GOD SAVE THE NIGERIAN MILITARY

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Few months ago the mass media was inundated with the news of a certain Lance Corporal in the Nigerian Army, Martin Idakpini, who courageously surfaced online to criticize the service chiefs for the wave of insecurity in Nigeria. He berated the Chief of Army Staff for exhibiting lackadaisical attitude towards the incessant killings going on in the country as well as highlighted other burning issues bedevilling troops battling Boko-haram insurgents in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria, among which are low morale in the rank and file of the military, inadequate supplies of weapons and battle equipment, and poor welfare of military personnel. This seeming act of bravado displayed by the young outspoken officer sent shock waves to the military high command and the entire public, and most public commentators commended this rare audacity exhibited by the young officer to draw public attention to the anomalies existing in the military which, no doubt, have prolonged the battle against Boko-haram insurgency in the North East. No sooner had he made this pronouncement than the military high command arrested and incarcerated him. The same fate befell the wife of the recalcitrant soldier when she attempted to protest against her husband’s incarceration. Since then, the situation of the young officer had remained in near limbo.

As the audience were about to fully digest that melodrama, the next bombshell fell. Somewhere in Bama, North Eastern part of Nigeria, the theatre of war against Boko-haram insurgency, a newly married young gallant officer in the Nigerian Army, Lt Babakaka Shehu Ngorgi, was felled by a bullet; this time around not by the enemy’s bullet but by the bullet of his own fellow soldier and subordinate in the army. How did this really happen? According to reports being circulated in the mass media, the fallen soldier was in the midst of a telephone conversation with his newfound wife and lovebird when one of his subordinates shot him six times from behind thus murdering him in cold blood. The saddest aspect of this story is that the attacker was reported to have shouted, “I have achieved my aim” after perpetrating the tragic act. Military authorities, later on, alleged that the culprit had been suffering from depressions – a state of mind which had led him to commit that dastardly act. To digress a little, depression is a serious condition characterized by continuous and strong feeling of sadness for a long period of time. Causes of depression vary from one profession to the other as well as from one individual to the other. In the military, causal factors include poor welfare, nostalgia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among others. Indeed military service members are often vulnerable to this condition.  Curiously, recent studies in the area of Civil-Military Relations (Civ-Mil or CMR) had also revealed that depression among military service members is the major cause of human right abuses perpetrated by various military personnel over the years in Nigeria. Traditionally, armed forces personnel ought to perceive their civilian counterparts as weaker vessels and thus should treat them with kid gloves and love, even when they err.

Going further, it would be recalled that a similar incident happened back in May 2014 when some young soldiers were arrested and charged for mutiny and attempted murder after the fired shots at their Commanding Officer in the North-Eastern City of Maiduguri. The soldiers were angry after a convoy of military vehicles was ambushed on a road frequently targeted by Boko-haram terrorists. A few months later, the Nigerian Army court sentenced an additional 54 soldiers to death for turning down orders to fight the terrorist group Boko-haram. The convicted soldiers cited inadequate supplies of weapons and equipment as reasons for turning down such orders.

From the onset of this battle against Boko-haram insurgency in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria, the narrative has been the same, and it has become a reoccurring headline in the mass media of frontline troops frequently complaining about poor equipment and weapons. Nigerian soldiers have often complained that they are outgunned by Boko-haram and that they are often sent into the battlefield without sufficient materials. Moreover, there have been reports that they have not been adequately fed and paid. It is important to note that the aforementioned problems raised by the soldiers could actually predispose a soldier to acute depression in the course of carrying out his or her assignments. All these reports are coming on the heels of the billions of naira being budgeted annually for military operations cum battle against insurgency in the North East.

If all these allegations are anything to go by, then there is an urgent need for the relevant authorities to take proactive actions aimed at allaying the problems being raised by these soldiers rather than suppressing dissenting voices within the rank and file of the military.

In a Premiumtimes publication of August 3, 2020, the Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, accused Nigerian soldiers of being behind the attack on his convoy on July 29, 2020, in Baga, a town in Kukawa Local Government Area of Borno state. It would be recalled that on that fateful day of July 29, 2020, few days after Lieutenant Babakaka Shehu Ngorgi was murdered in cold blood by his fellow officer, the convoy of the Borno State Governor was ambushed and fired shots at on his way back from  Baga after paying a visit to troops stationed in that area. Just like the murder of Babakaka Shehu Ngorgi which the Boko-haram terrorists were initially blamed before investigations revealed the actual cause of his death, the terrorist group was also accused of the attempted murder of the Borno State Governor prior to this recent media outburst by the Governor.

A 2003 review of the military academic strand of literature found that officers’ personal grievances and military organizational grievances are the two major predictors of military coup d’état and mutiny around the world. The recent events and revelations in the military call for serious attention and action by all stakeholders. Historically, the military is the fulcrum on which any nation stands. They are the strength of the nation as they maintain internal peace and repel external aggressions. As a result of these pivotal roles they play, most nations treat their armed forces with the utmost respect and guide them jealously. No nation can contend with a distorted and divided national military. Having emerged from several decades of military incursions in the nation’s body politics and its resultant negative impacts on the nation’s political and socio-economic development, there is an urgent need to avert any circumstance that might serve again as a precursor to military incursion in Nigeria’s body politics.

This writer calls on all the relevant authorities -National Assembly, Presidency, Civil Society Organization among others- to revisit the plethora of allegations levelled against the nation’s military organization in recent times with the view to rectifying all existing anomalies. The media outburst by Lance Corporal Martin Idakpini; the gruesome murder of Lieutenant Babakaka Shehu Ngorgi by his fellow officer, and the most recent media outburst by the Borno State Governor are clear indications that the Nigerian military seems to be sitting on a powder keg, and therefore calls to salvage this situation should not be treated with levity or dismissed with a wave of the hand. The need to investigate the claims made by Lance Corporal Martins Idakpini and the  Governor of Borno State; and the root cause of the murder of Lieutenant Babakaka Shehu Ngorgi is indeed very necessary.

In all, God bless our gallant soldiers.

Duruibe Stanley Chigozie is a writer, researcher, entrepreneur and an economic and financial analyst. He can be reached via text message only on: +234-7051987012.

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