Tuesday, September 2, 2014 12:41 pm
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
King Solomon, the wise one, wrote, over 3,000 years ago, that sluggards should go to the ant and be wise because they store food in harvest in preparation for scarcity. Here, I will twist that statement a bit, by calling on the Federal Government and the Nigerian military high command to consider the ways of the termites and be sharp. They need also to ape the ancient Romans so that the embarrassment Nigeria has recorded in recent times will not continue. This is for the survival of all of us.
It goes without saying that the safety of all creatures, and the rise and fall of kingdoms or empires, depend largely on the strength of their defence. A few examples will suffice. Consider the termite kingdom, Oh! Nigerians – to borrow the words of Solomon. Those insects build majestic palaces, cathedrals, mosques, mounds, their skeletal spires pointing skywards, in the bush. These battlements aside, there is division of labour among them. In each palace, there are the king and queen, the primary responsibility of which is to produce new termites. The queen does not just sit there pretty. It is, as biologists claim, able to lay 10,000 eggs per day for 30 years. It is productive, despite depending on others for food and security.
Then there are the workers which forage food, store it, and build those castles you see as you walk or drive through the bush. Moreover, when they eat the planks in your unprotected roof (and if you also failed to do German floor on your foundation), digest, and regurgitate the finished products to feed members of other departments, including the queen. Here come the soldiers termites which have special body configurations to enable them fight. One biologist wrote: “Many soldiers have jaws so enlarged that they cannot feed themselves, but instead, like juvenile are fed by workers.” God will save the exoskeletons of invading ants if they come in contact with such large pincers.
Empires that learnt from termites made enough provision for their soldiers to function well. Take the Romans. Before their army became the powerful fighting machine it became, conquering Gaul, routing the Barbarians inhabiting the present day Germany and the Celts in the British Isle, it operated on part-time basis, like soldiers of Greek city states before them. That time, soldiers were land owners who provided their own weapons and other welfare. Their wealth depended on their brawn or ability to fight and, by extension, their spoils of war.
Over time, Rome built its army as a professional organisation, members of which were catered for by the state, a development that enabled them to spend long periods from home, conquering and making vassals of foreign kingdoms. They were divided into legions (divisions, if you like) made up of between 5,000 and 6,200 men each. It was the handiwork of Gaius Marius, one of the past consuls.
Under Augustus Caesar (a member of the Triumvirate), who conducted the census when Christ was born, the Roman Army had 25 legions. He divided the army into groups or centuries of 80 men, each headed by a centurion. That emperor made his soldiers comfortable and extended their services from six to 20 years or more.
In fact, Julius Caesar who ruled before him, took great advantage of the reorganisation and great welfare package of the Roman army to conquer Britain around 55 B.C. After his soldiers disembarked, he ordered their ships burnt so that there would be “no retreat, no surrender”. With their determination (there was no means of travelling back to Rome if they failed), they defeated the Celts who inhabited Britain which later became the empire upon which the sun never sets. That day, it set. It was a big surprise.
The Nigerian armed forces also sprang a surprise recently. It is not what you think! They did not capture Abubakar Shekau or rescue the Chibok girls who have, since 14 April, been in his captivity. Rather, the shock was that 480 Nigerians soldiers fled from Boko Haram insurgents and skittered across the border into Cameroon, where its gendarmes disarmed and kept them in schools in Moroua, about 80 kilometres from our precincts.
However, the Defence Headquarters in Abuja explained that the Nigerian troops found in Cameroon was a result of a sustained battle between them and Boko Haram men around the borders with Cameroon, which “saw the Nigerian troops charging through the borders in a technical manoeuvre”. The reference to the incident as a defection is, according to the Defence Headquarters, therefore “not appropriate”.
The only trouble is that, however factual the claim, Nigerians reacted with snide remarks. As the Yoruba people would say: technical ko, technical ni (tell that to the Marines or the US Marines that have come to help us fight Bokos!). One can not blame Nigerians or the bloody civilians for this disposition, especially since the reaction came from the PR unit of the Defence Headquarters. Perhaps they believed that PR people generally should not be trusted as they could deodorise excreta and call it pottage or beans.
Right or wrong, that there was this kind of suspicion itself shows that there were many Nigerians, apart from believing that there are fundamental problems that can be corrected, want the armed forces to do more than they have been doing in fighting insurgency. Put differently, the Federal Government and the military need to set their priorities right and make Nigeria’s national security number one.
It is not proper to blame the Nigerian soldiers (the rank and file) who are easily overpowered by insurgents. So, in that case, technical manoeuvre could be in order since it would be foolhardy to face terrorists who have superior arsenal. Did Bob Marley not sing that he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day..? Rather, the Federal Government and the generals, with their embarrassing pot bellies, should take the flak.
There are two points I wish to make here. Number one has been said many times and it is worth repeating. The FG should purchase more weapons for our fighters and improve their welfare. That is to prevent a situation whereby soldiers would refuse to deploy, like the ones who insisted they would not go to Gwoza, one of the strongholds of Boko Haram. AFP, the French news agency, quoted one of them: “We are being killed like chickens by Boko Haram because we are not given the required weapons to fight. Enough is enough.”
Secondly, the generals should show discipline by making sure that money made available to them percolate to the rank and file. The truth of the matter is that soldiers are not well taken care of. Compare the situation to the impression their brass hats create with their bloated mid sections. Pray, do they not feel embarrassed when they meet their foreign counterparts who have athletic bodies? With the bogus tummies which a friend referred to as “principalities”, there is no way outsiders will not think there is no discipline with the way resources are being handled by the military top echelon.
If the FG and the military authorities do not handle our security correctly, those in government, the fat military brass hats and we, the masses, will have no hiding place from Boko Haram (that have started beheading Christians in Gwoza) and other worse desperados that may spring up after them.