By Ken Tadeferua
Army Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali (retired), comptroller- general of the Nigeria Customs Office, summoned to appear before the Senate tomorrow, said today, he cannot be there because he has a management meeting.
Interesting. This spat between the Senate and Colonel Ali. The Senate is spitting fire. Ali is thumping his nose. At the men of the National Assembly.
Five days after he was summoned, last Thursday, to appear before the Senate over Customs’ planned clampdown on vehicles without duty payment and just a day before his scheduled appearance, the retired Colonel wrote to say he will not be at the Senate due to a management meeting.
Apparently, Colonel Ali’s management meeting could not be rescheduled in all of five days. It also takes precedence over the Senate’s angry summons. Talk about scornful rebuff and I give you Colonel Hameed Ali retired.
And it is not the first time he has contemptuously poked his finger in the eyes of the senators over the matter of appearing in the Senate. Ali has never donned the uniform of the Customs he heads. Thus, an incensed Senate thundered that Ali must appear in appropriate Customs uniform before it.
Many had wagered that the proud retired soldier will not honour the two demands of the Senate. He will not be at the Senate. He will not put on the Customs uniform. Indeed, he was quoted as saying with imperial aplomb last week: “I was not appointed Comptroller General to wear uniform.”
But in writing, today, to the Senate instead of willfully ignoring the legislators, he has left a little window of doubt as to the absolute disdain he regards the senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
I think Ali is deploying military tactical flanking to contain the superior firepower and likely encirclement from the Senate. The retired colonel may be buying time and trying skirmishes, behind the scenes, to reach some kind of war armistice without losing face. But then, this is theoretical. The hard reality is a raging belligerence between the colonel and the Senate.
It is apparent that the colonel has scant regard for the senators. I am of the same bent. I disdain many of the senators, not least the very bumptious and rambunctious Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West).
Bleating with empty arrogance from remunerations overload, some of these senators, yet still, harass and blackmail ministers, heads of parastatals, and corporate CEOs into offloading Ghana Must Go bags and contracts to fatten their already bulging private bank accounts.
It is common practice, amongst them, to unleash sordid media threats and campaigns of calumny peppered with deliberately skewered oversight figures against summoned victims who fail to do the needful. Be assured that many heads of parastatals and corporations secretly applaud the kangaroo punches, retired Colonel Ali, has delivered so far on the senators.
Not a few citizens wish the colonel will finish off the rogue senators with nice black eyes. A measure of how badly dented the image of the Senate and indeed the National Assembly have become. One that has regrettably lost dignity and respect.
Unfortunately, the colonel is not about the malfeasance of the “distinguished” senators. His battle is, yet another disease, that has ravaged this nation state for decades. That of military impunity and unbridled arrogance.
Ali believes, erroneously, that he is beholden, in classic Nigerian military tradition, to only the commander in chief of the armed forces, who appointed him to office. His attainment of colonel decorations in the army seem to count far above civilian national institutions including the National Assembly and worse a paramilitary service like the Customs.
Having burnished his aristocratic skin to a golden hue with the uniform of the Army, it is certainly beneath Ali’s person to don the degrading uniform of the Customs which he had been appointed to manage. Arrant nonsense.
Even if Colonel Ali has a problem, as I do, with senators as individuals, he must realize that the Senate and the National Assembly are absolutely sacred institutions of our democracy. The institutions must be respected. They cannot be treated with public opprobrium. Today, the military is subject to the people’s will as dictated by the civilian constitution and its institutions.
I think Colonel Hameed Ali is, in this matter, unduly arrogant. He is, like a preying mantis, striking Kung-fu postures and prancing in vain, against his own shadow. It is like baying at the moon. He should show respect. He must be humble and disciplined.
Discipline is the traditional hallmark of the army. As a retired colonel, Ali ought be the epitome of discipline. One who ought realize that respecting the spirit, rules and traditions of the institutions one heads or works in, is key to internal discipline and cohesion. It boosts the image of the institution’s stakeholders, no less its chief executive.
I should ask Colonel Ali a question. If a retired Customs officer were drafted to serve in the army under him, while he was still in active army service, would he tolerate the retired Customs officer’s inane argument that he was not appointed to wear army uniforms.
That is the height of indiscipline. At any rate, what has colonel Ali achieved in his new office. The fusion of rude and greedy Customs officers on highways and markets harassing and extorting monies from innocent Nigerians? Ali needs to travel incognito on the Lagos – Benin highways to see the high nuisance value, Customs officers have become recently. But that is story for another day.
As already pointed out to Colonel Ali, there is precedence for him to follow in this matter. A general of the Nigeria Army, Major General Halidu Hannaniya (retired) promptly and proudly, attired daily, the uniform of the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, he was appointed to run. Who then is Colonel Hameed Ali (retired) to treat such basic decency with scornful levity?
Even if a retired general of the United States Army, the world’s greatest army, is appointed head of the Boy Scouts, he must proudly put on the Boy Scouts uniform.
He must diligently embody the discipline which the Army inculcated in him and have humility enough to be of exemplary conduct to the institution, its peoples and the young folks watching to learn from him.
Therefore Colonel Ali, it is imperative that you come off your high horse. You do not represent a conquering army.
You are a retired army officer in civilian democracy appointed by a civilian president to an institution whose best traditions, including its uniform, you must cherish. You will not go to God with military pips or an Army skin. There is no compulsion about military uniforms. You must learn to be humble.
It is my candid view that the Customs uniform will fit snugly the still toned muscles of the retired colonel. He should wear it and proudly too. He must respect the summons of the Senate. He can go there and bullshit the senators face to face and man to man. But the institution of the Senate he must not trivialize or desecrate. So Colonel, be a sport, don your uniform, respect the Senate summon. You will earn our applause.
If you won’t do these things, nicely resign as CG of Customs. Then go home, not in pride but as a disgrace to the Army and the nation. Slink away to nurse your colonel pips at home. Stay away from our democracy. We do not need any more of the rapacious impunity that soldiers with overblown egos used to damage this country.
The choice is yours. Good luck to you, Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali (retired).