My brain has got cracking again! All things being equal, I should be a happy Nigerian because my country, Nigeria is in a joyous mood, celebrating about 18 years of unobstructed democracy. It is the longest period ever in our beleaguered political history, as a nation, since independence in 1960 that civilians would hold democratic power uninterrupted for this long.
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 feared for my country; I constantly besieged 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 that of millions of Nigerians, when in 2015, by divine providence he allowed Nigerians take their destiny into their hands, by unanimously voting “change,” as encapsulated by the 2015 APC candidature of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who is now, by His Grace, the civilian President of Nigeria.
I wish to remind Nigerians that the most cardinal power-point of President Buhari’s penetrative electioneering campaigns was the vow to stamp out the endemic corruption and impunity deeply entrenched in Nigeria. His explanation that he would replace it with transparency, accountability and probity in public governance gladdened my heart infinitely.
Of course, every Nigerian knows, more than anything else that these 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, we all groaned under it and cried out loudly for rescue.
But our hopes were revived when President Buhari vowed to halt the trend and the vices. We watched him introduce reforms in public governance to enthrone transparency, accountability, probity and prudent management of resources in the conduct of public business from the outset of his administration.
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 by the relevant MDAs hence it would end regime of dubious inflation of personnel and pension costs.
What has continued to make me sad is the deliberate refusal of most MDAs to implement the IPPIS, which would dismantle the foundation of ghost workers and inflated wage bills in Nigeria. Billions of taxpayers’ money is fretted away monthly through this means.
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, noted for their penchant of excellent delivery on all assignments’ has kick-started the process of implementing the IPPIS, without prodding from any quarters.
It excites me that the Nigerian military under the supervision of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin has again taken a bold step to demonstrate the “born-again” spirit of the Nigerian military. It has advertised it’s aversion to corruption and other sharp practices which have become normal and endorsed creeds of existence for most Nigerians.
A professional soldier who has earned the veneration of Nigerians and Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai is leading the pathway again. Famed for an infectious aversion and intolerance of corruption and other financial sharp practices, Buratai has launched the IPPIS sanitization and implementation in the Nigerian Military in accordance with the dictates of the “change mantra” government of President Buhari.
I was taken aback, in pleasant surprise as Gen. Buratai laced the IPPIS implementation, with enlarging the Army Finance Unit by establishing the Procurement Department for transparency. I knew instantly, the decision was motivated by his inclination to strengthen and subject army purchases of any kind to the prescriptions’ of due process.
At a one-day seminar organized by the Nigerian Army for the Army Finance Unit in Abuja, last December, preparatory for the implementation of the IPPIS, the COAS Gen. 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 in 2017.
What appeases my mind the more about the berthing of IPPIS in the Nigerian military is the grandeur manner Buratai has envisaged in migrating the Nigerian Army personnel to the IPPIS. 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, who has charmed my heart, 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, I denoted the essence of the seminar as 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.
It is to my pleasant surprise that 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 present day reality, 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 the military as conduit pipes for siphoning public funds, as attested 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, Air Marshal Alex Badeh and the investigation of Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin are pointers to official sleaze of the time, which the present crop of Service Chiefs abhor like a plague.
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. I dare say, 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 Buhari, the example of the Nigerian military beckons on them to act in same spirit.
In all sincerity, Nigerians should consider it is ironically 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 itself to do the best to epitomize all that the President represents in private and public life.
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, as the same spirit of accountability, transparency and openness unstoppably runs through their veins.
I know, 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 easy to break a broomstick, but not a bunch”. So, collectively, with everybody contributing in his little way, the ship of Nigeria would berth ashore safely and with goodies for all Nigerians.
Madu writes from the Badagry Leadership Institute, Lagos.