Former military governor of Plateau State, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, has said ethnic politics in the Nigerian military could be linked to some of the activities of politicians of the second republic.
He made the revelation during an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP Weekend at his residence in Abuja while speaking on the state of the nation in commemoration of 19 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria.
The former Nigerian ambassador to the Russian Federation, who described his long walk with other pro-democracy activists towards the return of democracy as a thing of passion, said his experiences in the military, both good and bad, were the major push that had continued to inspire his voice in the nation’s polity.
He however revealed that ethnic politics, which has long taken a toll in the country’s military service, could be traced to the return of democracy in 1989.
‘‘When Shagari came to power, officers came to me and said, ‘Sir, they are going to appoint new service chiefs; why don’t you go and meet the new president and lobby? And I said no, I can’t lobby because a post like that should not be lobbied for. It is a professional thing. If you lobby for the post, that means you are no longer going to be your own man.
“Secondly, Shehu Shagari knew me very well. I am not a stranger to him. It appeared that they were looking for a Muslim or Hausa-Fulani men to be the service chiefs. I didn’t fit into that. But the immediate eligible ones were I and Air Commodore Falokpe.
“Because they wanted a Hausa/Fulani and Muslim, they went down below us and picked a younger officer and appointed him Chief of Air Staff. This allegation may sound wayward but I will tell why it is not’’.
The PDP stalwart further revealed that the Shagari government was caught by one of the most controversial appointments that left it in a mix following its refusal to stick by the norms of appointing service chiefs according to the pecking order.
He continued: “When this young officer was being sworn in, they handed him a Qur’an to swear with but he said they should give him a Bible. And they asked him why and he said, ‘My name is Abdul Dominic Belo’. They called him A.D. Belo and thought he was a Muslim. They were so taken aback and they had to hand him a Bible to take his oath of office.
‘‘So, automatically those of us who were senior to him had to be retired. Religion politics was beginning to be introduced into the military at that time. They made a list of those of us Christians who were from the minority groups”.
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