David Mark Military Presidency: False or Reality
When in the Punch publication of June 3, 2006, in the wake of General Obasanjo’s presidential third team bid, Major-General David Mark remarked that “Only a military man should be president” no credence was given to it and still he emerged as the senate president a year later. Even though, it merely depicts Mark’s ignorance of the concept of leadership and the American grooming of leaders, he is no doubt positioning himself to being the next president of Nigeria. Mark’s reasoning, however, stemmed from his lack of critical thinking, which he exhibited as minister for communication under the inglorious dictatorship of General Babangida, when he stated that telephone was not for the poor.
Nevertheless, none of his reasoning justifies military presidency any where in the world. According to Mark: the United States of America “ had been ruled by president who served in the military”. In the United States, military background is not a prerequisite for or even a direct ticket to the presidency. In all fairness, Mark at least acknowledged this fact with respect to the election of president Bill Clinton. Most US presidents are military not by occupation, but by design. The US military is a volunteer force. Membership is not based on whom you know-like being Generals Babangida or Abacha or David Mark’s brother or sister as the case may be in Nigeria. It is opened to all US citizens and permanent residents who are 18 to 35 years of age. There is even a consideration that the age limit be raised to 40 or 43. In any case, any US male citizen who fails to seek recruitment into the military automatically denies himself federal government grants for university education. So, there is string attached. And recruitment can rarely be denied except on medical grounds or wrongdoing.
Military training or any professional background for that matter has never been the yardstick for leadership position nor automatic springboard for the presidency. In mark’s words: “civilians don’t have the requisite training”. It is obvious that Mark lacks understanding of leadership concept. There are combinations of factors for leadership training. The most significant is the educational system and opportunities offered by the society. In the US, which Mark used as his example for the quality of a president, every citizen right from inception of kindergarten is prepared for leadership with instructions on the roles and responsibilities of various occupations with emphasis on ways and means of helping the community, especially the poor. Therefore, no US government official would ever close a school for one second, unless the environment or school is in imminent danger. In 1989, General Babangida shut several of the best and brightest universities for one year for protesting Babangida’s corrupt and inept leadership, and harsh economic policies of the structural adjustment program (SAP). This is opposite to US slogan: “ Today’s students, tomorrow’s leaders”. It is not today’s military, tomorrow’s leaders. Education is not about the egg and chicken, which comes first? It is the basic foundation of a child development. Our children definitely need the best education to be all they can be.
That-not-withstanding, Mark exposed his delusion of various professional training when he said that civilians have no requisite leadership training and that journalists need military training “that would imbue them with confidence in every area”. Mark seems to lack knowledge of history. The architects of Nigerian independence, the Azikiwes, Ehahoros, Awolowos, Sardauna’s never went to military school. Neither did Martin Luther King who fought effortlessly for minority rights in US nor Nelson Mandela of South Africa had any military training to lead their citizens against the forces of evil. So even military training is not necessary to lead and be led. The enormous training by journalists prepares them for all aspects of human endeavor. It is no wonder that they are often referred to as the fourth realm or fourth estate of government. In any case, the average US commissioned officer has a master’s degree. And the average US sergeant has an associate degree, which may be equivalent to OND that is higher than A/Levels, which is the academic certificate of the Nigerian Defense Academic prior to its upgrade as a degree awarding institution.Therefore, it is no surprise that even General Yakubu Gowon after his tenure as Nigeria military head of state for 9 years went to the university for a degree in political science to boost his confidence in political administration. Confidence is given to individuals by the quality of education offered to them by their leaders. Gowon had the opportunity to make Nigeria a super power, but he did not know what to do with money, because he lacked the broad educational training and exposure to coordinate people of divergent background and visualize the social, political and economic growth of a budding nation. When schools are shut every now and then by leadership that lacks the knowledge and vision of social, technological and economics relevance of education, the end result is vicious violent gangs, armed robbers, secret cults and increased moral deprivation as it is today in our country.
The military according to Mark “gives you the confidence that you need and makes you to be everything”. His nebulous supporting evidence is that he knows his car better than his driver. Mark would even prefer a sergeant to a graduate for training. Unfortunately we do not know the level of education of his driver. Mark is ignorance of the fact that every vehicle has owner’s manual in the glove compartment, which shows how the vehicle should be operated and what to do when there is a malfunction. Nobody needs military training to know how a car works. It is just a matter of interest. So all it takes is to read and understand the manual. There is no formal mechanical training needed to do that. If Mark’s driver does not know how to read, how would he know how the vehicle works? Only through teaching by Mark or his designate. That is what leadership is all about, lifting up and empowering people above their social, economic or educational status. It is not about bringing them down below their status or being judgmental of their inadequacies. Such acts of visionless attitude caused Babangida within eight years to ignore the best and brightest technocrats advice, but dragged Nigeria into stupendous debt and woeful social-economics decadence that would take several generations to fix. In today’s world, a nation is judged by her technological, social and health advancement. Hence some small countries like the Bahamas thrive on tourism. A Nigeria with less crime can reap in billons of dollars from tourism.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the military has failed the nation. So, every Nigerian has a right to look onto new leadership, new voices other than the military. The military destroyed and are still destroying our democracy, economy and social fabric. The military even killed some of our founding fathers, caused the civil war, destroyed education by having schools closed for months or even years, turned our hospitals into mortuaries, impoverished our people, eliminated middle class, underdeveloped Niger Delta and above all looted our treasury and destroyed our currency to afford them easy opportunity to seek and win elective offices with stash loot in foreign or domiciary bank accounts. Mark is a senator in name not in reality. A senator that has not sponsored a single bill that would impact lives of Nigerians. General Mark as the chairman of police affairs of the senate did not even sponsored a bill on the reorganization of the Nigerian police. Every day there is story of how eastern region bound buses are robbed and women raped in Benin City, Onitsha, Ijebu-ode, and elsewhere by armed gangs. Nigeria is now the new Middle East where violence is the order of the day and live is brutish and short. General Mark has not deemed it fit to advocate that the head of police in any state where there is incessant insecurity or unimaginable crime of obvious terrorism is fired for incompetence, or even sponsor tougher legislations against crimes. No senator in the US, which Nigerian politicians often use as a focal point for political, social and economic reference, would rest when hoodlums make life awful for their citizens as it is now in Nigeria. They would all come together and find a common ground to solving the problem in the senate regardless of political affiliation. Mark as minister for communication had nothing to offer. Nigerians had to bribe to get telephone lines that were non-existence and where they were available, they were epileptic or nonfunctional. As it is today, it would not be a surprise if Mark declares that police protection is not for the poor. This is because the proportions of crime victims daily are traders, especially hardworking market women, and individuals who can barely make a living. Mobile police officers are customarily assigned to the rich and powerful individuals as escorts. Even so, they still get killed whenever it is politically motivated or the hoodlums deem it necessary to do so. Crime victims are often responsible for funding criminal investigations including provisions of transportation and stationary for the police, and payment of court officials for the process and service of writ of summons. Sometimes the court throws out such cases because the suspect has bribed the police to distort investigated facts and/or bribed the judge or magistrate to guarantee victory. Nigerian development has been set back by 100 year of military rule. Nigerians need to look beyond military leadership in this difficult time of our history. If you deserve liberty for yourself, give it to your neighbor. For what goes around comes around. Nigerians must guard against Mark’s inordinate ambition to become the next president of the federation.
N. Nash Haruna Esq.