I Respectfully Urge You To Resign: A Letter To General Dambazau, By ‘Tope Oriola
We met in Abuja on June 30, 2015 at the public presentation of two books written by General Chris Olukolade, the director of Defence Information at the time. General Olukolade did the introductions. He described you as a “mentor” and “soldier’s soldier”. With the media watching, you and I chatted about your fellowship at the University of Massachusetts, (UMass) Boston. We were both pleasantly surprised that we had mutual friends, my former colleagues at UMass, Boston. As a former chief of Army Staff, and a PhD holder in criminology, you struck me as one who knew his onions. I contemplated having you invited to the University of Alberta, Canada to give a talk on civil-military relations in Nigeria. I kept those plans on hold as I learnt more about your role in smuggling President Yar’Adua’s comatose body into Nigeria in 2010. I have stated all the above to make one important point: I am not one of your political enemies. I write as a concerned Nigerian citizen and someone who means well for you.
Your stewardship of the Ministry of Interior since late 2015 has been a monumental failure. Despite the systemic breakdown of law and order in Nigeria, you have somehow managed to escape scrutiny. You continue to superintend the period of the highest rate of bloodshed since the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970. The assassination of scores of Biafran agitators, Shiites in Kaduna and your failure to tackle the menace of herdsmen make you inelegantly poised as the worst minister of interior in Nigeria’s history.
The silence from you and your ministry shows a lack of outrage, urgency and concern. Why have you been silent despite the extrajudicial killings in Nigeria? How did you immediately find time to go to Ile Ife, Osun state in March 2017 when Hausa-Fulanis and Yorubas clashed? Why have you refused to address the killings in Benue, Kaduna, Enugu, Ondo and other states in Nigeria?
The Ministry of Interior is already effectively the Ministry of Insecurity. Your ministry has failed to secure the lives of Nigerians. You have bungled everything from humanitarian relief management to declaration of public holidays. The job of heading the Ministry of Interior is beyond your capacity; I respectfully urge you to resign.
Several newspapers reported the case of a woman who was six-month pregnant and had her stomach “ripped open” by herdsmen in Enugu State. That was in 2016. Another pregnant woman was one of those slaughtered in Benue in January 2018 by suspected herdsmen. These people were not just numbers, they were human beings with dreams and aspirations. Terrorists snuffed life out of them with a level of confidence that many Nigerians find troubling — purportedly suggesting that their kinsmen in power would not prosecute them.
A young man completed his master’s degree in an engineering discipline and returned to Ekiti State to take care of his mother. He encountered some herdsmen on the outskirts of his hometown. The one who had engaged in life-long learning and careful self-investment encountered fellow citizens whose human capital had been stunted by a parasitic elite that had failed to prioritise the education of the people. The Nigerian dream encountered the Nigerian nightmare. The dream died.
As one of those consistently named in high-level intrigues and scandals since the start of this administration (the Abdulrasheed Maina scandal, as well as surreptitious hiring exercises in the Department of State Security and the Nigerian Prisons Service, for example), I hope that your agenda — assuming you have one — includes educating the Fulanis who remain in the bush and largely dissociated from the trappings of 21st century life. I hope your agenda includes ensuring that they are sufficiently taught to value human life. You and others in the Buhari administration have failed to admit that transhumance is no longer practicable in Nigeria. It is an obsolete economic system. We had been sitting on a time bomb for a while. How long did you expect that the so-called “Bush Fulani”, largely excluded from socio-economic development, would be content with not sharing in the materiality of “modernity”?
Another marker of your failure as minister of interior has been set with the kidnapping of over 100 girls at Government Girls’ Science Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State. It is shameful that despite the drawn-out issue of the Chibok girls, and the billions of naira spent in the war against Boko Haram, another group of young women has been kidnapped. The unfolding mishandling of the incident indicates that nothing was learnt from the Chibok saga. It seems we are back to 2014. This is not how to run a country. You have made Nigeria a joke wherever there is a modicum of decency. How could Boko Haram kidnap such huge numbers of girls in the same North-East region? You must have bought your government’s lie that Boko Haram had been “defeated”.
The massive theft of relief materials meant for internally displaced persons, your over reliance on international NGOs, the continued use of our fellow citizens to corruptly enrich some local and foreign entities and the systemic ineptitude undergirding the management of displaced persons in the North-East are also indications that — akin to your boss — you are likely out of your depths. As one of the members of the core group around the president, you can do better. No one is no longer in doubt that the aim of your clique was merely to secure political power; there was little brainstorming on what to do with power. You managed to fool many Nigerians by selling us an expired product.
How do you explain to the world the colossal failure of the Ministry of Interior under your leadership? How do you explain to Nigerians the ineptitude of a government led by a retired General? How many of such “Generals” do we have in retirement and active service? How are they being produced?
Clearly, social responsibilities require competence; warped “federal character” will not suffice. The institution via which you attained limelight will certainly be a source of future probe. How do you explain to the world the colossal failure of the Ministry of Interior under your leadership? How do you explain to Nigerians the ineptitude of a government led by a retired General? How many of such “Generals” do we have in retirement and active service? How are they being produced? Whose careers were sacrificed to fabricate such Generals?
Finally, you may be aware of the case of Lord Bates, who resigned his post for being late to the UK Parliament and therefore, unavailable to answer the question of one of his colleagues. He said he was “thoroughly ashamed”, apologised for his lateness, immediately offered his resignation and walked out. Prime Minister Theresa May rejected his resignation, arguing that it was “unnecessary”. That was pure class and dignity. Lord Bates demonstrated the type of sense of responsibility we would expect from the profession that ought to epitomise discipline, patriotism and self-sacrifice.
As I perused the website of your ministry a few minutes ago, I asked myself: “Is this the website of a federal government ministry headed by a PhD holder and retired General?” We are really in trouble. The website is a fitting tribute to the zero sense of mission of your ministry. The Ministry of Interior is already effectively the Ministry of Insecurity. Your ministry has failed to secure the lives of Nigerians. You have bungled everything from humanitarian relief management to declaration of public holidays. The job of heading the Ministry of Interior is beyond your capacity; I respectfully urge you to resign. Thank you for your time.
Follow ‘Tope Oriola on Twitter: @topeoriola