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Much ado about General Atolagbe’s reassignment

I’ve had enough of it. For the past three years, people have been arrogating to themselves knowledge about everything. They hardly gave Sai Baba his governance honeymoon before they unleashed the Gehena of criticism on his regime. You would think that a presidential magic wand could reverse the damage of sixteen years. Read some of the opinion pieces by people who have never been scoutmasters and you’ll think that they have all the antidotes to the diseases and plagues that are bogging Naija down. Yet, they won’t contest elections. They won’t contest because they won’t win. Sai Baba got a popular mandate and even the UN acknowledges that. And several times, he has said he is doing his best. Except the UN says otherwise, his own score is the best score.

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For the whole of last week, the recall of one Major-General Anthony Atolagbe nearly topped the list of social media gossip, over and above the sympathy that those who loot our nation dry got for crossing the floor and sending the legislathief on a well-deserved summer vacation. For those who, like me did not know General Atolagbe, he was until recently the Commander of Operation Safe Haven in the killing field of Plateau, once known as the home of peace and tourism. 

According to those who ought to be tried for breaking into the secret registry of the Naija Army, General Atolagbe has served 27 of his 30 years in service AOL – Actively On Leave with the United Nations. Apparently, he returned home with idealism believing that he could cure the army of lethargy and revolutionize crime bursting. Instead of being retired to ignominy like other generals after such a long hiatus, General Atolagbe was posted to Jos to dialogue with rampaging herdsmen. In Naija, we don’t deal with high-level criminals, we negotiate with them because it doesn’t matter how many people are dying, there’s always money to be made from bloodshed. 

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Most generals would have used that kind of privileged posting to milk whatever cow within their area of operation but Atolagbe does not seem to know the value of milk and honey. If he had asked the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Kore, herdsmen and their financiers could have buttered his bread such that by the time he left Barkin Ladi the bank would be smiling with him. The man knew nothing about honour, the Naija way. He’s been away too long and very unlikely to fit into the way we do things here.

If Atolagbe survives the tsunami that awaits him before obvious premature retirement, he should know that the duty of any man sent where herdsmen were slaughtering is not to start an operation fingerprint. He would have known the danger of fingerprints. Sai Baba knows it and won’t use it for the next elections. The job of an operation commander Naija-style is to achieve technical defeat. This means keeping the business of killing the innocent and the unarmed going with an air of helplessness at some point and crash insouciance at other times. No need to play hero here.

He was supposed to find out the financiers of the herdsmen, hold nocturnal meetings with them, look the other way while they go on with the slaughter. A commander’s role is not to finish the war, but to prolong it. That is what makes defense budgets all over the world bigger than education or social services.

Atolagbe has lost touch with Naija reality. He did not set his wife up for the kind of business that buys houses in Dubai. He did not start a snake farm, apparently not to run his boss out of business. From 27 years of service to the UN, Atolagbe returned home with fingerprint technology, the type that has never been deployed in solving any crime in Naija. Before you could say fingerprint, this man had arrested several herdsmen and their financiers. Succinctly, he was turning himself into  the Sherlock Holmes of the Naija Army a position that is neither warranted nor vacant. 

He abandoned his air-conditioned office in Jos and moved to Barkin Ladi, thereby exposing our gallant troops to mosquito bites, malaria and typhoid and of course mortal fire. In a nutshell, this military Sherlock Holmes was threatening the peace and security of the nation. Imagine if those financiers and their hired hands were to land in a court of law and start singing like canaries mentioning the names of men of sharp cutlasses and AK-47; parcel bomb and SMG.  We’re talking of movers and shakers of the shitstem in an election year – people who; to quote Chairman Oshiomole have real electoral value. Who could’ve condoned such act of rebellion? Not General Brutal or Sai Baba who even dropped his military title to be more civilian than the bloody civilians.

Not only was Atolagbe breeding rebellion with his unwarranted and unlicensed fingerprint machines; his revolutionary act of disobeying superior orders to release those captured and requesting for them to be tried within the jurisdiction of the crime – locus in quo to paraphrase lawyers is an act of gross insubordination. This altruistic act could have cost General Brutal his Oga at the Top his earned trust.

It is shameful and contrary to strategic interest that his reassignment is now a subject of social and mainstream media speculation and political rant. From now on, General Atolagbe must watch his steps and amend to discipline here. This is Naija and he’s still wearing our uniform. A good general is one who obeys orders even if they are contrary to his conscience, his nation or the best interest of his troops.

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