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Opinions of Monday, 10 May 2021

Columnist: Eric Teniola

A country that is bleeding

Map of Nigerian states Color signifies geopolitical region Map of Nigerian states Color signifies geopolitical region

On April 22, the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi (retd), was on the spot. He told State House correspondents that “Nigeria is bleeding”. During the media chat, he informed us all that he has been a lawyer for the past 34 years. I guess the country knows him more as a general than a legal practitioner. To bleed is simply a blood loss; you must have been wounded before you can bleed. “Make no mistakes that our nation is bleeding now”, Magashi declared.

Wikipedia defines bleeding, also known as a haemorrhage, or simply blood loss, as “blood escaping from the circulatory system from damaged blood vessels. Bleeding can occur internally, or externally either through a natural opening such as the mouth, nose, ear, urethra, vagina or anus, or through a wound in the skin.” Hypovolemia is a massive decrease in blood volume, and death by excessive loss of blood is referred to as exsanguination. Typically, a healthy person can endure a loss of 10–15% of the total blood volume without serious medical difficulties (by comparison, blood donation typically takes 8–10% of the donor’s blood volume). According to Wikipedia, the stopping or controlling of bleeding is called haemostasis and is an important part of both first aid and surgery.

On February 18, the same General Magashi told defenceless Nigerians to defend themselves and appealed to them not to be cowards. While wondering why people were “running from minor things,” referring to attacks by bandits, he said that victims of banditry should resist such attacks and signal to the criminals that “even the villagers have the competence and capability to defend themselves.” He added that the bandits would sometimes carry only a few rounds of ammunition. “Is it the responsibility of the military alone? It is the responsibility of everybody to keep alert and to find safety when necessary. But we shouldn’t be cowards,” the minister told reporters. “At times, the bandits will only come with three rounds of ammunition. When they fire shots, everybody runs. In our younger days, we stood to fight any aggression coming for us”.

Magashi is not new to controversy. His declaration to “Nigeria is bleeding” captures what is going on in the country at the moment. When he was appointed the Minister of Defence in 2019, I wrote a piece on “All eyes on Magashi”. I do not intend to delete what I wrote. Let us look at the schedule of the Minister of Defence. In the past, the Ministry of Defence used to have four ministers. There was Minister of Defence, there was also Minister of State for Navy, Minister of State for Army and Minister of State for Air Force. There was also a time where there was a Minister of Defence and Minister of State for Defence. I am referring to the post-1999 era. Now, Magashi has no Minister of State. The man who said “Nigeria is bleeding” is no doubt a super minister under the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

Let us examine his schedule and responsibilities as Minister of Defence combined. These include formulation and implementation of policies and programmes on defence; co-ordination of defence programmes that commit the entire military to matters of military operation; ensures the combat-readiness of the Armed Forces; advises the President, Commander-in-Chief on deployment of troops, strategic doctrines, procurement decisions, and defence policy; co-ordinates the execution of Armed Forces Development Project; approves the clearance of foreign military aircraft and warships; signs defence agreements, liaison with Armed Forces of foreign countries; approves the appointment of Defence attaches and serves as member, Armed Forces Council/Board, Chairman, Armed Forces Tenders Board, member, boards of Armed Forces Training Institutions (NDA, National War College and Staff College), member, Joint Intelligence Board, member, Defence Council and Security Council and any other duties that may be assigned by the President, Commander-in-Chief.

Other responsibilities are welfare of ex-service men including military pensions boards, co-ordination of the Armed Forces Resettlement Scheme, matters of war graves, military museums and national cenotaph, matters of the Nigerian Legions, supervision of the parastatals of the Ministry: Defence Industry Corporation and Tafawa Balewa Square Investment Limited.

I must however add that Magashi became the military governor of Sokoto State between August 1990 and January 1992. Between September 1985 and August 27, 1993, General Ibrahim Babangida, appointed 74 military governors. Magashi was one of them. He took over from Colonel Ahmed Muhammadu Daku and was succeeded by Colonel Yahaya AbdulKarim.

If you read the book, “The Vindication of a General” by General Ishaya Bamaiyi, you will be better informed on who Magashi is.

After General Sani Abacha’s death in 1998, Magashi was appointed as a member of the Provisional Ruling Council headed by General Abdulsalami Abubakar. It was this council that handed over power to President Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999.

On his assumption of power on May 29, 1999, Obasanjo later retired 93 military officers who had earlier served in various political positions during the military era. Magashi was one of them.

After retirement, Magashi vied to be governor of Kano State under the Democratic People’s Party and later became the National Chairman of the party. Along with Buhari, Magashi became a member of the All Nigeria Peoples Party and in 2007, he was Kano State’s governorship candidate of the DPP. Currently, Magashi is representing Kano State in the Federal Executive Council. This means that at present, Kano State has two ministers of full cabinet rank including Alhaji Sabo Nanono, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. Unlike Ondo and Kogi states, who for the two terms of Buhari are compensated with just ministers of state. Leadership is a lonely job. Very lonely indeed. The success and failure of a leader are always judged by actions taken or not taken. But a leader can only take an action based on information available to them. Sometimes, friends and aides can mislead a leader, because most of the time, most leaders are imprisoned by those around them. Magashi is not just a minister, he is also a man who has been in power and government for years. He knows the mechanics and rudiments of power structure. So, for him to say that “Nigeria is bleeding”, we have to take him seriously.

I am told Magashi is extremely close to his boss and friend, President Buhari. He should tell Buhari not to allow Nigeria to bleed to death, the consequences of which will be too grave to imagine.

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