The military and Nigeria’s security
That the Nigerian Armed Forces, today, face a momentous period in their existence is very well known to citizens and keen observers of the country. Yet, they are the best symbol of the country’s strength and unity, recent complaints by some sections over the retirement of senior officers notwithstanding.
Apart from the scattered embers of insurgency left over by a retreating Boko Haram which the armed forces still have to deal with, there are other internal crises the resolution of which the constitution has placed on their shoulders. There is the Southern Kaduna killings that are taking on an ethno-religious colouration even as purported herdsmen wreak havoc in villages across the country, mowing down helpless persons with relentless audacity. In the South-East, in the Niger Delta, and in other parts of the country, disenchanted young Nigerians are taking up arms in a quest for an end to what they deem the state’s injustice to them.
Amidst a biting economic recession, which is a source of insecurity itself, the politically diverse entity called Nigeria must be managed with astuteness. And there is no other institution where wisdom should govern than the hub of national security, the military, in its management and even deployment.
Although there are things that threaten national security such as the raging hunger, unemployment and mass poverty that cannot be solved by guns alone, the fact that a sixth of Nigeria’s territory is being threatened by insurrection and aggression, drawing support from outside and within, makes the case for paying more attention to and motivating the men and women in uniform especially paramount. Nigeria is a country at war, even though the war is being won, and the patriots prosecuting the war, their once-in-a-while mistakes notwithstanding, deserve the backing of all citizens.
In recent times, the men and women of the armed forces have been in the eye of the storm. The recent sex abuse scandal in the camps of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is still fresh in the minds of Nigerians. There is also the plight of military pensioners, who are being owed arrears of several months on account of funds’ mismanagement by the military high command. Then, there was the calamitous bombing, in error, last week of the IDP camp, leading to the death of scores of innocent, already traumatised citizens. For many who respect the military calling, such ignominious events have the ethical and moral implication of discouraging aspirants and of dampening the morale of fighting soldiers.
Amidst these daunting scenarios, however, the Nigerian military forces deserve the understanding of Nigerians if not admiration for their patriotism and valour. And at the helm is the Chief of Defence Staff and the other service chiefs who deserve sincere commendation for re-positioning the defence forces and boosting the morale of men and women in uniform after the depressing years of the immediate past administration. So far, in recent national history, Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai especially has been one of the most tested army chiefs. His expert management of the army and the role his men have played to save Nigeria from national disgrace and international ridicule are notable. His strategic restructuring of the army is wise and timely. Just as he was rounding off with combing Sambisa Forest in search of insurgents and rescuing the abducted Chibok girls, he was preparing to send troops to Sudan; and then there was the standby for Gambia.
Notwithstanding the criticism of the occupation in the Niger Delta and other towns and cities in the south, the army and the Nigerian Navy should be commended for their modest containment of attempted cases of insurrection.
By this effort of commitment and bravery, the Nigerian military are boldly re-printing the trails of gallant expeditions successfully carried out by their predecessors. Their outstanding tours of duty in peace-keeping missions in Congo, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Liberia, Cameroun, Tanzania, the Gambia, amongst others, are globally acclaimed and have done the nation proud. Little wonder then these recognitions have attracted the support as well as respect of international bodies and foreign defence organisations. Definitely, the responsibility of Nigeria to West Africa is very clear and the Nigerian men of the armed forces are living up to expectation.
In terms of warding off external aggression, they have done well. Owing to Nigeria’s status in both Africa and the sub-region, the armed forces have maintained the country’s territorial integrity with professional pride.
Notwithstanding the shortcomings of the soldiers, the military is a reflection of the character of the state. As the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) states in Section 217 subsection 1 and 2: the armed forces of the federation is an establishment by an Act of the National Assembly, and shall be equipped and maintained for their fourfold purpose of “defending Nigeria from external aggression; maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea, or air; suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President… and performance of such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.” What this means is that, if the state is at peace, the military has done its job.
To exonerate the military men from the impunity with which the public has often charged them, they must demonstrate that fabled military comportment characterised by a predisposition to discipline. Such discipline should reflect at all times in their obedience to the sanctity of the state as an organised body headed by a constituted authority.
National security is in jeopardy without a united, loyal, well motivated and formidable military. Which is why this newspaper admonishes the military establishment to surmount the foibles of needless politicking and impress on the polity their historic role of uniting Nigeria, doing so with discipline and in obedience to civil democratic authority as prescribed by the constitution.