The Sun News

Dignity of the Nigerian military

The issue of a standard Nigeria Army is one matter that should be in the minds of every true citizen. A look into history would throw up the important fact that great nations are built on the platform of sound military strength. Greco-Roman civilization would not have been if it did not have military might. The same is true of the British Empire, which would not have achieved eminence if it hadn’t a strong military to ward off incursions from equally strong armies of Netherland, France, Portugal and Spain. The way America is configured today wouldn’t have been but for military might. Some of its constituent parts were territories belonging to other nations like Mexico, France and Spain but the strength of the American military was a sufficient factor to engineer a desire and to receive submission. The 21st century has good examples in Japan, North Korea and even Iran.

Japan after the 2nd World War came up with a policy of demilitarization. The nation is built up economically, in fact for many decades it held the enviable position of being the world’s second best industrialized nation after America but for that period the citizens could not enjoy their wealth like the Americans. The difference was in the sense of security and vulnerability. Japan was rich but later events around it showed it could be swallowed up by its militarily strong neighbors like China and the less prosperous North Korea. Today, American soldiers are permanently stationed in Japan. For Iran and North Korea their altercation with Israel and the Western world has been on in the last 50 years and in spite of hot air often blown from the Western nations, the situation has been that of equilibrium and it has been so because of what experts in international relations call balance of power. 

As sophisticated as the Western world appears to be and as stupid as they can act sometimes, there is one thing they know and that is, you don’t confront a society that is militarily prepared. Russia acts alone and that is because the whole world knows the Russian army can stand up to the rest of the sophisticated world armies and still survive. Nations with standard, efficient and very functional army are territorial commanders. They exert plenty of influence and they can do many things including the foolish ones and get away with it. The sense of security that exists among the people cannot be quantified. It is such that citizens have a sense of pride and are ready to pay the supreme sacrifice for the good of their nations. In such nations they don’t appeal for patriotism rather it grows from a shared sense of responsibility that the state is there for the citizens all the time, including those periods when things go awry. Leaders in nations that want to be great build their army as a deliberate act. They nurture the military like parents would do their babies. They take time to shield the military institution from acts and operations that could impugn their integrity, lower their respect, especially in the eyes of the citizen or affect operational efficiency.

In our case everything appears to be different and if we stretch the logic, one could say we work on the reverse. I don’t know what is always in the minds of our leaders. They always tell us they have noble intentions and their biggest objective is the development of the nation. The unfortunate thing is that the results we have do not tally with the mission statement. In fact everything has been so mismanaged to a point we have become confused about which institutions should be and what should be their job descriptions. This didn’t start with the Buhari era nor did it start 20 years ago. It began from independence except for the few months that the structures inherited from the departing colonialists were still strong and very functional. One of the institutions that became a victim of poor governance culture is the military institution. We took over a military that was built on merit and efficiency and gradually we began to dilute and destroy it with the infusion of tribal and religious sentiments and it was for these reasons that a military that was supposed to be the peoples army became tribal and regional army which has continued fighting tribal and religious causes to its own detriment and to the discomfort of the nation. This situation has remained with us in spite of claims of working to improve the institutions by our successive leaders.

The result is that we have an army that is anything but an army. Discipline that is the forte of any army has long deserted our soldiers because of what our leaders have done to that unique institution. Watch our army and match them against those of average nations like Brazil, Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, just to mention a few, the conclusion would be that what we have is a little above Boys’ Scout. What we have currently is not the kind of military a nation like Nigeria should have; their encounter with Boko Haram is enough proof for those who want one. We have done many terrible things against this institution. Politicization, negligence and the intrusion military in politics inflicted so much harm on the march to develop a virile military.

The right approach would have been to commence a massive effort to develop that institution from 1999 when the civilians took over again, but it would seem their fate became worse than it was before. Apart from the issue of deep politicization, we have castrated the army by not providing essential equipment. If we stopped here it would have been better but we have since pushed things to the level of the ridiculous. The military today is used for all aspects of internal security and policing, and this has destroyed the police as an institution. This job assignment has also impacted negatively on the military institution. The military I knew in the 80s was disciplined, orderly even on duty points and would not collect money; in fact they were a rare sight. Today the ones I see on the streets are indisciplined, very disorderly and wicked. They take special delight in abusing the human rights of the people. Daily on our streets we are assailed with disgusting sight of citizens forced to roll in muddy waters, frog jump or to lie and face the sun. Today the military provides security for burials, marriages, naming ceremonies, house warming, specie runs for banks and act as bodyguards for civilian elite. They collect bribes and ‘tolls.’

The military should not be seen at all except in very clear cases of insurgency and real threat to our territorial borders. The police should be organized and different layers created if need be. There is nothing wrong in having the Police Mobile Force recreated and made very functional. If we can’t invent we should at least be able to emulate what others before us have done. Very simple! Simple administrative task has been made complex because of lack of rationalization and the penchant to pursue myopic issues over substance. But for these we know what to do.

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