Ademola Adegbamigbe: FG should pardon the condemned soldiers

Ademola Adegbamigbe: FG should pardon the condemned soldiers

Wednesday, December 23, 2015 4:53 pm

Ademola Adegbamigbe

Ademola Adegbamigbe

By Ademola Adegbamigbe

During the period of the Cold War, the two super-powers planned evil against each other behind the Iron Curtain with nose-thumping determination. That notwithstanding, leaders of the U.S. and Soviet Union found some periods when they must put their enmity aside and meet for photo opps, back slapping and plastic smiles, while their statements were couched in time-worn diplomatese. Many books were written, myths waxed and movies shot about the intrigues between Uncle Sam and the Great Bear.

In one of those sub-narratives, possibly apocryphal in origin, presidents of the U.S. and Soviet Union met in one of those grand palaces in a neutral country in Scandinavia. And so, for comic interlude, the two great leaders wanted to know whose country’s soldier was more courageous. The Soviet leader beckoned on one of his soldiers and asked him to dive into the ice-cold water and spend 20 minutes under. Implicitly, with veins on his neck drawn like guitar chords and muscles and tendons bulging like those of Michelangelo’s statues, he dived in. “Can you see, our fighters are brave!” The Soviet leader, arms akimbo, said with an I-am-better-than you air.

The American President also called his own soldier and asked him to jump into the water. “With all due respect, Mr. President, you have to try it first, without necessary gear (oxygen tank or aqua lung),” the American soldier told his commander-in-chief. The two leaders looked at each other, stood rigidly and walked into their meeting room without resolving the question of who between the two fighters was more daring: one who confronted his president or the one who jumped in without diving gear?

This sums up the condition of the Nigerian soldiers who were condemned last year over their refusal to fight Boko Haram insurgents without weapons. As we reported in this medium in November 2014, the fighters were court martialled in batches. The first was the group of 12, sentenced to death on 15 September last year: Jasper Braidolor, David Musa, Friday Onu, Yusuf Shuaibu, Emmanuel Igomu, Andrew Ngbede, Nurudeen Ahmed, Ifeanyi Alukhagbe, Alao Samuel, Amadi Chukwudi, Alao Linus and Stephen Clement.

The Brigadier-General C. C. Okonkwo-led court martialled, sitting at Mogadishu Barracks, Abuja, claimed the accused soldiers were guilty of mutiny, insubordinate behaviour and attempt to “kill Major General Ahmed, General Officer Commanding 7 Division,” when he visited the Maiduguri Maimalari Barracks.

Corporal Andrew Ogolekwu and 59 others who made up the second group of 60 were court martialled by Brigadier General M. S. Yusuf. The soldiers were also accused of conspiracy to commit mutiny against the authorities of the Nigerian Army’s 7 Division. They were particularly charged with refusing an order from the commanding officer, III Special Forces Battalion, to go an operation to recapture Damboa.

There was also the group of 5 (Corporal Bankole Taiwo and four others) who the military high command accused of mutiny. Beyond the glare of the media at the opening sessions, what the accused persons told their prosecutors later was that the military authorities did not give them enough weapons to confront Boko Haram insurgents who have superior ammunition.

Brigadier-General Enitan Ransome-Kuti is another soldier whose case has attracted public sympathy. According to Mr. Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate who has been defending the condemned soldiers, Ransome-Kuti led his boys to the battlefront in Baga, Borno State, because many of the soldiers were leaving for lack of weapons to fight. When he faced the insurgents who superior weapons, he had to make a tactical withdrawal, a move that the military considered an act of cowardice.

It is clear from Badeh’s confession and the revelations about Dasuki’s alleged diversions of money meant for weapons that the condemned soldiers are just being used as fall guys. As a matter of morality and universal justice, the Muhammadu Buhari government, which has ordered the reinstatement of over 3,000 dismissed fighters, should pardon the condemned soldiers.

I believe that the Nigerian military high command, in their training schools, read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and Carl Von Clausewitz’s On War very well. Was it not Clausewitz who defined battle as “an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfil our will”? Pray, how else could the Nigerian soldiers have employed violence to compel Boko Haram to stop its killings without the use of force? And how effective is the use of force without weapons? Modern warfare is less of brawn now than brain power (which made modern battle equipment possible).

In fact, former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh revealed in July this year that he headed armed forces that “lacked the relevant equipment and motivation to fight …” That situation did not just happen. Those who should make money available for such purpose did not and the proofs have come up in court.

Retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki, the former National Security Adviser, was, last Monday, arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission before Justice Hussein Buba on charges of corruption, diversion and mismanagement of security funds. In other words, he was facing a 16-count charge of stealing and “criminal breach of trust in the diversion of N32 billion to fund the Peoples Democratic Party. Shuabu Salisu, his former director of finance and Aminu Baba Kusa of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation were arraigned with Dasuki. Last Tuesday, the trio also faced a 22-count charge of diverting N13.6 billion. Bashir Yuguda, one time finance Minister and Attahiru Bafarawa were, that day, in court with Dasuki.

In an interview with this magazine, Falana corrected the error in respect of the extent of money involved in the armsgate. As he put it: “The well publicised $2.1 billion is the foreign component of the loot. The actual amount stolen is $2.1 billion and N643 billion. The total missing fund is $6 billion.”

Here, I agree with Falana who argued that in the light of the “earth-shaking and ear-aching revelations oozing out of the EFCC to the effect that a handful of individuals cornered and shared the huge fund earmarked for the procurement of military hardware to prosecute the war on terror, all the military officers and soldiers who have been convicted, including the 70 who were sentenced to death, should be released forthwith. Soldiers were committed and sentenced to death for asking for weapons to fight the terrorists. They were ordered to fight with unserviceable equipment on the ground that there was no money to purchase new weapons. In the process, the well-equipped insurgents routed and massacred thousands of the country’s ill-equipped soldiers due to the diversion of the fund set aside to purchase equipment.”

It is clear from Badeh’s confession and the revelations about Dasuki’s alleged diversions of money meant for weapons that the condemned soldiers are just being used as fall guys. As a matter of morality and universal justice, the Muhammadu Buhari government, which has ordered the reinstatement of over 3,000 dismissed fighters, should pardon the condemned soldiers.


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