I stayed up late reading various articles written by journalists about the failure of the Nigerian Army, to put a halt to the spate of killings in the North-East and I asked myself, where did we go wrong. Where did we get it all messed up, but as I scrolled further, something pricked my heart; I saw a list & pictures of young promising military officers and men of the Nigerian army, who have died while trying to safe guard civilians from the clutches of the terrorist. Men who may never get the honor due to them or that medal of valour, that befits every officer who has paid the ultimate price. Men whose story may never be heard or read about. Men, like everyone of us, who aspired so much to become the best in their call to “serve and protect”.
Growing up as a young man, I heard beautiful stories about the Nigerian Armed Forces, that we have the strongest army/battalion in Africa, that Ojo Military Cantonement in Lagos, is the largest barracks in Africa and the second largest in the World, that we have the largest war ship in Africa (NNS Aradu). I saw documentaries on how the Nigerian army helped keep the peace most African countries enjoy today. I heard of Sudan, Liberia, Congo, Sierra Leone etc and I fell in love with the military.
The United Nations made sure we participated in most peace keeping missions across the globe, Africa especially; and in all our involvements, we delivered. We delivered because that is what the Nigerian Army is known for; We chased out rabels and enforced the rule of law. Even the United States, requested that, Nigerian forces enter Liberia, before they do. Yes! Liberians received us with cheers.
However today, while many countries are enjoying the peace we provided them and helped restore on a plata of gold; the army has failed to keep the peace in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria and now, other Nations must come to our aid, to help stop terrorism.
Who is a soldier? A soldier is one who fights as part of an organized land-based armed force. A soldier can be an enlisted person, a non-commissioned officer, or an officer.
In 1996, I moved with my parents to Ojo part of Lagos State and every Sunday, I see officers, who were stationed in the Naval Officers Quarters, located at Afromedia, in church. The white on white of the Nigerian Navy hit my heart like a man falling in love for the first time and I said to myself, “I must join the Navy”. However, after taking the NDA examination twice, I finally had the break through, an high ranking officer in charge of the Nigeria War College, Jaji, was going to help me out. However, my Dad did not take it likely, as if he knew what the future holds, he tore my already filled form and asked me to forget the military sternly.
“The Military has changed, just forget the Nigeria Defence Academy, and go to Uni”, I remembered him saying. My mum was never in support, all she does then was to remind me of her brother’s death on the 26th of September, 1992, when a military plane crashed, which killed the 158 Military officers on board.
As time went by, the rate of terrorism increased across the world but Nigerians, need not lose sleep over it or so we thought, as we only see it on our television set or hear about it on radio. However, little did we know some unscrupulous beings were brewing a beer that will get everyone drunk as we get served. And so Boko Haram was born out of greed and thirst for power. A once peaceful and loving North-East, became a death bed for many. I remember flipping through Isidore Okpewo’s novel, The Last Duty. I saw how deep conflicts can divide a family, how politics if not played wisely, can smear and raise an unknown enemy.
The army rose to the occasion, but little did these gallant men know that the war within would be more difficult and different from those fought outside; It was going to be smeared by, greed, betrayal, lack of equipment, soldiers going AWOL, deserters, political propaganda, poor funding etc. But they are soldiers, and what do soldiers do?, they obey the clarion call.
I got myself wondering what makes these men thick? Is it the training they endure? or the respect cilivians accord them, or their uniforms? No! It is discipline and selflessness.
They sacrifice their lives everyday, making sure terrorism does not spread to other parts of the country. They have children, they are married( some just newly wedded), they have friends and they have family’s, but as the job entails, they must leave their loved ones and come face-to-faced with death in their call to duty, because the job must be done not minding,if it is going to be their last duty.
After reading some articles online, I wish to say politicians, journalists, Nigerians, and even the international community, have not been fair to the Nigeria army. These men deserve a pat on the back for a job well done and sacrifice so far.