• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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There is a girl in the platoon


have always admired men and women of the armed forces doing their job and walking around in smart uniforms. They are never afraid both physically and emotionally. They hate injustice and are often seen standing for justice and defending the underdog. I am not sure what I admire most about them whether it’s their well ironed uniforms or their tough mien in the face of difficult circumstances.

I admire their tenacity, their forthrightness and their boldness. When everything falls down security wise, we look to them for rescue; assured of their presence we go to sleep with both eyes closed. It is for them that some women go gaga as I hear they are also great suitors pressuring relentlessly for a final conquest. But I could never marry a soldier, much as I admire them, I could never bear the headache of their going, and me not knowing, to the frontlines, to war, to difficult terrains. My daughter, an aspiring 15 year war historian, put it elegantly yesterday when she said when someone is MIA (missing in action) that has to be the worst situation. Why do people go to war anyway? She asks. I cannot even figure it out. First if there is a front man who starts the war in his head, why do people even accept his position? For what is a war without men? Let the man with a war in his head go and fight it alone. If no one follows him then there can be no war right? These are profound comments from a young girl who is trying to make sense of the Syrian situation, the Balkan crisis, the insurgency around the world, the Palestinian situation, the Ukrainian crisis. She is reading history voraciously on her own trying to fix the world by understanding the reasons why people begin to shoot each other. I admire her. She is for me a very rare person; studying wars, hoping to fix the world, by reading about one war at a time.    How do those who started the wars in their heads feel when people begin to die in droves? I have never understood what people stand to gain when they go to war. Neither do I but I have to be the mum and sound brave and try to make sense of it all for the sake of my children

Most of such war passion is often led by boys who have a predilection to wars and war games but Oiza my dear daughter is one hell of a girl in a platoon; standing tall among boys, questions so profound they drive me to tears. But she is in a safe platoon, in her home or school with freedom and choice. 

There is however one girl in a different platoon whose choices are limited, who has nowhere to run after she has joined. I marvel at her ability to deal with the rigorous training, the discomfort, the many miles of running. I cannot even run too far from my home before I begin to pant and want all my comfort back. This girl I refer to is the lone female soldier walking around male soldiers, sharing bathrooms and eating with them. I have watched in amazement as she goes through the tough assignments, standing on the main roads for hours on end, checking cars or manning public institutions. Her stride is sure, her face sombre, occasionally only letting off a mild smile, her gun hanging grimly by her side. She is the only girl in this platoon, her job by choice and her assignments unknown to her. She smacks a fly on her cheek as she looks past a car that has just zoomed past, cleared for security. She is right in the middle of an unnamed and lonely road in the outskirts of Abuja with bushes as surround and the deafening sound of trucks as companion. She is standing akimbo as she has a conversation with her male colleagues. This lady in heavy army gear is the only girl in sight in her platoon. Hefty looking men in army fatigue are her colleagues day and night, night and day.

 I salute our troops protecting us in places we can never go; those who take the fire for us, who get maimed for us, who pay the supreme price for us.  But I salute even more elegantly the single girl in the platoon who has to deal with her monthly periods, poor sanitary conditions and those things that a lady is hardly involved in. I am mesmerised by her, amazed and full of admiration.


Eugenia Abu