Thursday, June 12, 2014 2:00 pm
The report of the professional misconduct of soldiers of 101 Battalion deployed to Maiduguri, Borno State, during which miscreants in Nigerian Army uniform fired gunshots at their General Officer Commanding, GOC, Major General Ahmed Mohammed, for whatever earthly reasons, resonated the high degree of decadence that has permeated the entire strata of human society with Nigeria at its epicentre. It also opens a can of worms of the vampires in high political and civil service stations in the country. It pinpoints why nothing good works in this most populous African country.
The soldiers demonstrated that they were a bunch of rascals whose buffoonery was total enough to blind them to the calling of their chosen profession. Otherwise, they would have known that the feeblest protest in war situation impelled by the Boko Haram insurgency was a rebellion, with death by firing squad as its sad end.
Reports have it that the soldiers, dispatched to Chibok, a Borno State town popularised by the misguided insurgents’ abduction of 234 schoolgirls, were returning to base after a failed expedition and favoured breaking the journey when, at the behest of the GOC, they were made to complete the ill-fated trip.
The soldiers’ apprehension that they could run into an ambush materialised and the troops recorded some fatalities, which they considered enough ground for multiple assaults at their GOC. They took umbrage and fired gunshots at their formation’s high commander for egging them on to what they categorised as a disaster. This unseemly action by the soldiers may appear trite to the uninformed, but it is heavy in military corridor. It carries the weight of high treason, with death in tow.
The battalion was formed and deployed to the war ravaged zone less than a month to the ugly incident in Maiduguri. The soldiers, contrary to professional ethos, were said to be averse to their deployment to engage the insurgents in Borno. They are patently at odds with the nature of their calling, one of which is to put national integrity ahead of their personal lives. Any soldier has already put his life on the line in his avowed commitment to defend the national territorial integrity, and any consideration on the contrary weighs heavily against the reneging soldier. The point is that, any soldier at odds with this avowal to subsumed personal interest has forfeited everything including his personal life, even if conscripted.
This is the dire situation and booby trap into which the 101 Battalion troops openly walked into, and waltzing out may be near-impossible. Those ill-baked soldiers may have made a date with the ultimate in their chosen profession.
The situation that brought those military personnel face-to-face with destiny may have been avoidable if they had had the right orientation from the outset. They had a jaundiced view of the military as a lackadaisical vocation – job as usual. They, in their wild imagination and going by the back-door entry, could not decipher the high risk of slipshod and ultra-flippancy in the discharge of their national assignment.
If the soldiers were alive to their brief, they would have been at alert 24 hours of the day in view of the guerrilla tactics of the Boko Haramists. Soldiers in such a situation expect attacks and are never taken by surprise because the insurgents do not occupy any geographic location in the North-East axis of Nigeria and operate across the borders. Only neophytes would agree that if the soldiers had been allowed to determine their itinerary, they would never have come into harm’s way. Military strategy belongs, exclusively, to the top dogs. Ambush is guerrilla war tactics and the best strategy is adequate training garnished with spontaneous counter-attack, in the same way policemen in the anti-robbery squad should respond to robbers’ ambush. Blaming the development on GOC’s order to return to base post-haste is balderdash.
That this same set of soldiers was said to have disobediently withdrawn from an assigned location two weeks before the mutiny speaks volumes of the high degree of decadence in today’s Nigerian Army. Such serious operational breach was enough to earn them life imprisonment. In fact, the soldiers and their immediate handlers should brace up for the grave consequences of their unruly and gross military misconduct. The Army, anywhere in the world, operates on a strict code that views disobedience as a deadly virus which traces must be flushed with all severity.
Nigerians deserve to be told the enormity of the Boko Haram insurgency and why there is no resolution in sight going by the business-as-usual approach. This serious threat to Nigeria’s sovereignty has been politicised. It is being made to look as if the crisis could only be resolved if a Muslim attains the Presidency in 2015. There has been a state of emergency in three north-eastern states for one year and another six-month extension is in the offing. Yet, all the states’ political structures are intact. This is a hotchpotch of a disturbing proportion – a state of emergency without its sting. It is unknown in history and a bizarre compromise.
It is apt to end this piece with a direct quotation from The Guardian daily as a window into the Nigerian officialdom. Quote: “Even the money appropriated for capital projects are not left for the end-users, the military, to determine its implementation. Immediately the budget is signed, Presidency officials, National Assembly members [under the guise of oversight functions] and other top Nigerian officials besiege the military in order to decide who executes the contracts. Sometimes, these officials recommend vendors/middlemen instead of procuring the equipment directly from the manufacturers.
“And they [the military] also face [a bizarre type of] bureaucracy. Most times, the greed of the politicians and the accompanying belief by civil servants is that the funds budgeted for are to be shared. All these frustrate the execution of projects.”
Soldiers, rank and file, do not protest or argue with their political overlords and the political and civil class are stretching the military’s resilience to a breaking point. Extreme caution is needed. Nigeria is indeed a parody of quintessential nationhood. Only a moribund nation can afford to rubbish its military and compromise its territorial integrity on the altar of petty politics. It’s high time Nigeria discarded its abhorrent practices.
– Akin Owolabi, a media practitioner, is a veteran of the Nigerian Civil War