By Tony Eluemunor
What really is the effect of the military and paramilitary uniform on the average wearer? Does it give them an uncommon sense of responsibility and remarkable social conscience and a disposition of service to the nation?
Has any arm of the Nigerian Armed Forces ever carried out a study of why those in uniform appear to be predisposed to a feeling of superiority, privilege, and entitlement to that special but yet undefined something that make them to feel ever ready to brutalise anyone they adjudge to be beneath them in a yet unclarified perking order, especially civilians? The soldiers assault and maltreat the Police and other paramilitary outfits which in turn unleash mayhem on civilians.
Policemen, soldiers or Customs officials routinely shoot law abiding Nigerians who delayed in handing out bribes that could be as low as N50? Or which Nigerian has not heard a fellow Nigerian describe the Mobile Police Squad as “kill and go” with all the lawlessness and their being above the law, which that brutish tag entails? I hope we fully understand the fact that “lawlessness” and being “above the law” are two different things. Lawlessness entails some form of banditry, that terrible inclination of outlaws who respect no rules and regulations and statutes of a well-ordered and civilised society while those above the law, are not under the rule of the law which binds other members of lower carders of the society.
Or, is it that those who bear arms as part of their duties to the nation think that gives them licence to a brutal nature of unredeemed savagery and so often attack unarmed others with animal ferocity? What stops them from coming to terms with the fact that they bear arms on behalf of other members of the society? What really is that demon that takes possession of the souls of some of them at the least provocation?
I know you know exactly why I’m writing this today, using such strong words. I know you know that it is because of the shooting at close range of some policemen in Taraba state, who had gone to arrest an alleged kidnapper. It has been gnawing at my heart for reasons that transcend the very act of pulling the triggers that unleashed those bullets. Please, bear with me while I explain myself: or is it not difficult to understand why, in a democracy, a Captain in the Nigerian Army, and not a rag-tag army of bush-bound rascals scavenging in an accursed country-side for their sustenance, could issue a shoot to kill order anyhow, and the soldiers under him would ACTUALLY OBEY HIM?
Just a Captain? And we are not talking of soldiers fighting a war here? And those soldiers shot at the vehicle of the people they were pursuing, the car summersaulted, the targets were thrown off the vehicle, the soldiers saw them reeling on the ground, in spasms and pangs of pain from injuries sustained, totally defenceless and helpless, so helpless they could not stand and any not injured would have been thoroughly dazed and disoriented, and yet, the soldiers pulled their triggers and…and…and …what really? Does that imply that a General could wipe out a whole town? Please don’t remind me of Odi!!!
Let’s assume the Taraba dead were murders caught with fresh human heads still dripping blood, why were they not captured alive so that their suspected crime would be thoroughly investigated, their syndicate smashed and they would be brought to face their day in court and be lawfully sentenced? That is the way of civilized societies; and Nigeria is civilised. Or is any one about to argue that soldiers are trained to kill? That is the sort of nonsense that has sustained this climate of darkness. Is a soldier not trained also to be a part of a civilised society? If they were so badly trained to kill, why has no soldier so far shot any suspected coup-plotter and killed him extra-judiciously?
What could make a Captain to order soldiers to shoot and kill Nigerians, who did not resist arrest? And even if he had given that order when the people, were suspected to be criminals and their identity cards fake, were still being pursued, why were they not simply arrested and handed over to the Police or even higher military officers? At when did that Captain report the unfolding events to his immediate superior officer?
My point is this: why did that officer BECOME A LAW UNTO HIMSELF? I know the discussion across the country now would be whether or not he has been in the pay role of the alleged kidnapper. I won’t waste my time on such inanities. Or have we not read about one soldier in Umuahia who shot and killed a commercial motorcyclist who failed to offer him bribe…bribe to do what really? Just to allow him continue his journey on a Nigerian road? This kill and go mentality must be checked.
That brings me to my real: the Nigerian Armed Forces, the police, the customs—all the paramilitary agencies are guilty of this malfeasance. No outfit has been able to discipline its officers and men in such a way that they would not be a burden of crime, high-handedness, degradation, deprivation, insult and assault on Nigerians.
What orientation do military and paramilitary people receive? Why would somebody in “uniform” feel no obligation to obey traffic light? Why would he extort money from citizens and go scot free? Or would it not be just a matter of time and such a person would feel entitled to take human life?
Recently, a Naval officer’s reaction to the charge that Navy men who help to clear road gridlock in Apapa area of Lagos, have been extorting money from motorists, was that the accusers should provide proof. And I bet that officer is still wearing his uniform, but he does not deserve to. Why didn’t it occur to him that it is the duty of the officers to check the excesses of their men? How does he expect civilians to arrest extortionist soldiers? Or how does he expect them to show that proof? Has himself made any effort to catch his extortionist troops?
Stretch this further and you would find the Nigerian Police Force, which is now mourning the death of its operatives under focus, have had their men shooting and killing countless number of Nigerians. Over a decade ago, it was the Abuja “Apo Six.” Such excesses begin from extorting money from law-abiding Nigerians, especially motorists and motorcyclists, and on a day of rage and misguided bullying, a bullet would ring out of a rifle and a civilian would drop dead. The Police Command that failed to stop the excesses of their men and women would not accept its complicity in the crime, but it allowed the killing or shooting excess to grow out of the extortionist excess. A little unchecked licence soon turns into full-fledged liberty.
May we never forget that it was in that same Taraba state that Gen. T Y Danjuma accused the military, which he once headed as an Army Chief of Staff, of habouring soldiers colluding with suspected killer herdsmen. Was that accusation ever investigated? If the Army investigated that charge, its officer would have tried to review his relationship with a philanthropist of no known means of livelihood.
No, it was not the mad and maddening soldiers at Ibi, Taraba state that killed those gallant policemen and wasted the money and effort Nigeria spent in their training. Nigeria, their country simply failed them because her officers and men that bear arms received the wrong orientation. And their High Commands are not thinking about how to correct that mistake.