Once flayed at home for their devotion to pepper soup and expertise in coup making, the Nigerian military was, however, revered abroad for its professionalism.
It was such professional distinction that brought accolades to the Nigerian military and police in their various peace keeping and peace making activities abroad.
Most Africans that have been affected by the scourge of internecine disputes readily give account of the professionalism of the Nigerian military and police.
The point has been repeatedly made of how the Nigerian military led by one Col. Olagunsoye Oyinlola, helped to cover the tracks of the United States military as the military machine of the world’s lone super power beat a retreat in the troubled Somalia in the early nineties.
That was not an exception given the avalanche of awards and commendations won by Nigerian contingents in their several peace keeping duties across the world.
At home, the military, however, remained largely invisible since the civil war except when its might was tested with the now and again religious skirmishes. In most cases, the military responded with professional dispatch, though, sometimes with an overkill as in Odi in 2000 when seven soldiers were killed during a military surveillance.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who was president at that time had said that it was sacrilegious for seven soldiers to be killed in their own country. Given the context above it is as such bewildering to many that the Nigerian Army with its tradition of gallantry at home and abroad is today taking the brunt of the insurgency instigated by the Boko Haram Islamic sect.
Reports of soldiers and officers falling in the midst of battle have turned from fiction to fact, and have today almost become a common day event. How did the Nigerian military come to this stage, that Nigeria that was not too long ago a net exporter of peace keepers is now begging for peacekeepers from all countries. Retired officers of the Nigerian military speak on the issue in separate encounters.
Our military is not stagnant
— Col. Bala Mande
Col. Bala Mande, rtd, who hails from Zamfara State was Military Administrator of Nasarawa State, former Minister of Environment, now a delegate at the on- going National Conference representing North West geo- political zone of the country and he served on the Public Finance and Revenue Committee.
Some people say our security forces are not well equipped, are not well trained to handle the insurgency in Nigeria, but I will reason differently even though I left the army so many years back, but I believe the military profession and professionalism is dynamic and our military is not stagnant. They evolve technically and in tactical doctrines, they keep on reviewing and updating their doctrines.
And also equipment and weaponry system acquired because I know in Africa, the Nigeria military is the leading military because we have more records of handling crisis, insurgencies, rebellion all over the world than any other country in Africa and in the process, we acquired more experience because we operate on a unilateral, multilateral basis with other countries in the world and so we are not left behind.
But even myself, I trained in America, I acquired some knowledge which I was designed to acquire and some other Nigeria military officers serving and retired have trained in America and have acquired a variety of high level professional training, handling of equipment, analytical procedures and capacity.
So since we have some form of understanding and cooperation with Americans, and the world is interdependent, I want to say that it was on that basis the US decided to give us some important support and also to give us the support in the struggle against this Boko Haram.
Is the support not an indication that our Military is not competent ?
We are competent to address the issue of Boko Haram very squarely. But we need our friends also to identify with us and America is a friend to Nigeria. You don’t refuse such gestures from your friends.
It’s no shame —Jeremiah Useni
Lt. General Jeremiah Timbut Useni, rtd, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, is a delegate at the on – going National Conference on the platform of North Central geo- political zone and a member, National Security Committee.
We are not fighting a war, this is an insurgency, guerrilla warfare is full of tactics; you don’t know where they will hit next. They don’t present their target like inn normal war. No matter how prepared, no matter how secure you are, thieves come into your room, thieves will still steal; so that is what is happening.
So whether we like it or not, these people, I mean, the United States military have more experience than us. So this insurgency is a different type of war, there should be no shame about it; we need expertise. We are now after our children, two hundred children not two hundred goats and even for a man to lose two hundred goats is thug of war. But here we are talking of two hundred souls, over the years and these Boko Haram have developed their equipment and everything that will help us become successful, so I think we should do that.
Is the foreign military intervention an indication that the Nigerian military has deteriorated?
No, that was why I said it’s not a normal war where you face your enemies and defeat them.
So Nigerians should cooperate and work with the US personnel?
If they want, we don’t know their plans, the situation is called insurgency, the US military may want to do their own way, but all we want is to get these children.
So what will you tell President Goodluck Jonathan?
The best choice, the best decision he has taken is to invite these people. So he should carry on. Maybe there are more people outside who may believe they have experience and are ready to render this assistance, let them come in. They are not coming to take over the country, they are not coming to take over the Nigerian Army. They are coming to help us where we feel inadequate as far as experience is concerned in this type of war.
NAvy Commodore Olabode George rtd was one time military governor of the old Ondo State, a former deputy national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, he is presently a delegate at the on – going National Conference on the platform of the PDP.
The world has become a global village and no nation can do anything all by itself, it needs international cooperation. We as a nation too, we have been in Liberia, in Sierra Leone, we have served even in the North of Africa. So if they come to our aid, nothing is wrong
Is it not a slap on our military?
Even America as powerful and global as their operation is, they can’t say they can do it alone. Each time they are heading into anywhere, don’t you see them begging the European forces? They may be more than others, but they require the services and cooperation of others, it is an international cooperation.
Look at what is going on in Ukraine now, would they head in to fight the Russians on their own? No. Nobody wants to conflagrate the whole world now with another third world war.
That is the cogent reason why their presence is necessary. We don’t want to end up like Somalia. And this Boko Haram issue, if you look at Central Africa from Mali coming back to Chad, to Cameroon and the north eastern part of our country, Congo they have their own issue. Do we have this massive problem in that area and allow it to spread? If it does, like somebody said if something happens to Nigeria and if we head on into all the various countries in West Africa, we will turn them into mini Nigeria. One, we have an international interest in this country, which is our crude oil, it must flow. Also, we have elections next year and they wouldn’t like any destruction of their economic activities in their country. Therefore, there must be peace in Nigeria.
What is your take on some military men who revolted against their leader on the ground that things are not going well.
I believe the military hierarchy must be investigating it because it is alien, I have never seen such, I spent well over a quarter of a century in the military. I was shell shocked, and if it is true, I believe by now they are back in their board room investigating it because soldiers are trained to kill. Police can arrest because it is a civil force, but if the military get out of hand, it is a national disaster. Whatever those boys require, be it ammunition, training, support, logistics, must be provided. I am not in the defence, I am not in the military, but we have very experienced people who must investigate who is in the chain of command that has held back what should reach the boys, put them in harms way.
It is criminal. But I believe that the higher command has investigated this, they must have done something, they must have stemmed it because it is a bad signal.