Lt. Anele: Fouled up beyond belief
It was Marshall McLuhan who coined the expression that the world has become a global village. It has indeed, thanks to the internet which has made the world compact and everyone everywhere is someone’s neighbour.
Today, information travels wider and faster than it did many years ago. Most people around the world must have seen the ugly video in which a peanut female Army officer in Nigeria called Lieutenant Chika Viola Anele violated, very violently, the dignity of another female, a youth corper, Ms. Ezeiruaku Ifeyinwa Fidelia. That video surfaced on the internet on Thursday, September 23, 2021.
The violator, a skinny, young-looking officer in full army uniform got the victim in full National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) uniform to kneel down while she diligently, casually, leisurely, religiously delivered her self-assigned duty with the happy vulgarity of a terrorist. The punishment came in three blood-chilling segments.
First, she scrubbed vigorously the head of the victim with a plastic bowl as if to ensure that whatever punishment she intended to dish out got right into her skull. She did this several times with the dexterity of a carpenter who planes rough wood into exotic furniture. Next, she gently fetched muddy water from a bucket with a plastic bowl and poured it on the head of the corper and watched the dirty water seep gently through her clothes into the inner recesses of her body. She did this many times. On some occasions, she would turn attention to the collar of her shirt, pull it apart and pour the muddy water directly on the back of her neck so as to ensure that it seeps directly into her backside.
The third routine was to slap the left side of her face several times with the bowl before she returns to the brutal water baptism method. In many Christian churches, baptism is done by immersion. Since this was a satanic form of baptism the method was deviously different. It was cruelty at its apogee, wickedness at its zenith. And the way she did it, with the offensive casualness of a Lord of the manor, you would think she is a general in Adolf Hitler’s army. But she is just a junior officer who thinks that the uniform gives her the license to do anything she likes. The humiliation came with the bonus of poking her head and slapping her between the water bathing segment. Indeed, she dehumanized her with overwhelming success by giving her the full cup of humiliation. The youth corper, patient as Job, just knelt down there without raising a finger in protest, lest she gets the kind of punishment that she would not live to regret.
Occasionally, she would gently touch the wet collar of her shirt. Other than that she was unmoving, dead as a dodo, fully aware that, like scrambled eggs, her situation could not be unscrambled.
These two women, violator and victim, have five things in common, One, they are both women who, ordinarily, ought to be each other’s guard because women have generally been subjected to all kinds of violence, largely by men. Two, they are both young and ought to stand guard over each other’s affairs in a world where young women are harassed in offices and schools and families resulting in rape, child marriage and child labour. Three, they are both Igbo, an ethnic group that is now facing a severe existential crisis. Why should there be an additional personal crisis that can complicate the life of an Igbo man or woman. Four, they are both uniformed workers who ought to show respect for the uniforms on their backs as evidence of a disciplined professional life. Five, they both work for the Federal Government which has an unenviable reputation on human rights and has had to harangue human rights organisations on the low global ranking of Nigeria on human rights. The opinion of Amnesty International and other respectable human rights organisations on the poor human rights record of Nigeria’s Armed Forces is formed partly from several incidents of this nature. This incident may look like a small picture, but it can get enlarged into a big picture in the eyes of the watching public. It is these small pictures that add up to an ugly big picture that gives our Armed Forces and country a poor reputation on human rights issues.
This incident took place at the 13 Brigade of the Nigerian Army in Calabar, Cross River State where the youth corper was posted for her primary assignment. Any NYSC person posted to any institution has the triple responsibility of protecting her own image, that of the NYSC and that of her tertiary institution from which she graduated.
Nothing has been said so far as to what may have been the cause of the quarrel between the two women that must have led to the humiliation of the corper. I doubt whether Lt. Anele’s method is an approved form of punishment in Nigeria’s Armed Forces. If there was an infraction of the rules or any misbehaviour on the part of the corper the proper thing was to report her to the Army authorities or the NYSC that posted her there. There is no justification for Anele’s self-help. It does not receive the public’s roar of approval nor that of the Armed Forces.
Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, Director of Army Public Relations has stated that the Lieutenant’s action is condemnable, unprofessional and against the established precepts of discipline in the Armed forces. He says that the Army has considerable respect for the fundamental human rights of the citizenry and therefore it condemns in strong terms the act of gross misconduct perpetrated by the lieutenant. He says that the matter is being investigated and the assailant would be made to undergo a trial in line with extant provisions of the Armed Forces Act. He also tendered an unreserved apology to the victim, her family, friends, NYSC and to Nigerians for the “unwholesome treatment meted to the corps member”.
Excellent Public relations. It is baffling that the 13 Brigade in Calabar where the incident took place did not consider it meet and proper to issue a placatory statement such as this. If it failed to issue a reassuring statement such as Brigadier Nwachukwu has done it means that it thought the matter could be swept under the carpet. But there is an African proverb that says that if a child is born in a marketplace, you cannot tell the child’s mother to close her legs because everything is already in the open.
Lt. Anele’s behaviour or better misbehaviour, is evidence of her disrespect for the rules of discipline in the Army to which she belongs and to the uniform she wears. The Army has often shown marked respect for its uniform and even its leaf green colour. Some years ago the Army even forced people whose cars were painted in Army colour to change to other colours.
On a few occasions, civilians who were caught wearing the camouflage version of Army uniform have been subjected to some punishment. That is evidence of how much respect the Army gives to its uniform. It is axiomatic that that level of respect should percolate through the rank and file of the Armed forces. The lieutenant’s graceless burst of bad behaviour is a stain on her uniform. She has fouled up beyond belief the reputation of the Brigade in which she works. Her adoption of Halifax Gilbert Law, which is a harsh summary punishment for the unnamed offence of the youth corper is the equivalent of putting her through the shredder.
For the errant lieutenant, this is a zero-sum game, for which there is no face-saving exit route. She needs to personally apologise to the victim, her brigade and the NYSC authorities because this story is so sordid that it cannot tickle over funny bones. It can only hurt our injured bones.
I have watched the torture video thrice and each time I watched it my skin crawled and I kept wondering how one woman could, in good conscience, do that to another woman and still feel able to sleep. That scene is as ugly as sin. It is a blunt depiction of wickedness, recklessness and an unvarnished abuse of power done with missionary determination. Someone must ensure that Lt. Anele comes down from her Mount Sanai and takes the punishment she deserves for messing up the reputation of her employers who put food on her table daily. She is probably one of those arrogant Army officers who have a wall of prejudice against “bloody Civilians” and do not mind tormenting them at every opportunity that presents itself. She belongs to the category of the officer who makes it possible for soldiers and civilians to see themselves as firm foes even though they are both working to support each other in the Nigerian project. She and people like her must never be allowed to have a victory walk. I ask the corper not to allow self-pity to sit on her chest like a pile of bricks. The outpouring of condemnation of her tormentor and support for her, the victim, should ginger up in the task of working with other corpers to reclaim a nation that is fast retreating in many aspects of its life. We do not need a blue-ribbon panel to tell us why our country gets the bad reputation that it gets from time to time. It doesn’t come only from what the rulers do or say. It also comes from what persons in public and private settings do or say which cumulatively grow into an appalling image for our beloved country. The angle from which this video was shot with the lieutenant facing the camera indicates that she was fully aware of the recording. If it was recorded with her permission of connivance, it means she wanted to add insult to the corper’s injury by ensuring that her humiliation was not simply a limited private matter but a global spectacle. That is why she ensured that it went viral so that the world can see the extent of her deviousness.