Lt-Gen. Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (retd) is arguably one of Nigeria’s most influential citizens. Only a few retired Generals command the kind of national attention that is accorded to him.

Though he retired from the military 40 years ago, the 80-year old Danjuma still commands a lot of respect.

Whether in government, religious or business circles, when he talks, people listen and take him seriously.

Moved by the widespread killings currently witnessed in the country, the former Chief of Army Staff had called on Nigerians to defend themselves against marauding herdsmen and accused the military of trading off their neutrality by colluding with herdsmen, whose impunity has set the entire nation on edge.

Danjuma, who made the declaration during the 10th anniversary of the Taraba State University, Jalingo, said the bandits were doing everything possible to destroy the beautiful cultures of his state, Taraba, which he described as a miniature Nigeria.

His words: “You must rise to protect yourselves from these people. If you depend on the armed forces for protection, you will all die one by one. The ethnic cleansing must stop now. Otherwise, Somalia will be a child’s play.

"I ask every one of you to be on the alert and defend your country; defend your territory; defend your state, because you have nowhere else to go. The armed forces are not neutral. They are conniving with the armed bandits that are killing people.”

Danjuma Knows Something We Don't Know

What is glaring in Danjuma’s outburst is the outright indictment of Buhari’s administration  for its poor handling of the nation’s security challenges and the general’s complete loss of faith in the military.

The fact is that, Danjuma, as a military insider, will likely have access to information that the rest of us can only dream of.

Furthermore, his utterance shows the frustration of a man who may have been moved to the brink having witnessed and understood the hopelessness of a compromised and demoralised military.

Before Danjuma’s statement, the question of connivance of the army during the herdsmen's rampage was already swirling around.

It took Danjuma’s outburst for the Ministry of Defence to admit that it had received reports from Nigerians on the misconduct of soldiers as regards the farmers and herdsmen’s clashes, but none came from Taraba State.

Taraba people have, however, disputed that assertion.

Questions For The Military

Its admission that it had been aware of these allegations from certain quarters before the outburst from Danjuma without doing anything to dispel it is very disconcerting.

The questions the military must answer include:

When did the authorities receive the message of misconduct of some soldiers?

What was the nature of the offence?

And how did they deal with it? What sanctions were imposed on the vicious culprits?

What measures were put in place to check future occurrences?

The government through the military command has made numerous promises to end these killings without backing its promises with any visible action.

Indeed, the more the government promised action, the worse the situation got, creating a situation where the ordinary citizen has learnt not to trust government officials.

That the herdsmen are being protected goes beyond saying.  How can it be that thousands of Nigerians are murdered and not a single prosecution, not one conviction, not more than a handful of arrests was made?

The administration really needs to prove that the herdsmen are not being unduly favoured in order to reclaim the people’s trust and faith in its intention to seek the good of all.

If the government is interested – and I think it should be – in investigating the allegation, it could ask Danjuma to buttress his allegation.

Was Danjuma Right?

The gravest accusation against Danjuma is that his statement is an invitation to anarchy. Some have called it treasonable.

Luckily for those who do not share that view, they have affirmed that self-defence is allowed by the Constitution.

In any case, most people in various communities have been defending themselves long before Danjuma’s statement.

Those who think Danjuma is saying something new probably have never heard of Bakassi Boys, Egbesu Boys and Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), who have for many years now been the defenders of their communities.

The easiest path for Gen. Danjuma would have been to keep quiet and enjoy his wealth.

But he is an elder statesman and he knows that silence is complicity.  We all know that for evil to thrive all that is needed is for honest citizens to be quiet. 

Danjuna was bearing witness to history and should indeed be commended for speaking up.

But in case you are dissatisfied, please go ahead and attempt to arrest the general.