The crippling cost of serving Nigeria

Predictably, the Nigerian Army has debunked allegations that one of its own, Captain Alphonsus Bazza, took his life. This denouncement is despite overwhelming evidence that the overwhelmed officer took his life in Uyo,Akwa Ibom State.

In the face of Nigeria’s unrelenting man-made challenges, it has become ever more difficult to serve the country. In fact, in many instances, to serve Nigeria is to sign a death warrant, very much like rushing into battle  unprepared.

In 2009, Boko Haram, which has since proven itself to be the Nigerian nemesis, regrouped and escalated their attacks on the Nigerian state. The relentless attacks soon savagely exposed the weak underbelly of the Nigerian state.

If some sanity has returned to Borno State, the epicenter of Boko Haram’s incipient attacks, it is because the group has since splintered, birthing many other terror groups which have moved their operations to neighboring states.

At the front line of the response to Nigeria’s grave security challenges have been security personnel led by the Nigerian army. But the toll has been heartbreaking to put it mildly.

As young soldiers have fallen in defence of their country, leaving behind young widows, young children and aged parents, allegations have swirled about the poor welfare of those whose last-ditch efforts have kept Nigerians from the jaws of terrorists.

There have been allegations of poor pay, poor mental healthcare and generally poor welfare. The self-sabotage of a country that deliberately chooses to snap into battle with its best men poorly motivated has been all too apparent for Nigerians to see.

There have been some startling defeats. Each was to be expected, especially amidst swirling allegations that the soldiers who lead the charge to keep the country out of the hands of terrorists are so poorly funded that they do not have the right equipment to fight.

Indeed, in 2016, Sambo Dasuki a former National Security Adviser, was arraigned  alongside others for diverting a staggering sum of 23.5 billion Naira meant for the purchase of arms. That the trial has proceeded at a snail speed since then speaks to priorities in Nigeria.

It is a catastrophic miscalculation that bothers on the calamitous that those expected to fight tooth and nail are not armed to the teeth to prosecute such a critical war.

It is also important to state that failure has been recorded on multiple levels with the CDS recently lamenting that the propensity of the judiciary to grant suspected terrorists bail was putting the lives of soldiers at risk.

The Nigerian army is a highly regimented organization where to speak up is to risk severe punishment. Yet, if the soldiers who are at the risk of breaking down cannot speak up for fear of punishment, Nigerians should be able to do that. This is a commitment Nigerians owe them, and it is important to take this commitment very seriously.

Nigeria may be in a war situation, even if it is not the kind of full-fledged war Israel is engaged with Palestine, but a war nonetheless where the welfare of those who prosecute the war is directly linked to the results of the war.

The dysfunction lodged deep in Nigeria’s system is marked by the scalps it continues to claim. There is the long list of young people for whom the sun sets even before it truly rises.

There is the catalogue of broken dreams and shattered hopes that many young people nurse in the country. Many are able to nurse their pain quietly, licking their wounds and having the occasional cry while calling on the resilience and fortitude that Nigerians have become synonymous with.

Many others, like Captain Bazza get sucked in, dragged into the depths of despair by the endless despondency of serving a country that often give so little in return or exchange.

There can be no doubt about it: a country that is demanding so much and exacting an excruciating cost from those who serve it must be able to do much more for them.

In terms of what it gives back, Nigeria must be ready to give back to honest people who honestly serve the country. In the same way, it must be ready to keep the resources of the country away from the plunder of the corrupt and the corruptly rich.

But this desirable state of affairs will remain a mirage for as long as Nigeria remains on the perilous path of eating up those who work the hardest to ensure it is not eaten up.

Ike Willie-Nwobu,

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