This column has raised issues about the Nigerian army several times in very recent times. We have lamented the damage we are collectively doing to that institution. I say collectively in the sense that the leadership comes up with obnoxious policies and the people to whom the sovereignty belongs, see those policies, observe the destructions they inflict and still keep quiet, as if everything is normal. It is important to state again and with emphasis this time that the Nigerian Army is being destroyed beyond measure.
Today is not a day for niceties nor is it for long grammar. The matter at hand requires just one thing: calling a spade a spade. Recently, the government and the military authorities did what no other reasonable country would do. With their eyes wide open and their senses, I presume, very much intact, they recruited and enlisted into the Nigerian Army former terrorists, some of them from Boko Haram and the rest from God knows where. The government and the military authorities said ‘these were repentant and now de-radicalized persons’. By their logic, they were not free for any other trade, only suitable for military assignments. This is logic at play; we will not want to use the word manipulation and manueuvre. Let us simply say logic, but whether this is fine logic or not is left to the people to give a conclusive answer.
From this end one can say without equivocation that what we see is a wicked design and very wrong move. It has questionable motive. With the evidences available, such a step cannot portend good for a plural country such as ours. We take one proof to buttress the above point. In Gombe State during the 2019 Easter celebration, a group of members of Boys Brigade made up of contingents from different Christian denominations were on lawful procession on Gombe township streets when a man in a private car stopped and accosted them. When they thought everything was over, the said man made a reverse, returned with full speed, crashing into the crowd and by the time it was over more than 12 innocent souls, all of them Christians, had been dispatched to the world beyond. The terrorist even though he was killed turned out later to be a top officer of the Civil Defence Corps. This is instructive and also raises greater posers.
What is the guarantee that these ones enlisted into the army, when face to face with Christians would not do worse? Today, the Nigerian Army that was reputed for excellence cannot effectively deal with challenges of insurgency especially the Boko Haram challenge, and everybody is worried while the fight is going the way it is going. The truth is we do not need to go far to see the answer. By now we ought to have learned the ordinary lesson to delegate a thief to catch a thief.
The other issue is both ridiculous and scandalous. It touches our dignity as thinking human beings. Last week, the Nigerian Army organized what they called ‘Army Demonstration Day’ in Kaduna. The event was beamed live on more than three national television stations, so by extension the whole world was seeing it, and we are sure the event must have been of significant interest to security experts across the globe. In that occasion, the army lined out the entire armoury and gave account of the kind of weapons they had and the purposes they could serve. Those conversant with the proper management of the military and national security would agree that that act was certainly out of order. Nations parade their arms quite alright, but they take a few and parade round without detailed explanations.
What was seen in our case was massive display of and detailed explanations. That certainly was not necessary at this time. If the purpose was to demonstrate strength, then the time was inauspicious and the method scandalous. From the items some of us saw, the Nigerian army can be passed for a regional militia. The personnel were sectional in outlook and the weapons very mundane when compared to what we see of other countries of comparable status. Those who have seen armoured personnel carriers from countries such as Iran, India, Pakistan and seeing what the Nigerians put on parade would have no choice than to fall back on their seats and laugh.
There is this other aspect to this issue and it is very important for the proper development of this nation. The increasing visibility of the military under a democratic atmosphere is not good, and it has reached a point it should be of great concern to all those who wish our country well. Today, the Chief of Army Staff and his commanders talk virtually every day on virtually every issue; they talk politics and pass threats. This is aberration of the highest order. In a well-structured system, you don’t see the military let alone hear them make definitive statements. They are background players. The defence minister speaks for them and that should be sparingly and when the need is very necessary. But in our case all the army command officers talk and bark orders, this is wrong.
The Army should be removed from internal civil responsibilities. Check-point duties and other allied internal civic matters are purely police duty. Today you find military personnel in burials, marriages and house warming parties. Others protect local politicians, local government chairmen and councillors inclusive. They are into settling local and compound issues, this is not good for them. If we were to call a spade by its name, then it will be appropriate to tell them that these acts are eroding their aura and influence. It is not good for the psychology of the troops; the boys are learning so many terrible things. The security challenges we see can be handled by a restructured and well trained police. Of course crime is not about policing alone, it is more about policies and prevailing economic situation.