By Madu Onuorah
Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, the ‘Viral General,’ was on Monday convicted by a General Court Martial (GCM) at the Garrison Headquarters, Abuja, of violating military social media guidelines and was ordered to be demoted by at least three years.
Tokunbo Obanla, a Nigerian Army private who was arraigned alongside General Adeniyi, was also found guilty and sentenced to 28 days of hard labour.
Both convictions would take effect subject to confirmation by the Army Council.
As Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, General Adeniyi appeared in the video revealing Nigeria’s best kept open secret – that his troops had been overwhelmed by the superior fighting equipment and powers of the Boko Haram terrorists.
Following the viral revelation, he was moved from Theatre Commander to the Nigerian Army Resource Centre (NARC), Abuja, as Senior Research Fellow.
From NARC, General Adeniyi was posted to the Garrison Headquarters, venue of the GCM.
The Nigerian Army, after a thorough investigations of his activities, was charged of military social media guideline violations.
The Major General strongly denied wrongdoings, with his lawyers saying today’s tribunal judgement would be appealed to the Chief of Army Staff and convening authority of the GCM, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, and the Army Council.
General Adeniyi has found himself in the social media space in an unintended way.
He has been bold man of ideas. Maybe why in October 2019, while addressing the National Assembly Joint Committee on Army in Maiduguri, Adeniyi said: “The only thing that needs to be given to the Army now is Nigeria Army Aviation with its own helicopters… When this is done, Nigeria can forget about the deadly Islamic sect.”
In the vintage viral video, Adeniyi, obviously speaking to a superior officer, said: “I will give you some estimates to guide your good decision, sir. Boko Haram has fired more than a hundred mortal bombs at us. They have fired more than 80 to 100 RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades) at us in addition to more than 8 to 10 gun trucks from every side since yesterday. We have not run, and the soldiers are not misbehaving or disobeying orders. We have casualties; I will come and see you in person on what we need to do. But we are not running.”
Pointing at a broken-down MRAP’s (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle touted as the Army’s joker in the fight against Boko Haram, Adeniyi said that one of the tyres “ran flat after bullet touched it. We have used more than 20 MRAP tyres here. That’s another one, sir. We have changed close to 250 Hilux tyres due to the terrain. This is what we are facing.”
Clearly, despite any postulation by the Army on his fate, his trial and conviction by the GCM is the move to subdue free speech and to intimidate truth into silence, especially at the frontlines. But as I noted in an earlier piece, ‘Army, Adeniyi and the Truth’ about eight months ago when he was deployed to the NARC, the senior officer can be accused of being careless or overzealous. How could he not know that in an era where senior officers now “position” themselves like politicians, what he said would not leak to the public?
Adeniyi thought he was being loyal and accountable by telling the authorities the truth, not knowing that he was exposing the federal government and the Nigerian Army to ridicule. He went outside the official line that the terrorists have been “technically defeated,” decimated or rendered incapable of posing any further challenge to the Army.
Generally, his redeployment and trial was to silence him and others who may want to open up on the reality on ground in any operational area. The reality remains that apart from the Commanders who benefit from the disbursement of the operational funds, majority on the frontlines are disgruntled. After all, they complain of not fighting with the required equipment.
So, for daring to expose the truth, General Adeniyi had to not only leave the war front, but now demotion and exit from the Army. Yet, the General ought to know better.
Is talking while the camera is rolling the new way of delivering Situation Reports (Sitreps) to Army Headquarters? He was wrong in talking to the whosoever, delivering Sitreps, with the video recording. Situation Reports are delivered in writing, by radio or fax, not word of mouth, and on camera.
His crime was not that he spoke, but that he spoke too candidly, and with the camera rolling. And he delivered a Sitrep on camera to his boss. And it leaked. The lesson for Adeniyi and others in uniform, and even outside the uniform is that when you speak and it reverberates well with the boss, your rating and friends will increase. When it rubs your boss/es the wrong way, you lose your command and commission. That, unfortunately, is how the world works.
Madu Onuorah, a veteran Defence Correspondent, is Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Global Upfront Newspapers