The recent kidnapping of Air Vice Marshal Sikiru Smith (rtd) in Lagos is considered one too many in the threat to the security of senior military personnel, serving and retired. Smith is said to be a younger brother to a retired Inspector General of Police, Musliu Smith. Given that background, and in the best of times, his security ought to have been taken for granted. But these are not the best of times. Before now, it was believed that officers of the General’s rank are not easily exposed to the kind of security challenges the rest of the populace face.
This assumption is based on a wildly held notion that once an officer gets to that star rank, he benefits from a round the clock protection by the services. From what is going on in the past three years where one serving General was cut down in his prime, two retired ones killed in cold blood and another retired officer picked up by kidnappers, it is becoming obvious that, after all, they are human like everyone else.
For the records, Maj Gen Idris Alkali, a retired chief of Administration in the Nigerian Army was declared missing on September 3, 2018 and later found dead and dumped in a shallow pit in a community in Jos, Plateau State. A former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh, was reportedly assassinated at a spot on Keffi-Abuja Road on December 18, 2018. The one that generated widespread shock and disbelief is the killing of a former Provost Marshall of the Nigerian Army, Major General Hassan Ahmed. He had been redeployed from that position but had not assumed his new office when his life was snuffed out on July 15, 2021 on the Lokoja- Abuja highway. All these dastardly acts, within a short space of time.
What is baffling to most Nigerians is the ease of access to these high net worth security personnel by criminal elements out to strike fear into the hearts of the people. It doesn’t matter whether they are serving or retired, the public expectation is that they deserve some measure of protection given the fact that, in the course of their tour of duty, they may have stepped on some toes who refuse to forget or forgive and decide to trail them for revenge. Even more astounding is that there seem to be a ‘so what?’ attitude to these ordinarily worrisome developments. For one, it tells a long story about the value or lack of it that the nation is beginning to attach to the lives of her citizens including those who served in some sensitive arms of government.
Two, it gives the impression that no one is safe or out of rich of the hands of the agents of death prowling around the country unchecked and subjecting everyone to undue anxiety and trepidation. The demoralizing impact of it all is that, ordinary Nigerians, with no special claim to importance of whatever sort, begin to seek ways of protecting themselves including relapsing into despondency in the hope that God will, as usual, keep all of us safe.
Three, in all these cases, no one has been brought to justice. In the few instances where arrests were made, not much was heard beyond the initial show of action without movement. If the armed forces cannot protect their own, again, it doesn’t matter whether they are serving or retired, it raises some questions about the spirit of comradeship that is supposed to linger even after service. Worse, they disappoint those outside the circles of the armed services who expect that they should at least track down the killers of their comrades and make them pay for their sins.
We have not forgotten the daring raid of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) by those, comparatively speaking, ought to be dismissed as street urchins. Yet, they announced their arrival and left a message so embarrassing that its implication has continued to resonate till this day.
This newspaper is not unaware of the pervasive dangerous security situation in the country which has made everyone afraid of the next moment. Traditional rulers, religious leaders, politicians and children are not spared this unwholesome spectre that has returned the country to the Hobbesian state in which life is said to be nasty, brutish and short.
What is required, in our opinion, is for the security agencies to step up their game and, at least, reassure their comrades-in-arm that their safety, in or out of service, is guarantee within the limits that are humanly possible. In doing so, the rest of the society can relax a bit and begin to feel that something is being done to protect the lives and property presently, resoundingly, in jeopardy.editorial