YOU AND WHAT ARMY WAKA COME
When Boko Haram first encountered Nigerian Army, their obvious question was: 'Na only you waka come?' Unfortunately, the Nigerian Army did not include one of world Most Badass Elite Fighting Units from all countries. This has major implications for Nigerians because they cannot understand why an Army that got laurels all over the world for their participations in World War I & II, peace missions and greeted as saviors in Liberia could not perform bravely at home.
Our fathers and grandfathers that were known as Burma (now Myanmar) Boys told us many stories about the honors and
conquests they made on their return to Africa. African countries produce some of the 'badass or badest' elite fighting units since
World I and II. The same is true of world peace-keeping missions. In individual African countries, our national armies' reputations
are less than stellar. They are well known for coups and abuse of their civilians.
The first coming of Rawlings in Ghana was widely received because he questioned the wisdom of those in a coup d'Ã©tat on 24th
February 1966 that overthrew Kwame Nkrumah while on a peace mission to Hanoi Vietnam via Peking, now Beijing in China. Since
then, no African leader has commanded such respect or taken so seriously with such an honor outside the Continent.
Rawlings was a Lieutenant when he took over in Ghana. Sergeant Doe was able to stage a coup in Liberia and got away with it. We
shook our heads each time because we knew both of these officers could not have taken over power in Nigeria. Those that tried
saw their power usurped by more senior officers. The junior officers are left to administer jungle justice as they see fit to Police,
those of us they call 'bloody' civilians; sent to invade and impede the Press in June 2014.
There were three famous Army leaders that still command visceral reactions in Nigeria today. Abacha will be remembered among
other exploits, for leading an end to the religious fanatics, Maitatsine. Ezeogwu led abortive coup against corruption that plunge
the Country into civil war and Adekunle the Black Scorpion for his mercilessness against the rebellion during the civil war. The irony
is Nigerians wish they have Abacha today leading the fight against Boko Haram.
Our Army is supposed to protect us from external aggression. It is only in dire circumstances, when Police can no longer contain a
situation, do we require the assistance of the Army. It is usually said there is no bad soldiers but bad commanders. Obviously the
Military Police has not been effective against its own. If those commanders cannot contain soldiers in their care, it becomes the
responsibility of their Generals to rein them in.
Therefore, Nigerian Army has concentrated its grip against 'bloody civilians' at home. There is hardly a month without brutality
against civilians and sometimes against Police. Each time this occurs, a committee is set up and by the following month another
incident would overshadow the previous month. Since the end of military rule, the incursions of these soldiers into civilians' lives
remain traumatic and people's cry to end it has fallen on deaf ears.
In cities as chaotic as Lagos where too many people occupy tiny space and crazy traffic, so many fatal accidents are just
unacceptable. Certainly, more need to be done to reduce these fatalities. Recently, another fatality occurred when Lagos State
Rapid Transit System knocked a soldier down cold. As usual, soldiers came out from their barracks to beat up people and set some
buses ablaze. Nobody could justify the death of anyone, but rapacious arson is unacceptable.
We have soldiers terrorizing their own civilians and Police when they could be fighting terrorism in Sambisa evil forest. There,
soldiers and a General took to their hills. But can burn buses in the city; next, move on to burn houses. May be we have to turn to
Boko Haram to scare them away from the cities. Even Defense Minister of State was called a 'small boy' and a 'bloody civilian'.
It does not take much to get these soldiers out of their barracks. One or two of them can go back to the barracks to complain that
they have been mistreated at a bus stop. The rest of them will troop out and cause mayhem at any pointed location regardless of
who is at fault. So if one soldier is unhappy, you have breached the wrath of all of them. The lack of respect for human lives and
total disregard for the rule of law where needed, is confounding to say the least.
Though the Police has also taken advantage of the same civilians they are supposed to protect, the roadside checks abolished by
the Chief of Police has reduced fatal encounters and constant bribes and harassment. When broke, greedy police still
surreptitiously mount check points.
Despite this inexcusable relationship with civilians, you will pity them when the soldiers unleash their jungle justice on uniformed
police officers. During these periods, police officers with the tasks of keeping order on the streets remove their uniforms and
disappear into thin air. Some of the soldiers would go as far as the Police Station looking for officers to beat up because they think
they are above the law. In order to avoid trouble, police ignore soldiers' public infractions.
We have to implement discipline in our Armed Forces against their attacks on civilians and on one another. Internal discipline must
be swift and exemplary. Our Police and Army reflect who we are as a country. A nation where lawlessness is perpetrated with
impunity sends message to others to behave the same way. Discipline within the Armed Forces should not require special panel or
committee for enforcement of discipline. Is it because we do not have to import that?
It is an insult to say we have no solution to the problems that plaque us when we know how to apply discipline; without importing
it. It does not have to be at the time of Buhari/ Idiagbon or watered down EEFC after Ribadu glorious days. A country that knows
what ails it and refuses to apply solutions it has within will always suffer and disintegrate as a fish that rots from the head.
Written by Farouk Martins Aresa.