“The problem in Benue started worsening because the IGP refused to follow my instruction . . . It is only now that I am hearing this. But I know that I sent him here,” — President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR . . .
“Orders Are Orders” is a 1955 British film. A film production company, contrary to orders, decides to make a new film in an army barracks using the soldiers as extras. The commanding officer makes life difficult for the film crew. Orders Are Orders are bywords or expression summarizing the characteristics, principles, notoriety and outstanding example or the embodiment of an authoritative command, direction, or instruction – to be obeyed promptly, without question. That the first Military Governor of old Anambra State (1976-1978) detonated an ‘atom’ bomb in Benue is no more news. That his name is Brigadier-General John ‘Atom’ Kpera (rtd.), is news. That belated visit of President Muhammad Buhari to Benue was enough for Atom to release an atom.
“You swiftly directed the IGP to Benue. But the IGP did not do the work you sent him. He stayed for less than 24 hours in Benue and relocated to Nasarawa, and then said what he saw was a mere communal clash. Few days later, his men were killed too,” Atom Kpera told the president. “I know you have other sources of intelligence. Please, have a second thought on what the IGP told you. We were happy when you sent the military’s Exercise Ayem Akpatema. We thought their coming would relieve us of our pains and get our killers. But the killings have persisted,” Atom Kpera atomized further.
The president was in Benue as part of a string of visits to states affected by security crises, especially attacks on farmers by herdsmen. “The problem in Benue started worsening because the IGP refused to follow my instruction. . .” Buhari replied. The president said he is not aware that Ibrahim Idris, Inspector-General of Police, did not heed his order in Benue state. Shortly after 73 persons were killed in January following the new year day massacre, Buhari ordered Idris to relocate to Benue. Two months after the president directed the IGP to relocate to Benue State and stop killings by Fulani herdsmen, the president discovered, only last Monday, that his order was not carried out. “It is only now that I am hearing this. But I know that I sent him here,” Buhari told his shocked audience at the Benue People’s House in Makurdi.
Buhari’s audience were not the only shocked people. Millions of Nigerians are still shocked. It is trite knowledge that state police commissioners on orders from IGPs are wont to disregard orders from state governors, who are chief security officers of their states – a constitutional misnomer – but for the IGP to disobey the president, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a constitutional breach. This is a breach in all ramifications: a breach of orders are orders; failing to observe a law; agreement; code of conduct; confidence; recruitment contract; breach of peace; breach of promise etc. Many Nigerians are calling on the president to step into the breach, which entails replacing someone who is suddenly unable to do a job or task.
This breach of orders are orders in Benue, has catapulted little-discussed national issues and illuminated discussions on a wider spectrum bordering on the state of affairs in Nigeria. The president’s “revelation in Benue” rekindled discussions on the following: presidential power, the president’s men, the cabal, communication breakdown, bureaucratic inefficiency, weak governance and lack of cohesion or synergy between and among the various security agencies.
Is presidential power being effectively marshaled? Are the president’s men serving him well? Is the cabal blocking the decision-making process? Is it a cabal of dissidents or a secret political clique out to frustrate the president? Is there a breakdown in communication between the presidency and the police high command? Are there bureaucratic bottlenecks obstructing channels of communication, such that presidential orders can be disobeyed? Is the Buhari-led APC government incapable of delivering dividends of democracy which includes the protection of the citizenry? Is there a lack of synergy or the interaction or cooperation of two or more security agencies, to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects, or is Nigeria too big to be effectively governed by the APC?
The answers to the above national questions appear to be in the affirmative. Another question that stands out on its own: is the disobedience of ‘orders are orders’ in Benue, a one-off, the norm, or part of a regular sequence of disobedience to orders are orders? Many pundits claim that the president is not in touch with the stark realities on ground. While that may be an overkill, how do you fathom the idea that innocent Nigerians were butchered and the president gave an order to relocate to the crime region, quell the disturbance, search for the perpetrators, investigate and prosecute the suspects, and the presidential order was either disobeyed, ignored, or simply misplaced.
If a presidential order can be disobeyed, then whose order was the IGP obeying when he spent barely 24 hours in a region to which he had been ordered to relocate. It will be recalled that on the day Buhari was sworn into office, he ordered the army chief to relocate to Borno state in the northeast, to better confront and defeat Boko Haram. That order was swiftly carried out. Many Nigerians conjecture that probably, the so-called cabal were still organizing or bidding there time to strike. Did they strike in the case of “orders are orders in Benue?” Nobody knows, but my guess is that the said order was taken with a pinch of salt and nothing will come out of it. This is Nigeria where a nighttime distress call to the police to hurry to a house besieged by armed robbers is greeted with the trite response: “our motor no get fuel”! Maybe there was fuel scarcity in Benue at the time the presidential order was given. While the president’s revelation was not fake news, suffice it to say many Nigerians believe that, maybe, not all Buhari’s presidential orders are orders.