There is a trending video of two persons suspected to be soldiers of the Nigeria Army threatening to rape women residents in the oil city of Warri and also infect them with HIV.
A portion of the video suggests that the nefarious mission is in retaliation of the killing of a soldier by mob action by Nigerians who witnessed the unprovoked murder of an unarmed civilian by the late soldier originally deployed by government to enforce a lockdown of that city in view of curtailing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. How an attempt by the murdered civilian to purchase medication for an ailing member of his family from a pharmacy constituted a breakdown of order is for the Nigeria Army to explain.
Currently, there is no zone in Nigeria that is not playing host to at least one military action in civilian clusters. It is for this reason that it has long been expected that military-civilian relationship should improve. This has clearly not been the case across Nigeria.
In this specific case of the lockdown of major Nigerian cities, it is curious that whereas troops of the Nigeria Army observe the highest standards of professionalism while dealing with incidences in the core North where there is a predominant Moslem population, maximum force is often deployed to enforce orders in the predominantly Christian and liberal Middle Belt and South.
Why is this the case? The core North of Nigeria is regarded as the epicenter of the politics of power. Between 1960 and 2020 (and still counting), power brokers and political feudal lords from that part of Nigeria have asserted and entrenched themselves in the scheme of politics in a manner that clearly suggests that political power is the only thriving enterprise in that region.
Unfortunately, this practice among the elites which comprises of the clergy, academia and traditional institutions has not rubbed off on the standards of living in the core North where till date there is an absence of infrastructure. There has been a back to back outbreak of diseases and epidemics as well as high incidences of illiteracy and unemployment.
The core North is also the cradle of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in West Africa from where the vices are exported to other parts of Africa with an attempt made to penetrate America via the bombing of a passenger plane by Abdul Mutallab in 2009. Abdul is the son of Bello Mutallab, a power broker in the core North.
Most Nigerians agree that the political lords of the core North have a domination agenda. It is believed that in this case, the domination is simply for the purpose of domination and maybe to aid the spread of a peculiar brand of Islam. Nothing else, not development, nor progress, nor economic stability.
This belief has been reinforced by the deeply divisive and despotic administration of President Muhammadu Buhari whose ‘body language’ has over and over granted pass to the promoters of the domination agenda of the core North to drive on. By himself, President Muhammadu Buhari granted pardon to terrorists from the core North in the middle of a raging war against all known international processes.
This came against an outcry from the public which sought to draw the attention of the president to the plight of persons displaced by terrorists in the South South, North Central, South East, South West and also the Core North. There are also proof of lopsidedness in prosecuting looters from past administrations and making appointments. Again, under his watch, open preference have been granted again and again to Nigerians of the core North who seek to enlist into the Armed Forces, the Nigeria Police and the secret service.
In 2018, the Nigeria Police enlisted 1,300 officers into the force from the North West which has the highest level of illiteracy caused by that zone having the lowest school enrollment percentage in the country. Ironically, the South East which is opposite in terms of literacy had just 651 and the South South 779 intakes.
Within that period, Nigeria secret police – the DSS commissioned 479 cadets with the core North taking over 65% of available slots causing an uproar by Nigerians which compelled the 8th senate to raise an inquest. Currently, Nigeria has a rubber stamp parliament hence there has been no review of that enlistment process.
It is on the strength of practices as this that soldiers who should be epitomes of professionalism now openly threathen bonafide citizens of Nigeria with mass rape and also say they have plans to ensure that a large number of women and girls are infected with the deadly HIV virus. The Nigeria Army has been reduced to an object of continental caricature for failing to decimate Boko Haram and herdsmen of Fulani extraction from outside Nigeria.
50 soldiers were murdered in March 2020 and reported by Al-Jazeera. Before this time, Umara Zulum, incumbent governor of Borno State accused troops of the Army of extortion just as Amnesty International have a database of human rights violations against the Nigeria Army all of which the defense headquarters strongly deny.
Nigeria shares boarder with the republic of Tcad headed by General Idris Deby Itno who records clearly suggest is single handedly responsible for the most daring armed confrontation that has pushed Boko Haram and it’s affiliates in ISWAP to the fringes of the Sahara desert. Few days ago, Idris Deby Itno (whose first son Mahamat Ibn Idris Deby is a Major-General on the frontline) personally visited the command theatre and challenged troops of the Tchadian Armed Forces to be more brutal in the war against terrorism.
In Nigeria, military commanders and their political collaborators hide their wards in the safest cities in America, Europe and the Middle East. While Idris Deby Itno and his military commanders inspire hope and promote patriotism, Muhammadu Buhari and his soldiers promote nepotism, despair and hate.
Mahamat on the other hand has personally led military actions against terrorists within Chad and neighboring states of Sudan, Cameroon and Niger Republic uptill Kenya and Somalia to the excitement of Nigerian troops. This proves that His Army rank was earned not gifted.
Perhaps Nigeria’s version of Mahamat is General Olusegun Adeniyi who was recalled from the “OPs Lafiya Dole” under unclear circumstances after an exclusive video wherein he was addressing Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai was leaked by a saboteur. This is how low the Nigeria Army has sunk – soldiers sellout their comrades and share intel with terrorists. Now we have a potential outbreak of the HIV virus in Nigeria to the credit of soldiers.
Because a lot of agents in the various security cells were recruited by virtue of religion and tribe, they profess loyalty – not to Nigeria but to their faith and ethnic groups.
The dwindling image of the Nigerian Army must be salvaged and it must start from a reorganization of the recruitment process to conform to international standards. To achieve this, the parliament of Nigeria must quickly leverage on the legislative instruments at its disposal to rejig the enlistment procedures to ensure that only persons found to be fit in learning and character are allowed to emerge as either soldiers or officers of the Army.
The basic entry qualifications must be reviewed to make it impossible for aliens and stark illiterates to have any chance of passing the physical or academic tests and this is because in the times that we live in, soldiers must be capable of commanding respect without initial recourse to a show of brutality. Politicians, clergymen and traditional rulers must be kept as far away as possible and persons who are convinced that they have prescribed physical skills and intellectual talents should be encouraged to present themselves for screening.
The Armed Forces is a prestigious component of Nigeria. As such, officers and soldiers of the other ranks must be capable of mustering a higher sense of tact and intelligence over ordinary citizens. The current recruitment process built of tribe and religion does not guarantee this by any standards.
While it is expected that the authorities will consider it expedient to review the recruitment processes, the trending video must be investigated and the soldiers involved heavily punished to serve as deterrent and assure Nigerians that they are safe in the hands of the Nigeria Army.
Chukwunonso Ezeani writes from FCT, Abuja and is on twitter @NonsoEzeani1
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