Brig. Gen. Mansur Dan Ali has a quote which, it appears, he loves to recite. During his ministerial screening at the Senate last month, he said it. And yesterday, while resuming for duty as new defence minister, he recited it again to officials of the Defence Headquarters as well as staff of the ministry of defence.
“Leadership is all about integrity, honesty and transparency,” he says. “There cannot be a good leader without these three things. Forget about corruption. Corruption can never come near you if you have these qualities.”
Ali fancies himself as one who possesses those three traits and who would speak truth to power no matter what. In his speech yesterday, he recalled one of the controversial episodes of the last general elections: The Buhari certificate scandal, in which it was reported that Buhari did not have a WAEC certificate. Buhari claimed that the certificate was with the military authorities, but the leadership of the Army at the time, released a statement denying him.
“Where is your integrity when your own Chief of Army Staff (Minimah) stood up and said his Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces (sic) has no WAEC. How?” asked Ali yesterday at the meeting with the defence officials, including the Chief of defence staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin. “Please let us be sincere with ourselves. Because you should have stood up and said ‘no’; because you were there, you could not. If you leave the job, is it the end of your life? If you leave the job there are other ways; better ways God can bless your life.”
Ali’s rebuke yesterday was not the first time he would be taking on the previous military leadership. As a delegate from Zamfara State at the 2014 National Conference put together by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Ali prepared a memo which shook the Defence Headquarters.
Ali’s memo accused the military leadership under Air Marshall Alex Badeh of maladministration, corruption, discriminatory legal reviews, illegal detention/extra-judicial trials and counter-terrorism measures.
The former chief of defence staff, Badeh, had to release a statement rebuking Ali for his “unguarded utterances” and accusing him of making “misleading allegations capable of undermining the armed forces and the nation’s political leadership.”
In an April 28, 2014 letter to the National Conference Committee on National Security, Sub committee on Defence Infrastructure, Badeh accused Ali of telling lies and also questioned “whether it is appropriate for a conference delegate, to submit a memorandum on a subject which he may ultimately preside over. This is against the backdrop of the legal principle that a man should not be a judge in his own case.”
The defence headquarters insisted in the letter that Ali’s insinuations in the memorandum that m counter-terrorism measures have failed was “regrettable, especially coming from a source that is in a better position to appreciate the complexity of asymmetric warfare.”
Ali is now on the other side and once he gets settled in, attacking the previous leadership for failures would no longer cut it. He now has a chance to do better, and bring to bear his three famous principles of “integrity, honesty and transparency” in order to tackle those issues he complained about from the outside, but which still exist in the military today.
In his speech yesterday, Ali talked about improving military welfare, ensuring that there is regular rotation of troops, especially those involved in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations against Boko Haram in the North-east, as well as accountability in procurement of arms. Ali also advocated for cooperation amongst different military services and other security agencies.
He ended his presentation with a promise to defeat the insurgents. “The terrorists are on their way out,” he said. “Even before the December deadline, they would be routed. I am not in doubt that Nigerian soldiers are the best and among the best in the one.”
It’s time for Ali to attack again; only this time it can’t be the previous military leadership but Boko Haram.