The Nigerian Army came into being officially in 1960, some 60 years after the original elements of the Royal West African Frontier Force were created by the colonial masters who held sway at the time. Since then, its frontiers and boundaries have continued to swell both in numerical strength, professionalism, resource and equipment, evolving from British-trained Nigerian troops who had a feel of field combat in Europe, West Africa and in the Far East. Its main task was to close up with and defeat any organised enemy. Of course, the motto ‘Victory is from God alone’ which it adopted could not have been more apt in view of the vicissitudes which have characterised the nation’s premier fighting force from inception up to this present era. The efforts and sacrifices, both in terms of life and limb, it has made to see to the unity of Nigeria also come into the foray of this singular thought.
Just as it is with any other federation or entity, the task of shouldering the entire security and protecting the boundaries of the state from both internal and external aggression is one that is too onerous to be trifled with, and
no man or material ought to be spared in making that aim see the light of day. The essence of the foregoing history is to place a reminder of how long and far the Nigerian Army has come, how it has fared over the years, and how pertinent it is that we maintain the sanctity of this all-important institution by whatever means possible.
The recent debate and arguments flying to and fro the corridors of the leadership of the Nigerian Army over claims of sectionalist sentiments and lop-sidedness in appointments, recruitments and promotions is considered very unbecoming. Over the years, the Nigerian Army, as testified by as many who have been keen watchers and pundits, has been adjudged as one that has managed to survive the erosion of ethnic vices and tribal tendencies. This is, of course, what is expected of an
institution that has the survival, unity, even economy and national life of its people square in its palms. But for such a one to now begin to
evidence cracks in the wall of its cohesion smacks of a lot of foreseeable trouble. It should be made clear here that trouble of this magnitude and nature is not usually one that can be solved at a coffee-drinking roundtable. The portent for the nation’s official bulwark if things like this continue to go unaddressed and unattended to is not a palatable one, for all intents and purposes.
There is therefore no gainsaying that the Nigerian Army is too important for this kind of internal bickering and wrangling. In fact, in the truest sense, matters like this are not even supposed to be in the public space, left to the inappropriate comments and views of civilians, but one to be judiciously managed, settled and resolved within the confines of the Army disciplinary structure and adjudication. What has been flying about the airspace recently seeks to, if not anything, paint our hallowed Nigerian Army in the same murky colours as the dissident groups that have kept the nation on tenterhooks ever since. The Nigerian Army is official, empowered, and recognised. How can the same political, ethnic and religious interests that have had a field day making mince-meat of ethnic-based organisations, to the extent of blurring even the loftiest of their ideologies and demands, also snake their way into such a pristine creation as the Nigerian Army? What hope for the country if its chief watchdog caves in to religious affiliations within its rank and file?
In the overall interest of the
country, its unity and corporate existence, the crisis of confidence over who gets what and who was appointed where and when in the Nigerian Army must stop. The Nigerian Army is not a rebel group, neither did it materialise out of agitation for control of resources or the right to arms. It has a life, history, and pedigree that cut across all the ethnic groups, religious sects, and even classes and ages of Nigerians. That unity in diversity is in itself the strength of the Nigerian Army and should not in any way be tampered with or undermined. There will be flaws and misgivings here and there, but the mere fact that this is seeping into public discourse, beyond the boundaries of institutionalised avenues of redress and recourse, is so worrisome.
Nobody has a right to kill, wound, or abduct the structure of the Nigerian Army. The nation, apart from being the worse for it, may not survive it. In even looking at the bone of contention, the chief of army staff has come out with facts and figures that have punched holes in the claims of partiality and lop-sidedness. I have not seen any officer that has ADC, CSO and orderly from the same ethnic group. I appreciate the large amount of grapevine tales that circulate within their ranks, but I expect them to be able to handle their differences in an accommodating process. The recent exposures are simply unacceptable.
Willie-Nwobu writes from Abuja.
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