By Tony Afejuku
THE grand finale of the 2019 Army Day Celebration and Combat Support Arms Training Week (ADC-CSATNW – my abbreviation) ended recently. Not being a soldier, I will not pretend that I understood/understand in toto what our Army did or did not do throughout the long week of the combat training and re-training of our soldiers who have done the little or the much they have done (and are still doing) for our country. We cannot say without qualms that the Nigerian Army has not done more than several good things for us and on behalf of us all.
Of course, as a boy who was reaching adolescence and who was trying to understand his surroundings and his Nigerian landscape, I did not have a glimpse of any Nigerian soldier until the early 1960s when the civil war broke out. No. I think I am wrong. I remember faintly when a company of drumming and trumpeting smart young men in their well-made tantalising uniform of colour, I cannot now recall, marched along Macpherson Road, Sapele in one partly cloudy day, which was rising earlier than usual. We, many little urchins, and our equally many elderly ones, who lined the road on opposite sides did not know where they were coming from or where they were going to. All I can remember now is that they were marching from the River Ethiope end of Macpherson Road towards Salvation Army Primary School along Macpherson Road.
Obviously, we admired them as they walked in a military manner with measured steps at a steady rate, drumming and trumpeting away, and singing beautifully on the march. It was much later that we learned that they were soldiers who strolled or strayed from God-knew-where into Sapele. Maybe they were going to Salvation Army Primary School: that thought entered my mind at that time when I knew eventually that they were Army men. But what were they going to do in Savey – as everybody called that school then (and even up to now)? That was long ago; that was a long, long time ago – until our civil war happened and soldiers became part of our life and existence as pure water is now.
But wait a minute. The soldiers who strolled or strayed into Sapele, city of cities, in this recollection must be soldiers from Burma! The popular appellation “Sapele Boma Boy” owes its origin to the soldiers, chaps, maybe from the city, who fought gallantly in Burma in the Second World War. (Perhaps they were also in Burma during the First World War! Phew!). But let the damn good “Sapele Boma Boy” return to his topic of our Army now and their grand finale before memory carries him further and further away. At the Ikeja Cantonment Playground event of the Army grand finale, General Muhammadu Buhari, our president, who was represented by our vice- president, among other things, spoke thus:
“The challenge for us is to recognise this extremism for what it is. To form alliances across faiths and ethnicities, to destroy all evil that confronts us all. Fulani herder and farmer conflicts, random killings, banditry and kidnapping some [people] attributed to Fulani bandits, in different parts of the country are extant challenges that the army has had to intervene in on several occasions.”
I cannot but applaud Mr President, our one and only GMB, for his affirmation to apprehend and punish all criminals, including the well-known extremists, everywhere for their crimes against us all. To keep Nigeria one and united religiously and politically is a patriotic task that must be accomplished. However, “alliances across faiths and ethnicities” can only work without blemish where sincerity, truth and justice are. But does GMB not doubt that the Fulani bandits (in addition to Boko Haram terrorists) are the greatest challenges now confronting our country?
Why did he say that “random killings, banditry and kidnapping some [people] attributed to Fulani bandits”? Did he doubt the reports everywhere, even from his own intelligence outfits, about the nefarious activities and destructive habits everywhere they – the Fulani – are in or occupy? Does GMB doubt that everywhere the Fulani destructive herders are in, including lands that are not theirs and which they are ready and are determined to grab by force of arms and force of fear, there have always been “sorrows, tears and blood,” to employ evergreen Fela’s words?
Those who have attributed what they have attributed to “Fulani bandits” have done so rightly and rightfully. GMB should make no allowance for his kinsmen (and kinswomen) who have since overtaken our once-upon-a-time Niger-Delta outlaws as the real terrorists in the land. And the great lords of/from the Niger-Delta are keenly and rightfully following his kid-gloves treatment of the real problem of our country. We need them as our brothers and sisters because they are our brothers and sisters, and they should need us and love us in return as such, but not by coming to grab lands that don’t belong to them and insha Allah, will never ever belong to them.
GMB should send punitive expeditions after them urgently and quickly as he had/has never done to save our country, himself and his current administration from a nightmare that is not a light one. He should send our supreme troops after them and all terrorists, including, I say it again, Boko Haram, and newly born Islamic State of West Africa Province, ISWAP, at Bakassi on the “fringes of Lake Chad.” Our troops must continue without stop or hesitation their strategic bombing, “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions” everywhere in the North-East and outside the North-East.
Operation LAFIYA DOLE must be continued until all bandits and terrorists are vanquished, terminated or liquidated. I underline this appeal. And I hereby join the bandwagon of those who say that Ruga Settlement must die before it even begins. Whatever Ruga Settlement is, it must not see the light of darkness or of day-break. Our troops must un-settle Ruga settlement no matter what. It is their patriotic duty to do so. Of course, the COAS should please advise his C-I-C accordingly.
Meanwhile, I salute our troops everywhere for suffering, dying and living for us and our country. I stand erect, my eyes to the front, my arms by my sides, my heels together, and raising my hand to my green-coloured papa’s cap. O patriotic soldiers and officers, who are keeping our country one, I salute you all! I still have in my part of the drilling and training I got from our Army in my NYSC year in Maiduguri and Potiskum of North Eastern State aeons ago. How time flies!