Rimdam: Military authorities did not overstep their bounds
General Yakubu Rimdan (rtd) is former Commander, 31 Airborne Brigade. In this interview with ISA ABDULSALAMI AHOVI, he examines the circumstances that led to the compulsory disengagement of the 38 Army officers.
Assessment Of The Disengagement Exercise
Armed Forces Act Cap A20 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 gives unfettered power to the military authorities to discharge any service personnel from service and such decision cannot be challenged in court. The Armed Forces Act guides the military. They provide for the dos and don’ts, the acceptability, or otherwise, of all that happens. So, when we talk about mass retirement of officers, I don’t think that really matters, because whether the war against Boko Haram is on or not, as far as the military is concerned, the capability and performance of the military is not usually judged by or based on the numerical strength of the officers that are present in the field. Rather, it is based on the number of the troops that are available in the field to carry out such functions that they are delegated to carry out. Their resolute determination and zeal to achieve the mission or to perform counts a lot towards the success of such mission they are supposed to execute.
So, I don’t see how the mass retirement, as you call it, of about 38 officers, will have anything to do with the operation that is going on in the Northeast. These are some of the factors we consider, because the command and control of the troops are integral parts of the principles of war. And the military, therefore, will not require hundreds of officers to be in the field in order to command the troops. No. We won’t.
In a division, there is only one major general to command it, in every brigade, only one brigadier general to command it. We have so many brigadier generals to command brigades and so many lieutenant colonels, who are to command battalions. And of course, you know, redundancy is what we don’t like.
For instance, if you are due for promotion and you have not passed your promotion board and you are overdue in the rank, with some younger officers, who perhaps, are more brilliant than you, and have been waiting for you to give them chance to also grow in rank like you, and you are no more performing, you couldn’t pass the examination, you couldn’t pass the board, then you are trying to create disaffection among the ranks and files. Everybody wants to progress.
Anybody who has been there and cannot go any further, of course the next thing to do is to show him the way out.
Like I said, our terms and conditions of service stipulate that when your services are no longer required, you will be told to go. So, for those retired officers who say may be they want to go for court action and things of that nature, I think they are just wasting their time because your employer says he doesn’t want your services any more, and so you cannot force him to keep you. You have to go.
On Allegation Of Ethnic Cleansing Or Witch Hunting?
As far as we are concerned in the Armed Forces, military operations are not based on geo-political zones. When we go to war and fight we do not die based on political allocations or political zones. When we go to war as one body, whomever goes to war, fight and come back alive is a lucky person. If you go to war and fight and die there, it is just unfortunate. It is wrong for people to keep talking about quota system. As for as we are concerned, quota system does not work very well. We are not saying people should not be sent to the Nigerian Defence Academy based on quota system.
And so, all the people, who have got themselves involved in one way or the other in political activities, if they are found and arrested, they will be tried by court martial and if found guilty, they have to go. And that is why many of those officers that have been told to go, whether they were court martialled or not, once there is any element of proof that they had been involved in partisan politics, of course, they are no good soldiers, they have to go.”
On Dismissed ADC’s To Former Presidents Yar’Adua And Jonathan
No officer of that rank has been dismissed as far as I know. What happened was that they were retired compulsorily, because of their involvement in partisan politics in one way or the other, and as far as the army is concerned, that is going to affect the discipline and the settings in the army.
We are not saying that when you serve your master you will not be loyal to him, but it comes to a stage where you have been known to participate either directly or indirectly in an issue that has to do with politics. Then of course, you will be told to go. So, according to the rules and regulations and terms of service of the Armed Forces, they are told to go compulsorily because they are no more trusted to make good officers.
If you are candid to yourself, you should realise that if your master has become involved in any criminal act, either directly or indirectly, you cannot be left out of it, because whether you like it or not, either it is assumed or not assumed, it is known that because you are with him, you are a party to whatever he has done and that is why so many of them who have got some money fraudulently, from the 2.1 billion dollars that people shared here and there of course, they accepted messages loyally. But at the end of the day it has become to be known that the money they had collected and used was illegally given to them. And so, they had carried out illegal act.
Whether you knew or not, the fact is that you have now come to know that the message you carried out was illegally done. If you are an honest human being, you will say, this message you are asking me to carry out, will it not have any adverse implication? You should be able to find out because you are not a small child. So, that is why they just have to go. It is not because of their loyalty to the former heads of state. No, it is not at all.
They had to go because their services were no longer required. If not because of the respect given to the former heads of state or the presidents, the officers would have been charged and court martialled. Once you are dismissed, you lose all your privileges, you lose all your entitlements, you lose all your emoluments, and you lose everything.