigeria’s efforts at ending insurgency. Sewall appeared before the influential House Foreign Affairs Committee and she said several things which should be discomfiting to any Nigerian.
But the one that should pain all of us the most is that she said, “Corruption prevents supplies as basic as bullets and transport vehicles from reaching the frontlines of the struggle against Boko Haram.” So, as the president can see quite clearly, the Americans now know.
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