Nigeria And Its Present Army Of Anything Goes

Not long ago, Mr. Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, wrote a controversial piece with the title NO LONGER ‘AN ARMY OF ANYTHING GOES’. In this write-up, Adesina argued, among other things, that the Nigerian army became a rotten institution aptly referred to as an army of anything goes mainly under the heavy sway of Generals like Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, Sani Abacha and Olusegun Obasanjo. He also argued that the same situation was not in any way different or made better when late President Umaru Yaradua and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan took their own turns to preside over the affairs of the country. Conversely, he contended essentially that things only took a different turn for the good of the Nigerian army and Nigeria at large since 2015 that Major-General Muhammadu Buhari assumed the mantle of leadership of the country till date. According to Adesina, the hitherto shattered image of the Nigerian army has now been pieced together to once again restore the institution to its past glory, thereby making it so reformed an institution no longer easily perceived, described or dismissed by members of the public as one of anything goes.

It is though instructive to note that the chief propelling force behind Mr. Adesina’s article is the recently leaked report of the Lagos state Special Judicial Panel of Inquiry on police brutality in the state that covered the period of ENDSARS protest that raged nation-wide. And most probably, Mr. Adesina’s choice of the above title for his piece would certainly appear to have struck his mind in the opposite direction upon flipping through the pages of the leaked report (now all over town) wherein the judicial panel fearlessly and candidly emphasized the level of involvement and indictment of the hoodlums of the Nigerian army that performed that cruel operation on the night of November 20, 2020. Consequently, swiftly considering the fact that many Nigerians and members of the global community were naturally bound to rightly perceive and regard the Nigerian army and its shameful conducts and engagement as aptly fitting into the appellation of “an army of anything goes,” Mr. Adesina hastily decided to piece together an absurdity couched in a title that only clearly depicts in the opposite direction what exactly the present-day Nigerian army reflects in reality – an army of anything goes. Needless to belabor here that only a fool or a hypocrite like Femi Adesina will at the expense of increasing avalanche of empirical evidence on ground decide to embark on such a frivolous and futile show of hand-clapping  and praising the very compromised military institution that is today only good at being used to suppress and mow down innocent, unarmed, peaceful and law-abiding protesting youths and citizens alike.

Today, unlike what used to obtain in the past, Nigeria has got an army that is totally lost and lacking in the virtues of patriotism and humanity and, therefore, out of tune with the internationally accepted rules of engagement. An army that could open fire on its citizenry holding the very highest symbol of the country – the Nigerian flag –  while singing the national anthems, cannot be adjudged to be perfectly sane and responsible. As it were, for the Nigerian army spokesman at the time to have initially acknowledged or incredulously claimed in the wake of the shooting of peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State that such an act was a sheer handiwork of hoodlums, speaks volumes about the inner working of the mind of the army as an institution and which goes to underscore its obvious admission of having done all that sordid act in its moment of insanity. More so, happening under the watch of Major General Buhari-led government that has continued to deny its complicity – through Lia Muhammed – in the entire gory episode, further buttresses the cruel kind of army of anything goes that Nigeria now parades in the 21st century world.

Unlike what obtained in the past, the members of the Nigerian army of today are almost always engaging in intense competition with their police counterparts in their collection struggle for bribes along and across all nooks and crannies of our roads. For instance, on many roads in the Southeastern Nigerian where it appears the presence of Nigerian soldiers outweighs the number of vehicles and travelers on these roads, members of Nigerian army no longer feel ashame to demand from motorists, especially commercial bus drivers, the payment of “road fee” – a fee they are wont to claim must be paid by road users for having them mounting at different checkpoints. Terrible as this trend is, it is one notorious act that the Nigerian army was never known for until now. Even sometimes feeling somewhat ashame or guilty about it, these soldiers often tend to resort to positioning young boys at their various checkpoints to be collecting this fee for them (ranging from one hundred naira upward). Usually  these boys carry cans of water while on this duty,  apparently pretending to be hawking them while they approach the bribe-giving drivers for the payment of this road fee. As ignominious as this act is, these soldiers of our time do not give a tinker’s damn about it at all. And these are “disciplined” elements that Mr. Adesina gladly blabs about them as no longer constituting an army of anything goes (?).

Funny enough, these are the same brutes that occasionally storm villages within the neighbourhood of their various checkpoints in Igbo Land to torment the inhabitants of these communities under the guise of searching for members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafran (IPOB), most at times indulging in a shooting spree in the course of all that. Just a few days ago, social media was awash with news of killings, burnings and wanton destruction of properties reportedly perpetrated by Nigerian soldiers at Awo-mmamma in Imo State. According to news report, following an alleged attack by some unknown gunmen that left a soldier dead, his colleagues reportedly invaded the community, shooting and burning houses, shops and vehicles in an apparent attempt to avenge the death of one of their own, on the innocent civilians. Yet in the estimation of Mr. Femi Adesina, this is no longer an army of anything goes (?).

What is more, an army that has been so unprecedentedly undermined, emasculated and bastardized by the interplay and superimposition of such primordial factors as tribalism, nepotism, bigotry, religious parochialism, ethnic jingoism and other elements of our faultlines, and at the expense of merit, excellence, discipline and other lofty values, cannot be duly regarded as anything other than an army of anything goes. Unfortunately, it is not just coincidental that today in Nigeria mainly the people of Fulani stock and their ilk from the far north are most eminently qualified to be heading virtually all strategic positions in the army, thus leaving all other officers of other nationalities as their subordinates. Suddenly, just from the blue, the Fulani folks have now become the cream of the crop in the higher echelons of the Nigerian army. All of these happening in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural polity like ours, and yet Mr. Femi Adesina sees nothing unusual and wrong in the system that promotes and imposes the Fulani hegemony on the upper echelons of the Nigerian army.

Surely, it is too innumerable to exhaust all absurdities and shows of shame that qualify the present Nigerian army as a paradigm of anything goes, especially in a space-constrained piece like this. However, it will suffice for Mr. Adesina and people of his mindset to realize that claiming that the current Nigerian army is no longer one of anything goes does not necessarily lie in the amount of weaponry or military hardware in its possession, nor on the amount of money spent in procuring them. But, rather, it primarily depends on the side of public perception the army finds itself at any given time, either on the positive or negative side. And there is no gainsaying that the general public and global perception of the present Nigerian army is at its lowest ebb – however anybody wants to argue it. Hence Nigeria now parades an army of anything goes like never before, without which Mr. Femi Adesina would not have been bothered excessively to shore up its tarnished image.

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