• Saturday, May 25, 2024
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The value of sacrifice



While the nature of sacrifice continues to energize and challenge the minds of thinkers all over the world, decision-makers, on a regular basis, have to encourage and correctly channel the multifarious energies that are pressed into the conditions of sacrifice. The thinkers may be granted the luxury of endless contemplations, but today’s practical challenges will not wait for tomorrows’ philosophical moorings.
From the beginning of time, humanity has had a native objection to the needless and non-communally-, thus, non-divinely-, sanctioned ending of human life. Even in the age of bestial executions, when men (rarely women) were drawn, hanged and quartered, humanity still reserved the collective right, no matter how it was expressed, to take human life as punishment for the worst of crimes. Side by side with this collective assumption of the sanctity of human life and the quest for punishing the greatest offences, including the crime of murder, was also the historical struggle by human beings to respond to and reconcile themselves with the need to personally sacrifice a live to protect other lives or some ideals that are beyond the individual. The articulation of constituted violence as one of the surest means of preventing the war of all against all was thus established.

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Our country has a cruel capacity to turn things on their heads. If the modern military was established as the greatest constituted violence in society to prevent the war of all against all, on its part, the Nigerian Army, perhaps partly as result of its colonial parentage, was hardly past its first decade when it came to represent a war of some against all. The first victims of the Nigerian Army were the people who the officers and men swore to protect. From January 1966 when the first shots were fired by Nigerians soldiers at the heart of the embattled country, the Nigerian Army moved from an irritation dismissed as an Army of Occupation to one written-off derisively by one of its departing chiefs as an Army of anything goes. By the time the soldiers moved from tyranny to unprecedented pillaging of the treasury, the fiery Marxist scholar at Ife, Dr. Segun Osoba, affirmed that what Nigeria was witnessing, particularly under the last three military regimes, was the highest stage of armed robbery, that is, Army robbery!
What manner of sacrifice would you expect from this kind of Army? But we will be unfair, even cruel, to overlook the fact that the dreadful, abject men who seized power and stuffed their throats and the psychopaths who killed and maimed unarmed civilians, did not exhaust the universe of the officers and men of the Nigerian Army. Despite the permanent embarrassment that the rise of Sani Abacha through the ranks of the Nigerian Army represents to that institution, doubtless, there were still men and women of honour in the Nigerian Armed Forces. But as the most of the ranking soldiers, mostly boys-scout captains who became generals in a degenerate army, turned coups into rumours and rumours into coups, even the famed Amebo of Village Headmasters could have been tied to the stake on the flimsiest of excuses.
By the time Abacha’s pristine dictatorship collapsed – in sweltering excitement, we were told – the most discerning members of the Nigerian society and their friends abroad felt that while the Nigerian Army had tried in the past to save the civilians from themselves in supposed democratic republics, it was time Nigerian civilians saved its fumbling soldiers. Unfortunately, some mistook one civilianized but not civilized soldier for that saviour civilian. It was a fatal error that even the most atavistic of the factions of the ruling class were to rue. In the time he was allotted on his second coming, the man they found sacrificed what was left of his sacrifices. Between My Command and Not My Will, Nigeria lost all her commanding will.
This was what was on my mind on a recent flight between Sacramento, California and Atlanta, Georgia. We had just landed when the pilot asked all members of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard on the flight to please signify by raising their hands. As they raised their hands the passengers clapped instinctively. I did too. Whether they support the current wars or not, Americans support their troops.
After they had identified themselves and warmly received our applause, the pilot, very proudly, announced to the soldiers on board: On behalf of myself, my family, and my country, I thank you for your service. It is because of your sacrifice that we are able to enjoy our freedom. Thank you. We clapped again. Even those of us who were not American citizens realized that the freedom we enjoy in this country and the wonderful opportunities that it offers are all guaranteed and protected, in significant parts, by the US Military. Unless, we were ingrates or incapable of making important links, we couldnt but also clap
It got me thinking, if a Nigerian pilot were to ask Nigerian soldiers in the different services to identify themselves in a landing aircraft, say in Lagos or Abuja, would Nigerians clap instinctively? Immanuel Kant wasn’t talking cant when he long instructed us that there is a principle higher than life, which demands that the individual be prepared to sacrifice his life. In spite of everything, there are still people in uniform in Nigeria today who are genuinely committed to helping to defend the little freedoms that we have won.
I applaud them.