Ethnic sentiments flared up in the wake of the threat by the Northern Elders Forum to drag immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika before the International Criminal Court at the Hague over crimes against humanity, comprising largely of extra judicial killings committed by soldiers as they prosecuted the campaign to stop Boko Haram.
Igbo leaders said the Northern Elders Forum were ungrateful and also going after Ihejirika because he is an Igbo man.
In this snippet from an interview conducted by the Punch with Professor Ango Abdullahi, spokesman of the NEF, he reacts to the allegations.
Why did you accuse the former chief of army staff, an Igbo man, General Azubuike Ihejirika, of mass killing the way he handled Boko Haram?
Was he the army chief because he was an Igbo man? I should ask you. Was he made Chief of Army Staff because he was Igbo? I am asking you? I don’t care where he comes from, we are not accusing him because of where he comes from because that does not matter. He could have been a Hausa Man, a Kanuri or anybody. We are accusing him because of the atrocities his commanders committed in various parts of the country, particularly the North. We have collected sufficient data and information about the atrocities that his boys in various commands committed. It’s not a matter for debate, it is a matter of presentation in the appropriate courts. It’s not a matter for speculation, it’s a matter of evidence. You don’t go to court based on speculations; you go to court with evidence and this is what hopefully we want to do.
The man said the Northern elders are ungrateful to blame him, what is your take on this?
Ungrateful to him? What for? Be grateful to him for doing what? He chose to be in the army, I wanted to be an agronomist; that was why I studied agriculture and became a professor of agronomy. I don’t have to thank him for joining the army to perform the functions of a professional soldier if he is one. He doesn’t have to thank me for being an agronomist. It is his choice to be a soldier, why should I thank him for being paid for a job he has chosen to do? One mistake he seems to be making is that he is saying the life of a soldier is far more precious than the lives of other people that are not soldiers. I think this is totally the reverse. The soldier has enlisted in the army and has agreed that whatever it takes, he is going to be a soldier, he is going to live and die a soldier and the rules of engagement are there in carrying out his duties. He can’t on account of anger that his comrade by his side has died, go and take revenge on innocent civilians. That is not the way to go. If somebody commits an offence, it’s left for the courts to try such an individual and deal with him/her. The soldiers can only fish such people out and let the law take care of the rest. It is not for you to go on a spree or taking it out on innocent civilians because of what happened to your comrades. There is nothing to thank him for; it is his choice to be in the army, just like it is the choice of everyone to choose what profession they want for themselves.