EVERY nation takes her security very seriously. The only difference being the degree of investments, which vary according to individual experiences and circumstances. The more involved you are in security, the more of your ability to contain both internal and external threats. At the height of Saddam Hussein’s reign, after the Iran-Iraq war, he was able to bring stability to Iraq. All contending forces – Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, etc, bowed to his superior control. Today where is Iraq?
No nation has faced a greater threat from its neighbours like the state of Israel, but because of this awareness and their determination to overcome the threat, they have worked themselves to become, arguably, the greatest army on earth. Every Israeli adult is a trained military personnel; so, when there is a need for it, they are called up to defend their nation.
The United States at one time had policies that made it compulsory for every male adult to undergo military training, but because of the activities of human rights activists and people like Mohammed Ali, the policy has been toned down. The result of this is that the United States now prefer to go to war without involving the ground troops. They have improved on their technology in such a way that they can send drone planes to carry out attacks on enemy territories without risking lives. They are even working on the potential use of robots to fight wars. The same thing is happening in so many other countries. Japan, that use to be a peaceful nation, since the end of the Second World War, recently displayed to the world its naval capabilities when faced by threat from China. Russia, China, North Korea are all flexing muscles.
You cannot be a safe and respected nation if you do not have the ability to put away enemies from your territories and, that is why the new theatre of war for insurgents is Africa.
They have found it difficult to penetrate the supposed enemies – Israel, USA, Britain, France, etc, because these ones have put measures in place at containing them. Nigeria, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Somali, Mali, Uganda and others, are now at the mercy of insurgents. Everyone of the listed African countries do not have the capacity to fight this war without the assistance of our Western friends – Europe and America.
That is the situation we have found ourselves in Nigeria, with daily attacks by the Boko Haram against our military, instead of the other way round. The Boko Haram are the ones chasing us out in the open, instead of us pursuing and fishing them out of the Sambisa forest. They even give out advance notices of their intended attack and go out to fulfil same.
This brings us to the issue of our armed forces. Where are our reservists? It is said that ” once a soldier, always a soldier”, what have we done with our own? Pensioners should be very useful in the kind of war that we are presently engaged in. The army is an institution that has a national spread; that is, all ethnic groups in the nation, are represented here. At a time the population was heavily tilted towards the North because of the pre-dominance of coups and counter-coups. I ask again, where are the military pensioners from all these areas and what has the society done with them? Have we treated them rightly for them to be useful to the nation at a time like this? Or, we have abandoned them, leaving them to seek solace in local liquor?
When they are not paid their pensions as at when due, when their allowances are being embezzled by civil servants in high places, when as a result they cannot fend for themselves, how do we expect them to be useful to us? The activities of the insurgents have exposed us to some basic defects in the running of our administration, and those in authority must begin to take actions at correcting these defects now.
It takes a great chunk of the national budget to train a military man to the equivalent rank of a major, not to talk of colonel, brigadier and general. They have attended the best schools, both in Nigeria and abroad.
Unfortunately, in Nigeria, our military, that are the so-called “government properties”, after heavy investments in these trainings, are made to retire at very young ages because of factors like ethnicity, coups, frequent changes in administration and so on. And these young men are subsequently thrown out of the barracks, unprepared for the harsh realities of life outside the military. Those without connections or stolen wealth are made to live in misery, while the pension mistreatment by the authorities adds salt to injury.
Do we have a comprehensive list of our retired military personnel? And their present locations? Some of them have been retired at the relatively young age of 35 to 40 years; what do you expect a man of 40 years to do, when all his life he has been used to the regimented life of soldiering?
If our military pensioners have been treated well, they would have formed a large army of reservists today, helping in their own way to contain the activities of the insurgents, especially in the area of information gathering, intelligence and training of the local civilians.
‘Once a soldier, always a soldier’
If you want ours to be useful to the country after service, we must begin to put strong institutions in place to take care of their welfare after retirement. It must not be by lip service, but by practical actions. Start by taking a count of all retired soldiers, their ranks, specialty/departments, locations, on local government basis.
It is also noted that amongst the insurgents, are ex-military men, maybe those who are disgruntled with the system and the way they had been treated. The department in charge of military pensions must begin to work now.
What is happening at the military pension office also extend to many parastatals and agencies of government. For example, the NNPC will send a man on retirement at 40 years who will be on pension for the remaining period of his life. Young men as pensioners? That is not how it is supposed to be and that is why the overheads of the NNPC cannot be contained.
The nation must learn to take care of those who have served her meritoriously, and by so doing there will be an end to disgruntled elements and by extension, insurgencies.
Mr. Sunny Ikhioya, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.