While patriotism to the Nigerian cause can no longer be considered a given, there still some patriotic individuals and institutions who will give their lives to die for this nation, because they believe in the entity called Nigeria.
No doubt, lack of patriotism has left the country with many challenges. That notwithstanding, the Nigerian military is one institution that is patriotic even to the point of laying down own life.
In the face of recent terrorist activities in the country, the military had paid the supreme price most times just to protect the entity called Nigeria in addition to the numerous other peace-keeping missions they are involved; yet they have never ceased to be at the receiving end of scathing criticism from their compatriots. It appears there is a well-orchestrated campaign to rubbish the Nigerian military alongside the failings of the present government and portray them as unable to discharge their primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians, particularly in view of the on-going fight against terrorism in the country.
In the light of the unfair criticism that have been shot the way of our military officials in recent times, I write this article to bring what the military represents to the knowledge of fellow Nigerians.
The Nigeria military is a reflection of a true federal character. To emphasise this, it can be recalled that Major General Luke Oshiokeye, Chief of Administration of the Nigerian Army, declared: “Federal character is acceptable to us in the military at the point of entry. But promotions and postings are credited to one’s bravery, firmness and merit” (Guardian, June 10, 2004). On the basis of credibility, the same process has produced great generals, who are celebrated all over the world today. Generals like the late Gen. Ike NWACHUKWU, Gen. Dan ARCHIBONG, Gen. Ipoola Alani AKINRINADE, amongst others. These are all respected military officials, and they went through the rigorous process of the Nigerian military.
Does it now mean that the process which produced these great generals does not equip them to combat terrorism? Of course the answer is No! The next question which many may ask is what went wrong?
Fighting terrorism has never been easy anywhere in the world, no matter how equipped or sophisticated a country may be. And this is because terrorism is an asymmetrical war that has its own laws of engagement. Unlike a guerrilla warfare, where the military will move in with all its arsenals to act, they are often careful about civilian causalities in the fight against terror, which is what they swore to protect in the first place.
It is therefore pathetic to note that the civilians they swore to protect are sometimes the ones feeding the terrorists with information which they use to ambush them. We hardly hear that these soldiers are killed in a direct combat with these terrorists, except in cases where they were ambushed.
In the area of equipment and ammunition, the Nigerian military is ranked one of the best in Africa in terms of strength and firepower. Nigeria has 363 tanks, and more than 1,400 armoured vehicles, 294 aircraft, and 84 helicopters that are all combat ready for aerial battle when called upon. If the war against terrorism were to be symmetrical; unleashing these arsenals against them would have been letting hell loose, but they can’t because there are international laws of engagement in the war against terrorism.
Above all, the issue of terrorism in the country is political. Analysts commenting on the situation in the country have argued that the elites are the ones politicising the issue of terrorism in the country. They use their powers and connection to manipulate situations and control the affair of things. Most times when the intelligence unit gathers information on their way to strike, the commander of the unit receives a call to abort such mission for unknown reasons. This of course does not help them carry out their strategies.
Finally, the Nigerian military is characterised with the spirit of “Never give up.” The mutiny of CNDP soldiers known as the M23 rebellion against DR Congo government lasted for years. It was put to an end with the peace keeping of the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission, and another eleven nations that signed an agreement designed to bring peace to the region. The Nigerian Army was part of the peace keeping force sent to that region. The Nigerian Army fought the rebels alongside other forces to make the M23 surrender to the government.
It will be a wrong premise to bring the reputation of our military that are well respected all over the world to the state of no worth, because of the present state of insurgency in the country. It is bad faith to condemn the Nigerian military because of the perceived failings of the federal government.
I do not agree that the Nigerian military is ineffective in combating terrorism. As we all know, the whole Boko Haram issue is heavily politicised, with many alleging local and international conspiracy from politicians who want federal power shifted to their side by all means as well as foreign agents who would benefit immensely from a destabilised Nigeria.
In the fight against terror, the Nigerian military has vowed to protect we the citizens of this great country, even to the point of death, and we should all support them by making the work easier for them and supplying them with credible information, not criticise them blindly.
Denzel Chukwudinma is a political analyst who writes from Imo State.