Nigerian Military, you don’t protect our freedoms by acting childishly as you try to deaden individual, political, media, and digital freedoms
There is something poisonous that is painting the canvas of the Jonathan presidency and it relates to the military leadership in Nigeria. It seems that many of these uniformed men with a gun in their hands want Nigerians, including military wives, politicians and journalists, to worship them.
Freedom of expression is assumed to be protected in Nigeria, a nation that, at least on the surface, has a written Constitution which was mainly adopted from America's Constitution.
The Constitution is supposed to serve as the supreme law of Nigeria and prohibit any authority or institution from abridging freedom of speech, media freedoms, academic freedoms, political freedoms, and the individual's freedom to right to write or speak, protected from physical or vocal violence.
In fact, the Nigerian security including the military is supposed to protect the people from fundamental abuses in the areas of freedom of protest, expression, movement and assembly.
But because of the irrational and cracked nature of our system of government, the National Security System and, in particular, the military, which are supposed to be the protectors of the Constitution to ensure the free speech of every Nigerian, are instead the giant abusers of our constitutional freedoms.
It was not long ago that the Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah, in a highly ferocious way, reportedly instructed soldiers in the following manner. "If they repeat it (referring to Nigeria soldiers' wives who protested for the safety of their husbands), all those wives will leave the barracks. This is not a civil service organization. This is not a Boy Scout organization. Any repeat of such act, I will tell soldiers to use koboko (the act of being flogged with a knotted rope whip) on the wives and bundle them out of the barracks."
Recently, the Director of Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, warns that, “In view of the series of insinuations, allegations and false claims being made by certain activists and politicians on the legal and disciplinary process in the Nigerian military, the Defence Headquarters finds it necessary to make this call...Politicians should avoid using the forum or medium of their political campaigns to incite or endorse acts of indiscipline in the nation's military establishments.” This barbarous warning resulted only because a Nigerian who happens to be a politician, the Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, stated in a speech, “The soldiers have the right to protest for the federal government's failure to fully equip them.”
Then we have the Director of Public Relations, Brigadier Olaleye Lajide, who, because of an Army-related story published in an online newspaper, the Sahara Reporters, asserted in a malicious manner that, “It is noteworthy but unfortunate that Sahara Reporters has committed itself to support terrorism and fight Nigeria, its people, its military and particularly the Nigerian Army.”
Yes, Nigeria is still a young and growing democracy but that is not an excuse for the current wave of military aggression against individual, group and institutional freedoms.
The military is supposed to distance itself and adopt a position of neutrality from divisive politics; instead, it is overstretching its constitutional role and thereby diminishing the quality of military service.
The Nigerian military needs to be educated that there is what we call the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Nigerian police force whose duty is to enforce laws against the likes of obscenity, indecency and vulgarity as set out in the Constitution.
The military ought to know that constitutionally journalists are protected from revealing their sources as in the case of Sahara Reporters since media and digital freedoms are directly protected by federal law, and if not for the chaotic democratic style in Nigeria, there should be some form of whistleblower protection for all Nigerians.
In the Jonathan presidency, it certainly seems that many of these uniformed men with a gun in their hands want all Nigerians, including military wives, politicians and journalists to worship them.
It is particularly unfortunate that some of our more highly educated senior military officers appear to lack adult intelligence as evidenced by their childlike utterances and statements in recent times.
No wonder President Jonathan recently reflected on the challenges he continues to face as a leader due to the contradictory advice he continues to receive from men such as these.
If this madness continues, the worse is yet to come for the Nigerian people, as these uniformed men, with no notable female leadership voice among them, continue to betray and frighten the social streak of nationalism in Nigeria. As such, let us watch these men in uniform very closely.
Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi is a Forensic, Clinical and National Psychologist and a former Secretary-General of the Nigeria Psychological Association. [email protected]