When he hinted that he would be rolling over a number of his ministers from his first term cabinet, not a few Nigerians had hoped that President Muhammadu Buhari should at least, make an exception of the strategic Ministry of Defence. There was the gaping need for the rejigging of the nation’s security architecture to enhance its capacity in the face of burgeoning challenges. In his first term, 2015/2019, the Defence ministry was one of the departments whose performance fell below par, with resultant repercussions.
With the nomination and predictably, the eventual appointment of Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd) as the Minister of Defence, the President appeared to be clearly
responding to the yearnings, opinions or criticisms that had trailed that critical sector whose performance has concomitant effects on all and every facets of the nation.
Yes, because of the faltering superstructure, insecurity spiraled, resistant and defiant of efforts by the security agents to tame it. While for example the inherited Book Haram insurgency was still raging albeit the fact that, “it has been technically defeated”, or, ” downgraded”, the hitherto unheard phenomena of banditry, kidnappings for ransom, ravaging inter communal conflicts and a plethora of other forms of security threats sprouted up and pervading to a pandemic proportion.
At a stage, it was as if those at the helms were overwhelmed, dazed and lost at sea. To the generality of citizens, it was a situation of hopelessness and resignation to fate. Of course, it could also have meant that the nation was at the threshold of anarchy where self-help becomes the only way to guarantee safety of life and property. Such scenarios were already playing out in frightening sequences as we saw in Benue state, on the Mambilla plateau, in Kaduna, Zamfara and Katina states, among others.
The security agents would obviously have done better, in spite of other handicaps, if, there had existed interagency cooperation, synergy and coordination. The supervising ministry that ought to have forged and in fact, enforce the needed interface was not forthcoming with the needed leadership. Rather, for major part of four years, the Ministry of Defence tended to regale in propaganda as it also appeared submerged in the intriguing rivalry, showmanship and game of supremacy between the service chiefs.
Then, for almost all of the last year of his tenure, Brigadier General Mansir Dan Ali manifested fully, the levity or banality with which he perceived and evaluated and accordingly, conducted the otherwise serious business of the nation’s defence and security. He plunged, full blast, into the prolonged, rancorous governorship primary contest on the platform of the APC in his home state of Zamfara. Inevitably, for as long as he was on the chase for what he considered more important, he abandoned his responsibilities as the number one in the entire country’s defence and security hierarchy. The Defence Ministry, no doubt, couldn’t have been the better for it. Nobody was surprised that Dan Ali was dropped for retired Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi when the President announced members of the cabinet of his second term tenure.
If loyalty is a prime criterion in his considerations for critical appointments, Major General Magashi, from all accounts, has paid his dues. Starting from year 2003 when he was a founding member and a leading light of the Buhari Campaign Organization, TBO, the retired Army General was consistently in the Bihari’s political exploits in the defunct ANPP, the CPC and, the APC, the platform on which the President came to power in 2015.Talking of suitability, competence and experience, Magashi has it all as they come thus, making him one of the square pegs in square holes in the next level’ cabinet. A lawyer with years of experience in legal practice, he is also not a novice on the political terrain being once a governor of old Sokoto state. A former Commandant of the Nigerian Defence Academy, Commander of the Brigade of Guards, a GOC and a Commander of a multinational peacekeeping Force in Liberia, General Magashi is coming on the job with a robust background in military service.
In Bornu state, the hotbed of Boko Haram which he visited days after resumption, Magashi demonstrated that he is in a familiar turf as commander in charge of the nation’s defence apparatchiks. He told the military top brass in no uncertain terms for instance, that they should buckle up for a paradigm shift in the approach to the war against insurgency. With a stern warning against bickering and rivalry among the Service Chiefs, he announced his plans of turning around the command structure to make for cohesion, unity of purpose and focus on goals in line with traditions of combined military operations.
Very pertinently, General Magashi addressed the critical issues of motivation and morale of the troops. With assurance that he has the expressed order of the President, Commander-in-Chief, he told soldiers fighting the insurgency and other security situations elsewhere in the country that, they will no longer have the problems of payment of salaries, allowances and related benefits of gratuity and pension. Certain of delivering on the presidential order, Magashi declared that, very soon, the Boko Haram insurgency will be finally crushed and, the “the glorious, happy days of Borno restored.” A thunderous “AMEN” to this note of prayers or, inspiration from a veteran, war tested General not known for flippancy or, wishful thinking. That is, even as there are so many others whose responses would be:”We have heard this refrain over and over before”.
While he is on it, General SalihiMagashi is expected to go the extra mile to make a difference. He must just give a boost to the task of finally and truly stamping out the madness called Boko Haram and similarly nightmarish incidents of carnage elsewhere in the country. It is therefore, heartwarming that the minister has identified the challenges of low morale, lack of requisite motivation by way of welfare of soldiers and, paucity of modern, as against antiquated, weapons which have all along retarded fighting capacity of troops in the front lines.
The NEXT LEVEL in the war against insurgency, banditry and related crimes must be taken away from the razzmatazz of unrewarding, delusionary planes of propaganda and rhetoric. Yes, in spite of the celebrated routing at Camp Zero, the umpteenth deaths of, apparently, hydra-headed Abubakar Shekau, the much vaunted “decapitation” and, “downgrading” the Boko Haram has remained a real, portent and frightening catastrophe. May Magashi be divinely guided to succeed in notching the antiterrorism campaign to the next level, amin.