Nigerian Soldiers: Mutiny And Preachment Of Ignorance

Nigerian Soldiers: Mutiny And Preachment Of Ignorance

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 11:39 am

Akin Owolabi

At the risk of being pressed with unprintable names, I wish to view with complete dissonance the preachment in respect of the 12 mutinous soldiers recently sentenced to death by firing squad. The arguments and pleadings for reprieve lack merit and have exposed the discussants’ total ignorance of the fundamental issues at stake. So far, all efforts at lucid presentation are at best a puerile attempt to drag a serious matter into the mud of public opinion and sentiment. Most discussants are of the opinion that the court martial which tried the soldiers in Abuja was high-handed and too severe in its verdict. The more forceful and apparently coherent the discourse has tended to be, the more the discussants lapsed into critical illogic of argument based on ignorance. Even as the ranting of the so-called intellectuals raged, 60 other soldiers are currently being tried in the military court for similar offences, some of which carry the death penalty. Some intellectuals have bumped into issues about which they are hazy.

Owolabi Akin

Owolabi Akin

The military is not a university system and is therefore not fertile for the cultivation of cultism. There can never be proliferation of divergent views as found in academic places. It is not a field where dissidents in the guise of trade unionism spurt and war against constituted authorities with fiendish relish. There is a very wide chasm between the military and the political scene as the former cannot therefore breed virulent opposition that toys with treason with discomfiting impunity. The military has zero tolerance for thuggery, brigandage, gerrymandering, bizarre policy somersaults and brazen chicanery that are rife on the political turf.

The military, anywhere in the world, cannot make pretentions to being a democratic institution and can ill afford the laissez-faire fashion of politics. The army does not strive in the lackadaisical attitude of so-called specialist organisations like the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, that could afford to abandon dying patients in wards across the country for 55 days just to press for improved service conditions. It is unlike the academic staff unions that felt no qualm leaving hundreds of thousands of students in the lurch for eight months and yet pocketed the salaries for such unprecedent job dereliction. Put succinctly, the military is a far cry from all civilian set-ups. Any attempt to posit what obtains in one with the other is bound to be an exercise of nullity.

The military, anywhere in the world, is hierarchically structured and safely anchored on discipline exemplified in the mind frame Major General Muhammadu Buhari strove for 18 months in the 1980s to inculcate army discipline in the general populace. Discipline is the mainstay of the super-structural bulwark that supports the army. It is the thick insulator coating the highest calibre of armoured cable that channelled its dynamic energy to the very point of use. The army is a fighting machine infused with the instinct of a mad dog. It is designed to have the ferocity of a lion. Such energy is bottled up in discipline to ward off external aggression. Occasionally, this latent dynamo is unleashed on the civil society with unmitigated consequences, recently in Odi, Bayelsa and Saki-Biam, Benue states. Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti hit the nail hard on the head with his hit – ZOMBE, though he paid dearly for such audacity. The military does not brook dissention, no recalcitrance, and no refusal of superior order, however barmy. Peace-keeping engagements are geared toward priming the army for major national assignment like the insurgency in the North-East.

This may appear trite but it is true. At a monthly sensitisation meeting (durbar) with a battalion’s Commanding Officer (CO) in the 1970s, a forum for picking the mind of non-commissioned officers (NCO), a soldier was opportuned to speak. He stood up, came spritely to attention and preceded his speech with: “Sir, I think…..” The CO cut him short; telling the NCO to vacate the realm of ‘thinking’ comfortably occupied by him (commander) and be restricted to what he had in mind. That is it! Soldiers are by training pliant. They watch their words, deed, association and are taciturn. Disobedience is a very serious offence even in peace time. The word ‘we’ is excluded from military dictionary for this is mutinous. Two or more soldiers saying NO in unison connotes pre-agreement and so deserves close scrutiny. Mutiny hangs in the air in every military establishment and is a sword of Damocles over every soldier’s head. Yet this does not make the Army a dreary organisation. Rather it is a structure that strives on the edifice of implicit obedience.

That mutiny in Maimalari Barracks, Maiduguri, Borno State, was the apogee of military rascality; it was the most reprehensible conduct in such milieu, an irresponsible ego trip by a band of misguided soldiers. No military condones mutiny. It is worse than the ebola virus disease (EVD) that is yet to find a cure. Even if EVD should find a cure, mutiny will never find any. Not even in the most advanced econo-medics. The soldiers who bit the mutiny bait in Maiduguri must be graciously permitted to face its attendant macabre dance. There is no short cut to it except to shear the Nigerian nation of its strength; akin to asking the army to cut its nose to spite its face. Those preaching forgiveness are too far from the realities on ground. They are asking for the destruction of Nigeria’s edition of the most resilient institution in the world.

Soldiering is a career that requires those in it to either kill or be killed. Soldiers must accomplish any order that has not been vacated. The argument that they were not fully equipped is inappropriate. More so, who closely examined the insurgents to pinpoint whether they were better kitted? Even if soldiers were to fight with their bare hands, they still cannot disobey superior order. Soldiers are not, and they can never be, part of the rash of indiscipline that saturates the civil society.

The Army High Command may not be swayed by the avalanche of pleadings to rescind its recent decision to severely punish that crop of mutinous soldiers. Procrastination on such dire matter is bound to send the wrong signals that such enterprise could be pulled through without its grim consequences. There is no global precedence on such issue. Basically, soldiers are the civil society’s expendable humans. Anyone afraid of death needs not stray into the army.

The academics have destroyed the tertiary institutions. The politicians have smashed the polity to smithereens. The doctors are at liberty to look the other side while their patients die en masse due to crass abandonment. The economists have argued themselves hoarse about the way forward. Top dogs, in the days of military encroachment in politics, killed the Nigerian Army. Whatever is left of this national institution should not in any way cave in. Maintained or not, equipped with 18th century weapons or not, no soldier, even if drafted, has the right to take part in a riot or mutiny or feeble protest. Military is a call for sacrifice and the sacrificial lambs are the soldiers themselves. The civil society should allow the military to do its business. All said, the Army High Command may temper justice in this matter by not shooting the culprits.

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