By John Madu
To me, many things are wrong with my country. I mean, so many issues in our public life aren’t just the normal; but the absurd. Like other patriotic Nigerians, I fear for my country; I constantly besiege God Almighty in prayers to free us from this internal servitude anchored by our own masters and show us the way to prosperity as a nation and a people.
At last, God answered, not just my prayers, but those of millions of Nigerians, when in 2015, Muhammadu Buhari was elected President. In his electioneering campaigns, he vowed to stamp out corruption and impunity that had become endemic in the polity and replace them with transparency, accountability and probity.
Of course, every Nigerian knows, more than anything else that those twin evils are responsible for the degenerative status of Nigeria. The seemingly endorsed illegal feasting on the people’s commonwealth with impunity affected every segment of the Nigerian state. And when it festered and went full blown, all groaned under it.
Our hopes were revived when President Buhari vowed to halt the trend and the vices. We watched him introduce reforms in prudent management of resources in the conduct of public business. The enforcement of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Bank Verification Number (BVN); the Government Integrated Financial Management Information Systems (GIFMIS) and the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) to all Ministries, Departments, Agencies (MDAs) were measures adopted to erase duplicity and financial dubiousness in public service. But as usual with us, as Nigerians, we resisted it, rather than comply. The sermons on adoption of the IPPIS by all MDAs have been reluctantly approached.
Most MDAs deliberately delay the implementation of the IPPIS, which would dismantle the foundation of ghost workers and inflated wage bills in Nigeria. Nonetheless, the Nigerian military, which has carved a niche of excellence and transparency /accountability for itself in the last two years, has continued to prove under the Buhari Presidency to be of a different breed. With insurgency degraded and defeated, the now professionally- inclined soldiers, who are disciplined, transparent, accountable, submissive to civil authorities and above all, noted for their penchant of excellent delivery on all assignments, have kick-started the process of implementing the IPPIS, without prodding from any quarters.
Under the supervision of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin, they have advertised their aversion to corruption and other sharp practices which have become normal and endorsed creeds of existence for most Nigerians. The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai is leading the pathway. He has launched the IPPIS sanitisation and implementation in the Nigerian army in accordance with the dictates of the change mantra of President Buhari.
Gen. Buratai has laced the IPPIS implementation, with enlarging the Army Finance Unit by establishing the Procurement Department for transparency. At a one-day seminar organized by the Nigerian Army for the Army Finance Unit in Abuja, last December, preparatory to the implementation of the IPPIS, Buratai divulged that he had already directed that instant steps be taken to ensure the full migration of the Nigerian Army into the IPPIS. The seminar was, therefore, a way of technically preparing and arming officers of the Army Finance Unit with the requisite technical knowledge to perfectly deliver on the exercise, which has started. The seminar, he organized as a precursor to the Army’s eventual migration to IPPS threw up unique features that would certainly marvel the originators of the idea when it is affected. During the seminar, army accounts officers were exposed to the rudiments of how to effect a perfect system of IPPIS. Some of the technical disclosures to participants opened new vistas of knowledge on the whole concept of IPPIS, as would be adopted by the Nigerian Army. I believe it is premature to disclose the floating details, but participants in the seminar left at the close of the session with wonderfully enriching ideas and knowledge. The same seminar has been replicated for other arms of the Nigerian military.
As a consistently caring leader, Gen Buratai was concerned that if improperly handled, “The implementation of the IPPIS by the Nigerian army will present new challenges for the payment of troops’ salaries and allowances.” Therefore, the essence of the seminar is pinned on the understanding that once salaries and allowances of troops in the battlefield is delayed, as peculiar with Nigerian institutions switching over to a new system, the morale of troops fighting the counter-insurgency war in the Northeast and other terrorists acts across the country would be dampened. Thus, thinking proactively, he assembled financial experts to tutor accounts officers of the Army Finance Unit to eliminate such possibilities of hiccups.
With this, Nigeria now has a military which is decent, disciplined and very compliant with directives of civilian authorities. Experience has shown that in the past, the Nigerian military would have resisted any attempt at financial sanity and probity, especially, issued by “bloody civilians” because leaders erected an opaque wall around defence budgets and expenditures. And this exemplary conduct reflects in the Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force, as both have also keyed into government’s fight against corruption and allied tendencies.
The Nigerian military has practically demonstrated its adherence to the ethos of the change mantra of the Buhari Presidency. In the recent past, Nigerians experienced the use of the various arms of the military as conduit pipes for siphoning public funds, as attested to by the sheer number of former Service Chiefs under investigation by the EFCC for alleged graft, abuse of office or due process. Particularly, the prosecution of former Chief of Defence Staff and the investigation of Chief of Naval Staff are pointers to official sleaze of the time.
This new spirit, as exemplified by the Nigerian military should not only be applauded, but be encouraged by all Nigerians who are sincerely committed to the change ideology of the APC government. The present disposition of the Nigerian military about financial propriety and anti-corruption posture is worthy of emulation and should spiral into other sectors of the country.
Those who are privileged to hold subordinate leadership positions in the Buhari administration, who are sincere believers and true coverts into the renaissance process of Nigeria as spearheaded by President himself, the example of the Nigerian military beckons on them to act in same spirit.
Nigerians should consider it shameful that the Nigerian military are leading the other segments of leadership in decent and acceptable conduct of public business. No one is now in doubt that the Nigerian military understands the sacrosanct nature of President Buhari’s anti-graft war and has humbled themselves to do their best. Change is resisted anywhere in the world. But once leaders attune themselves to it; the led also copy easily. This statement defines the leadership of the Nigerian military from the CDS, Gen. Olonisakin and Gen. Buratai to the last Nigerian military personnel. No single person can propel the reformation of Nigeria, except Nigerians do it together. And like President Buhari echoed earlier this year from the wisdom of an African proverb; “it is easier to break a broomstick, but not a bunch”. So, collectively, with everybody contributing in their little ways, the ship of state will berth safely.