MasterwebNews 26/4/16 - Nigeria: The Military Versus The `Bloody Civilians`

[ Masterweb Reports: Ikechukwu Enyiagu reports ] - Although this piece is exclusively targeted towards restoring some sanity and world standard regimentation in the Nigerian Army, permit me, I implore you, to start with the Nigerian police considering that the 'Force' attached to them indicates that they are equally forceful in our local context. 

That brings me to a horrifying experience I had during the days of 'Operation Sweep,' sadly, just after my high school in the early 90s. I was in my father's house somewhere in Uzo-Uwani L.G.A. of Enugu State one morning-relaxing in a tight polo shirt on a tight pair of trousers-when my bosom friend, Sunday, called me to accompany him to his uncle’s marriage introduction ceremony somewhere in Anambra State. Having had nothing to do for a while, I jumped up and, in all my innocence and considering what was affordable to me, picked up a pair of Jean trousers and a nice looking shirt. These I also put on-covering the ones I was previously wearing as my home wear. Then we set off for Aguata. When we were done with the introduction and were returning back in that nice old Land Rover of then, we were stopped at a checkpoint by a highway police patrol team and searched-down to the last cover. When they saw my dress sense, they quickly began their case. In their accusation, they claimed I was a thief who, after robbing, would smartly remove my jean and shirt and then sneak into the crowd with the polo shirt and tight pair of trousers. As funny and nonsensical as this sounds today, they held me and, thereby, the family I traveled with, forced me to lie by the road-with their guns pointed at me-and threatened to shoot me if I uttered a word. Apparently, it was a time in Nigeria when male youths were experiencing a new level of danger simply because the authorities wanted to stop crime but had no respect for the rule of law in dealing with it. The government simply resorted to giving a blank check to their men with guns to shot and kill at their discretion. They further threatened to hand me over to any squad of the dreaded 'operation sweep' soldiers who then killed the guilty and the innocent together without anyone ever questioning them. To cut the story short, they later declared me innocent after they had done everything to intimidate us and later pretended friendship to extort as much as they could from us. Then I had told them a bit of my story and they had collected N2000, the last money with my friend’s uncle, from us. This is one of my several experiences with them who have been appointed to maintain law and order in Nigeria and, I bet, many innocents have gone through worse.

That experience changed me. Then I reaffirmed my resolve to join the Nigerian Army, not just because I had always loved to serve my country in the military just as most boys my age had an almost sacred love for the job,  but also because the average Nigerian teen then was susceptible and vulnerable. And, in the 45th (hopefully correct) regular intake, I enrolled into the army recruitment. In the end and when the next move would have been to the depot in Zaria, my name, like many others including the best performing candidate of my L.G.A., was found missing. In my innocence and knowledge, that was the first time I heard the word 'godfather'. They sold my recruitment sweat, services and times to he who had a god in a man.

The above personal historical illustrations were not peculiar to me; many a Nigerian youth had worse to share. As years flew by, the word 'bloody civilian' became the boast of every law enforcement agent, mostly from the regular army and the police, against civilians to a point that it simply translated to mean two citizens of unequal rights. A soldier could stop a car, call you out and beat you up just because he saw you smiling and thought you were mocking him as he stands in the sun. A mistake by a civilian citizen would expectedly invite a public beating and disgrace just because the next person happens to be a Nigerian soldier.  Few months back, a video news of a teenage girl beating up a man, ( ) simply because she and her mates were wearing military outfits, went viral. Up to now, Nigerians have not heard the end of that matter and the justice thereof. These brazen brutality and show of force by the military against unarmed civilians have left many so-called bloody civilians wondering if all it takes one to become a fellow Nigerian and respected is a military camouflage and some weapons of destruction-being a police, terrorist, militant or soldier notwithstanding. And, in all these, it seems, the Nigerian government has not found it a priority to sanitize and keep to international form whatever regimentation is given the everyday Nigerian soldier. To me, this is the highest security risk if proper interpretation is followed.

That now brings me deeper into the activities of the Nigerian Army within the civilian society. Every worthy news media archive is rife with Nigerian military's anti-people activities within mostly civilian communities-from the avoidable Ogoni killings in the delta through that of organizations clamoring for a better country with the name of Biafra in the South East and the killing of Shiite Muslim faithfuls in the North. At each incident, the military’s brutal and redundant response leaves much to be desired. And, I daresay here that, contrary to the fright each government thinks such actions put on would-be criminals and enemies of the state, they actually breed and strengthen those determined for crime-giving them advantage in their recruitment campaign. In all my years abroad, not once did I see or hear of a soldier becoming the judge and the jury against a fellow citizen. I have read many submissions on the Shiite group in the north of Nigeria but still have not come to any justifiable reason which empowers any State military to take such anti-peace and anti-peale action which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. If the Nigerian Army insists that it was being attacked, it should produce proofs that these Shiite were armed and also proofs of the number of soldiers killed. It is a waste of time, in this age, for anyone to try to fool anybody that what differentiates the military and the militant is far more than government's legal backing. A man who knows how to handle guns, if he's in a camouflage, is as good as any soldier from a distance. That's why Boko Haram was able to do what it's done so far, that’s why Niger Delta militants could make their resounding speech, and that's why weapon-carrying men are as dangerous as any military opposing them in any part of the world. So, you see, Nigerian Army is not doing any good to the nation by killing unarmed youths for spurious claims. Such actions create more dissidents than maintain peace.

I believe that the military has its advisory board and I happen not to be amongst them, so it's not my duty to promulgate for them. However, I believe that such boards should sit and mend the already damaged fence between the military and the civilians. I've watched enough of the Arab Spring and no sensible Nigerian-be you a General or a coward-would wish that for our country. I have also noticed that, behind each one of these Arab experiences, the government, through their military’s high-handedness, provoked and spurred their civilians into certain militancy and into certain deaths as they struggle to be heard. That mistake is what successive Nigerian governments have refused to avoid. It is a generally held dream that Nigeria becomes great and at peace but, you see, no man will take being called a woman for long- lying low. Unemployment is its own ministry and, I tell you, with many agencies. The Nigerian military should not make those not in camouflage feel less than men, after all, only less than a percent of those who apply into the military are taken at every regular intake, and their disqualification often has nothing to do with their being unqualified. The presently ongoing recruitment exercises in the military and the police would make a clearer picture. I personally do not want a Nigeria where being a soldier would mean nothing except from being advantaged with a weapon of destruction against one's own neighbor. Nigeria is so diverse that such experience will mark so many ends. Let us all learn to live as brothers and as exposed people, not as barbaric savages. Savagery is the first animal instinct carefully controlled by civilization and democracy, let us not, therefore, return to our animal nature by our hunger to show undue superiority because savagery is now illegal anywhere and everywhere. And it does not matter if you are in a camouflage or a religious attire.
*Photo Caption - Nigeria Army logo
html add here