He guarded and kept it very close to his chest. He was patiently waiting for the right time to strike. As an experienced General of many wars, nobody could tell what he had up his sleeves last Saturday. By his military training, the timing and venue were the best. It couldn’t have been otherwise. Even this season of crucifixion could not agree less.
Lt. General Theophilous Yakubu Danjuma (rtd) made the maximum use of the auspicious occasion. He grabbed it with all the strength in him. He was Chief of Army Staff in the Murtala Muhammed/Olusegun Obasanjo military junta, 1975-1979.
When Obasanjo returned as civilian President in 1999, Danjuma came handy as his Minister of Defence. He has been in and out of government since 1966. That has been his lucky lot.
Yes. He has a weird and wild history behind him. He came into the limelight during the July 1966 counter-coup. He led the troops that murdered Head of State, Major General Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi, and his host, Lt. Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, Governor, old Western Region. They were sliced into pieces in Ibadan. Perhaps, since then, no coup in Nigeria has escaped his active participation.
While holding sway as Obasanjo’s defence minister, the ministry supervised two major massacres, Odi and Zaki Biam. The people of the two communities would not forget Danjuma in a hurry.
Odi happened on November 20, 1999. Odi is a predominantly Ijaw town in Bayelsa State. The Environmental Rights Action (ERA) put the death toll at a staggering 2,500 civilians after the invasion by soldiers. Government initially claimed “only” 40 died, including four or five soldiers.
It was a black Monday for residents of Zaki Biam, Benue State, on October 22, 2001. The community was invaded for allegedly allowing a Tiv militia to kill 19 soldiers.
But last Saturday, the General dramatically made a classic U-turn. And it caught the authorities and their praise-singers napping. We pray they would never recover from the shock.
And what was Danjuma’s sin? It was at the maiden convocation of the Taraba State University, Jalingo, where he was decorated with a honourary doctorate degree. He had watched with utter disdain how Fulani herdsmen have become a law unto themselves in some states, including Taraba.
He could no longer tolerate their wicked activities, particularly against his Junkun kinsmen. Using his new academic form as his armour, he fired a salvo at the Nigerian armed forces.
He evidently spoke the minds of very many Nigerians: “The armed forces are not neutral; they facilitate their (Fulani herdsmen) movements. They cover them. If you are depending on the armed forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one. The ethnic cleansing must stop. I ask everyone of you to be alert and defend your country, defend your territory, defend your state. You have nowhere else to go. God bless our country.”
You could see seriousness on him face. He spoke from a position of authority. He was there before and he is not known to be frivolous. He is definitely aware of the security implications of his utterances. That is why he said what he said publicly without fear, favour or intimidation.
What did he say that some others have not said even worse in the past?
Remember what the late dictator, General Sani Abacha, once told us? He adequately warned us then. He was prophetic, almost a seer: “Any insurgency that lasts more than 24 hours means the military has a hand in it.”
That is the gospel truth. Why do the do-gooders then want to crucify Danjuma?
Nnamdi Kanu, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader, predicted accurately on February 6, 2014: “The Fulani herdsmen will be armed and encouraged to slaughter us with impunity and their masters will protect them. They are coming to ensure that my people are enslaved forever, those who do not believe me will see it happen.”
Then, why are the reckless do-gooders calling for the crucifixion of Danjuma at this season? This is not about looking at his suspected involvement in the past. All our leaders, past and present, have such disdainful records. No exception, except those yet unborn.
These attacking Danjuma for speaking his mind are grossly missing the point. What they don’t know is that the General is simply behaving true to type. He is just following in the footsteps of his colleagues.
What he said is in tandem with the attitude and behaviours of our leaders. They usually come back to indirectly regret their actions and inactions later in life. This is when they are directly and negatively affected by what they had done or failed to do.
You would want to ask Danjuma, what was going on in his mind when Odi and Zaki Biam were being raided? He alone could provide the answer.
All the same, the Nigerian Army should not wholesomely condemn its respected former Chief of Army Staff. It should endevour to find out more facts from him. He will be willing to assist. He deserves commendation for his courage to speak out, not condemnation.
And the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) erroneously tagged Danjuma, when its spokesman, Bolaji Abdullahi, shut him down: “For him (Danjuma) to tell the people to take up arms and defend themselves is condemnable and a call to anarchy. We (APC) are not in support of it. Someone of his caliber should not be making that kind of statement.”
Agreed! Danjuma was and remains a major part of the problem of Nigeria. His past deeds and misdeeds aptly attest to that. He dares not attempt a denial. But now, he is old. He is perhaps having a genuine re-think. And his Jalingo outpouring last Saturday equally attests to this. Let’s oblige him the benefit of the doubt.
Honestly, there should be no issues, no problem, with his sincere utterance. We should see his recount as atoning for his sins. There is absolutely nothing wrong if he is sincerely turning a new leaf, even in old age. The older, the better.
We should bother less whoever chooses to say the truth. Let us painstakingly take note of his antecedents, hear whatever he wants to say and move on.
But we must not under any circumstance throw away the baby with the bath water. Chopping off your head is never a solution to headache. True or false?