In my younger years, I wanted to join the military; the Navy to be specific. I have always admired the bravery of men of the force who dedicate their lives to defending Nigeria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Having visited the barracks in the good old days, I marveled at the morning drills and the strict discipline it instilled.
I was particularly enamoured when I had the opportunity to interact with a few; the highly educated ones. I have a distant cousin who served with ECOMOG and I remember when I first saw him when he just arrived from one of such missions for an uncle’s funeral in the military regalia of green camouflage. It was a proud moment for me.
Their exposure as a result of their travels on various missions, military courses and tales of their exploits always aggravated the itch in me and at a time, I made efforts – though half-hearted – to apply for short service but it never seemed feasible and I won’t say it bothered me much . I took it as one those fantasies of youth.
I was also aware that the regimented life in the military was guided by Martial Law and I knew that insubordination was a serious offence which at occasions was punishable by death. It was a hard pill to swallow considering that I am quite outspoken especially at what I perceive as injustice. We can blame my law background for that.
Our military was once the pride of Africa but not so much today. The hydra-headed monster called corruption overpowered its machinery and today, our gallant soldiers lay at its mercy. This was manifest when a few months ago, there were news reports of mutiny when some junior officers fired shots at their commanding officer for leading their brothers in arms into an ambush where many lost their lives in the fight against the Islamic militant sect Boko Haram.
This was a serious issue of course and normally, one would expect that the occurrence would be subjected to full scale inquiry. However, it was a shocker today when I read news confirming that the “mutineers” had been court martialed and some sentenced to death. This is coming at the heels of a very recent news report of over 800 Nigerian soldier fleeing to Cameroun after being outgunned by the Islamic militants.
It is no secret that our military has taken a severe beating from this Islamic sect who have metamorphosed from the use of the most primitive to sophisticated weaponry. Is it that the military over the past few years has been breeding cowards? No, far from it! On the contrary, I still believe that the military is to a large extent filled with men and women of grit and substance.
The problem is corruption.
Granted, our military has been fighting a war they were untrained for – at least within our territorial borders. They are ill-equipped and generally underpaid. This is especially baffling when you consider that military budget has increased since the insurgency began. How is it then that we expect miracles from these disillusioned and unmotivated men and women of the armed forces?
It is no longer news that these men are sent into the battle with poor military intelligence and archaic weaponry to fight a rag tag but organized bunch of militants with sophisticated weapons in their arsenal. Is the outcome really far-fetched? I almost wept when I heard that these men go into battle with rationed bullets. How dare we expect victory when we all know that you never bring a knife to a gun fight.
It is maniacally bewildering and positively bamboozling that the higher echelons of the Nigerian Military which is long overdue for investigation can sentence its own to death when there is probable cause for the mutiny; especially at a time when we have suffered great casualty in the war against terror. You can never enforce discipline when there is no moral background or justification. Retiring the GOC who was mutineered against is hardly enough. If this unjust sentence is carried out, it may just be the catalyst to a crisis that has the potential to snowball into chaos of immeasurable proportions that we may never recover from.
These pot-bellied men who have forgotten what it feels like to face the barrel of gun knowing you are ill-equipped as you stare surely at death in the face; what it feels like to know that when you are gone, no one will give a hoot about the family you leave behind. I cannot imagine the kind of gloom that hangs in the barracks of our foot soldiers. Are you telling me that there is no reprieve for these men and woman in this world who gallantly lay down their lives for this country?
The injustice of this hurts to the marrow. Selective treatment, selective justice is a plague ravaging this country and it is sickening that the military, a supposed bastion of discipline has fallen hard. It is disgusting that those who seek to instill discipline are in dire need of discipline.
I fervently hope and pray that these unjust court-martial sentences will by some miracle be withdrawn. I pray that the ruthless arm of the law will catch up with those who have continued to without consequence pilfer military funds for their personal use to the detriment of the lives of gallant men and women of the force. I pray that our military will surmount the current security challenge and become once again, the pride of Africa.
But hey, what do I know? This is just the rant of a “bloody” civilian.