By Amina Salihu
I am one who is fairly familiar with the strict hierarchy and the precise discipline of the military, having grown up next to an Army barrack and served military personnel in my mother’s shop while growing up in Zaria. I had and still have a tremendous amount of respect for the military, Our brothers dreamed of going to the Command College in Kaduna and the Nigeria Military School in Zaria. The uniform ‘tripped’ the girls. Young ladies dreamed of marrying officers largely because of the military’s wedding ceremonies and the martial razzmatazz and funfare associated with the celebration of officers’ promotions and the like. These were romantic moments.
The military remains a close-knit society. It perforce must be so because for one to nurture a core of human beings who must lay down their lives without question so that a people they do not know can be safe and so that they can keep their allegiance to country and to a commander-in-chief they may never see is a rare choice, a hard one. This is the ultimate price anyone can pay. Soldiers, therefore, must remain insulated from everyday distractions to stay focused and amenable to their calling and vow.
However, the military is not what it used to be. Since it ventured into politics, it has diluted its essence, laying bare its soul for all to see. The military’s integrity and their aura of invincibility now appear to be called to question over some of their errors of judgment and consequent actions or even inactions. The fact that the military era is today referred to as a bad phase in our history with the exception of a few bright spots where people could see the genuineness of the military leaders, calls to question the rationality, character and selflessness of the military.
Incidentally, the military is so closed in that no outsider has ever heard of a probe into how opportunities are shared and how trainings, promotions, travels overseas, etc are done. Yet the military gets about 30 per cent share of the national budget. Every year, in the present democracy since 1999, the highest allocation in the national budget goes to the military. We, however, cannot ignore the fact that we live in very strange times where new ways of thinking and doing things are called for. We need to ask questions as this is what a responsible citizenship does. For instance, why is it that our military, especially our Army, does fantastically well on international missions but appears to flounder before the menace of Boko Haram in Nigeria? Why is the Army telling us it is under-funded, under-resourced, when it gets the highest allocation of the national budget? Who is afraid of this being known such that the narrative suddenly changes to, “The Army never said it is under-funded; it’s a bunch of trouble makers who are alluding to such?”
We must ask why a group of young solders mutiny and shoot at their own commanding officer in a non -coup setting? Can we possibly close our ears and our hearts to the fact that the rank and file were disillusioned by a leadership that has grown to care for itself but not the rank and file? Can we close our imagination to the implication of bad calls on military movements, rickety vehicles and old-fashioned weapons given to the Army against a better-equipped enemy? Can the military be immune from the wider society within which it is located? Can the military, in fact, be better than the Nigerian state or is it more susceptible to becoming a microcosm of that state? I think the latter situation is a higher possibility.
In present-day warfare, the military does not waste lives. Air strikes, rather than ground offensives, are preferred for their greater efficiency and because they save lives. The military establishments of advanced societies are experimenting with robotics to save lives. Death should be the last resort. It is against this background that one appeals for leniency on behalf of those 12 boys who had the courage to protest a perceived injustice and have been charged with mutiny and attempted murder, judged guilty and now sentenced to death. They are human; they are people’s children and a hope for the future. They are the Army’s scarce resource. Difficult times call for difficult measures. I do not say they should not be punished. After all, the military has its rules but to inflict the maximum punishment of death would be a wrong and would further diminish the military and portray it as an irrational institution. After all, it is said that there is no smoke without fire.
I continue to respect our military. Any patriotic citizen would so do. There is nowhere in recent times where it has been alluded that the military was not relevant. Anybody who thinks that way should be invited to come lay down his life for others. The assertion, therefore, that the Bring Back Our Girls movement is against the military is disrespectful of the military and a false claim that is premised on a political need to discredit the movement. What has been called for is a focus on the needs of that institution precisely because of its indispensability as a bastion of safety and statehood. But, surely, in a democracy, shouldn’t citizens have the right to express themselves? One hopes that the military would listen and that the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces will also listen and rise above the fray by sparing the lives of those boys and then address the root cause of what is wrong with our military.Follow Us on Social Media