Considering the imminence of the election, it also indicates that the President is putting people in place that will do his bidding towards re-election. And, of course, from our chequered history, we all know the role security chiefs appointed by an incumbent play for the incumbent in an election in Nigeria.
Just as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was releasing the timetable for the 2011 elections, the news came that President Goodluck Jonathan has sacked all the service chiefs and the Inspector General of Police and appointed others in their place. In principle, no one doubts the power or prerogative of the President to sack these persons and appoint others to replace them. But in a democracy, every discretionary power is expected to be exercised reasonably and in good faith, more so, in the appointments to and sacks from such high and sensitive offices as the ones in question.
First, we need to understand that every position here carries its own duties and responsibilities. The President as the Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief is expected to regularly check on the work of each office holder to ensure that they are performing their duties constitutionally and effectively. It follows that once he sees any reason to question the office holder or sack to him, he needs to do so immediately. It further follows that if he was doing his own duties diligently as constitutionally expected, a situation will never arise where all the service chiefs would have to be relieved of their positions all at once. I mean, these are appointive not elective posts that are determined at a time. It is inconceivable that under proper consideration, all of them will merit the sack all at once, based on whatever criteria the President adopts. The logic here needs not be over-emphasised.
Now, what does a wholesale sack at this time indicate? One, it could indicate that the President as the chief security officer of the nation is so lax in his duties that the whole security and command edifice has become so bad that it has to take a wholesale sack at the top to correct it or two, it could be that the President has other agendas on his mind outside performance. On both counts, the President himself stands indicted, even if we know it is within his powers to do so. If we rule out the first conjecture and assume, for the sake of argument, that the President has diligently performed his constitutional duty as Commander-in-Chief and has found the individual officers worthy of keeping their positions up till now, it raises the question of what other agenda he hopes to achieve by engaging in the wholesale sack. The only place we can find the answer is in the political environment and in the forthcoming election that is just four months away.
Without wasting too much time on analyses, it is obvious that the President did not do this for some national interest. It is purely an action carried out to entrench his own position as President by having his own appointees, as opposed to those appointed by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. Considering the imminence of the election, it also indicates that the President is putting people in place that will do his bidding towards re-election. And, of course, from our chequered history, we all know the role security chiefs appointed by an incumbent play for the incumbent in an election in Nigeria. So, what confidence do we now have for a free and fair election when he has put men everywhere that will do all within their power to protect their newly acquired position post-2011? What confidence do we have when these men, pursuant to that aim of protecting their positions, will necessarily do everything, by hook or by crook, to keep their appointer in power? Isn’t this akin to a coup against the Nigerian people? Of course, I know there are those who would immediately accuse me of crying wolf or putting it too strongly, but why couldn’t these new appointments wait till after the elections, if only to show good faith and instil confidence in the people that there is no hanky-panky afoot?
So, without mincing words, the unreasonableness of the action is clear. It is a leaf from the standard practice of all election riggers in Nigeria. No one should read any ethnic meaning into this because appointees are not there to represent any ethnic group. They are there to protect their appointer and by extension, their own newly-acquired positions. Jonathan has not unveiled a new defence or security policy and there is nothing to remotely indicate that these new appointees are going to do anything differently from those who are there, except that they now owe their elevation to one man whose position they are likely to protect, even if it’s against the national interest. After all, we haven’t seen anything in their résumé or career history to show that they are new brooms. I make bold to say that by changing the guards at this crucial time, this is an indication that the President and his handlers have declared the next election a do or die affair. That can’t be good for democracy.