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What politicians can learn from the Army on restructuring (1) — Ike Nwachukwu

…How to safeguard Nigeria’s unity
Former foreign affairs minister, Major-General Ike Nwachukwu, rtd. has said that the Nigerian Army must adapt itself into a dynamic entity able to provide national stability in the face of challenges that flow from the country’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious complexity.

Ike Nwachukwu

Nwachukwu, a former military governor of the old Imo State spoke at the Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference in Ibadan.

Nwachukwu, who was also a Minister of Labour and Productivity, and a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council, AFRC represented Abia North Senatorial District in the Senate between 1999 and 2003, also took a critical look at the role of the military in the affairs of the country and returned a grim verdict: Military experiment has not worked for Nigeria.

In the17-page, 4,495-word presentation entitled: ”Safeguarding Nigeria’s Unity And Sovereignty: A Patriotic And Constitutional Imperative for The Nigerian Army,” Nwachukwu also spoke on how to safeguard Nigeria’s unity and sovereignty and what the citizenry expect from a modern Nigerian Army.

Below are excerpts of the paper  Introduction

I thank you for giving me this unique opportunity to share some thoughts on this very important theme: SAFEGUARDING NIGERIA’S UNITY AND  SOVEREIGNTY: A PATRIOTIC AND CONSTITUTIONAL IMPERATIVE FOR THE NIGERIAN ARMY, before this gathering of eminent persons from diverse and experienced backgrounds.

The choice of the theme is appropriate at this point in time, given the situation facing the Nigerian Military, indeed the Nigerian Army. The Nigerian Army is known to be highly disciplined and its officers and troops trained to be professionally responsible in the conduct and discharge of their duties. The unit commanders are to ensure that men under their command are accountable, honourable, honest and responsive in the manner that they discharge their duty inside and outside the Barracks.

How to change Army’s poor perception

However, subsequent events seem to affect the people’s perception of its own Army. That said, today’s lecture will be about us as a people and about the Nigerian Army and about what we must do to change the perceptions, for the better, of the Nigerian Army in the democratic Nigeria. To do so, we should look at a report on Multi-ethnic Armies and its effects in governance and unity by the Council of Foreign Relations in the USA. The report observed that, a number of authoritarian regimes have used the army to enforce ethnic dominance rather than dilute it; for example, the Russian-dominated Red Army of then Soviet Union, Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated military in Iraq, and the Arab Army of multi-ethnic Sudan.

The report further pointed out that Nations which have had success in ethnically integrating a national army often have translated such success to a broader scale, with examples ranging from the polyglot armies of Alexander the Great, the Roman and Ottoman Empires, the Indonesian military, and, in a slightly different sense, the immigrant-fed Armed Forces of the United States of America. Even in cultures regarded as relatively homogenous today, national armies played a major role in their cohesion.

For emphasis, other countries, such as India, Pakistan, Bangladeshi, and the Irish Armies etc. that share similar colonial as well as ethnic and religious diversities have managed their military for service to democracy. In most of these countries, recruitments into the military is based on proportional representations among the ethnic diversities and as such become a source of national stability and motivation. India being one of the most ethnic and religiously diverse countries in the world is home to Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jats or Garshwalis, etc. Recruitment into the Indian Army is based on class, ethnicity, religion during the colonial rule and post-independence. It adopted the regimental system for cohesion, motivation and camaraderie. We are aware of the Punjab. Madras, Gorkha, Bihar, Bengal Native Infantry regiments among others. Thus, the Indian Armed Forces have remained a stabilising instrument for ensuring State cohesion and integrity and democracy.

As the biggest democracy in the world, it has an Army that has remained apolitical. It has not demonstrated any inclination towards interfering in politics, and has resisted attempts by politicians to interfere in its internal affairs.

Unity threatening challenges

Nigeria has faced challenges that have threatened her unity in the course of history since independence in 1960. We must acknowledge that the Military intervention in Nigeria in 1966 derailed our agreed Federal Constitution. It threw our country into the tail spin from which we are yet to recover even at the moment. In trying to steady the country before and after the Civil War, the Military introduced several decrees and Constitutions hoping to build a country in which all Nigerians should feel happy to belong and defend, if need be.

It must be stated categorically, that, to its credit the Military did certain things that can be adjudged good. But there is no gainsaying that there are other things that may not be adjudged just as good. Some of these are the militarization of our society and to a large extent our democracy.

It will not be untrue that, the military experiment at nation building has not worked for the better in Nigeria. Though it fought the civil war to keep the geographical entity Nigeria united and is still fighting to safeguard our territory from insurgents, its efforts are yet to unite us as a people. Instead separatism, religious intolerance, nepotism, cronyism and regionalism seem to be getting the better of our polity. Little wonder the clamour for inclusiveness, equity, fairness and justice.

To achieve the spirit of oneness, we need a mind-set which allows for tolerance and better understanding which will remove, in large measure, the trust deficit among our people; and, reduce the perception that some have undue advantages over the others.

I fought in the Nigerian Civil War as a Federal Army officer, principally because I believe in Nigeria´s unity. That belief remains my conviction that all Nigerians regardless of ethnic, religious or regional origin have the right to live, work and prosper anywhere and everywhere in Nigeria.

Therefore, to safeguard our unity and sovereignty, it is time to make amends and embrace one another in love and respect as citizens of Nigeria knowing that we are interdependent regardless of ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender and political affiliations.

Consequently, efforts should be made to create a national army truly representative of the population. A multi-ethnic army like ours should avoid giving the impression that it promotes ethnic or religious superiority. Like the Indian Army it should use the ethnic and religious diversity through regimental system to build a cohesive and highly professional institution. The Nigerian Army can achieve this, only, through policies and programmes that make the people believe that it is their own Army not the Army of a particular group.

It had been said, and I reiterate, that the “crucial element in the success of any multi-ethnic Army is its ability to be perceived as a true national institution” devoid of ethnicism, religionism and sexism in recruiting, training, graduating, commissioning, postings, appointments and promotions.

Here lie the challenges

?What are the Nigerian Army policies with regards to ethnic, gender, religion and State representation?

? Does the Nigerian Army attempt to inculcate national values in recruitments, trainings, and professional education?

? Is the Nigerian Army of today above board in all of these?

Constitutional roles of the Army

Section 217 to 220 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 stipulates that:

  1. There shall be Armed Forces for the Federation.
  2. The Armed Forces shall consist of an Army, a Navy, an Air Force and such other branches of the Armed Forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of defending our territorial integrity, of suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and,
  3. Perform such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.

The Constitution makes it explicit that the Nigerian Armed Forces particularly the Nigerian Army is duty bound to safeguard Nigeria’s unity and sovereignty.

In view of the serious misperception of the role of the Nigerian Army, it should endeavour to uphold the strict provisions in the Nigerian Army Act. And not give any chance, whatsoever, for its actions to be misconceived by the general public as being unprofessional.

That notwithstanding, the increased activities of insurgents and kidnappers in the country suggest a major weakness in our intelligence gathering.

There is the need, therefore, to embark on a serious exercise to have Nigerians and all our national institutions to accept their responsibilities in being part of the National Defence infrastructures. Indeed, good intelligence can only come from the people and these institutions.

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