Honor, dignity, and respect for Nigerian dead on national duty or service
Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States
Wednesday, April 7, 2003
When Nigerians think of the Nigerian Armed Forces, that is, the Army, Navy, Air-Force, and Police, etc, it is important to examine them, through multiple angles and prism; And I suppose, most Nigerians think of Nigerian soldiers as the political usurpers and power-crazed persons, and the koboko-at-the-ready/kobo-quick fellow citizens in uniform, it is fair to think of some of our military personnel in these lights, there are indeed, some, amongst our uniformed citizens, who are a perfect fit for such descriptions. There are, therefore, justifications for holding to such views.
This is particularly so, in view of our checkered history and experience with some unsavory characters in the military, but we must ask whether, there are unsavory characters in every profession or trade/calling? While we accept that there are unruly soldiers, as the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and the entire Kuti family experienced firsthand, these painful experiences, were and are not peculiar to the Kuti clan, a plethora of other Nigerians experienced brutalities and lawlessness in the hands of unprofessional soldiers.
After all, the majority of the Nigerians in uniform are good people, fair minded and are like our average neighbor and cousin, however, historical happenstances, have carved a largely undeserved reputation and image for our citizens in uniform, the fact is, it is patently unfair to lump all of them together, thereby creating a generalization for the good, the bad and the brutal, as a singular; The Nigeria citizens in uniform have always risen to the occasions, when circumstances warranted or demanded, as they acted professionally, when it mattered most.
It is a fact of history, that Nigeria’s military unwittingly soiled its hands, by jettisoning military professionalism, as they dabbled into politics for too many decades, in Nigeria’s political history, since independence; Even so, Nigerians most separate the chaff from the wheat, as it is, for far too long, too many Nigerians appear to have only experienced, seen and bother to examine a single side of a double sided coin, we appear to have only looked at the chaff! There are always two sides to every tale, and every issue, we must see, not only the chaff, but beyond it, and despite it….. chaff is an aberration to wheat.
The truth really, is that, Nigerians in uniform, those who sullied our military’s fine reputation for professionalism and excellence, are in the minority, and further, there are much fewer minority in terms of numbers, who were political opportunists, (apologies to Col. Umar). It is the case that, the average Nigerian in uniform, the majority of them, performed their honest duty, for an honest day’s work for honest-day pay, and we are all too familiar, with the average uniformed Nigerian working and not getting paid for months!
Nigerians in uniform have made ultimate and supreme sacrifices unsung, during and at all times in our history, when it mattered and counted the most.
The average middle-level officer, the rank and file of the enlisted Nigerian women and men, (too few women!) never planned or executed the usurpation of power from the electorate, through the foisting of military regime-governments, the average enlisted Nigerian in uniform were no coup-plotters! Anymore than we can blame a clerk for the failure or fraudulent accounting by Enron Corporation, WorldCom Corp in America or Halliburton tax manipulations in Nigeria.
The average enlisted Nigerian in uniform, were not the military governors or military administrators, the infantry Abubakar, Bola, and Chima were not the beneficiaries of import licenses, military-political promotions, or contracts replete with nepotism and favoritisms, they were not the beneficiaries of the common-place largesse that flowed from the military who branched into politics and power spoils.
If the truth be told, the average officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces, were and still are, honorable and dedicated Nigerian citizens, made up of officers and enlisted persons, who were and are, like the rest of us, victim-like, in the hands of those in-charge; We must learn not to blame the passengers for the traffic infractions of a bad driver. The average Nigerian in uniform, is like the rest of us, victims of coup-plotters and coup-making, and all the disadvantages that Nigerians and Nigeria have endured, as direct and indirect consequences of the Nigeria military, as a class, subjected all of us to, by their singular act of dabbling and venturing into political ‘management’ that is, by becoming politicians in uniform.
Military professionalism, including, proper training and deployment, military promotions, etc, suffered immensely, there were rampant witch-hunt within, false accusations were made against some, who may have been perceived, as threats, personal threats to those military, who constituted themselves, into political soldiers of fortune! And Machiavelli tactics and Darwin’s survival of the fittest were operated to their most absurd extremes!
On the whole, Nigerians in uniform do do excellent and honorable duty as assigned to them, whether during the civil war, during routine assignments, during the military regimes or as bulwark for safety and security in Nigeria or as peacekeeping troops, all over the world; Nigerian troops, again, recently demonstrated their infinite commitment to national duty, as they tried to salvage the NAFADAC properties in Kaduna, the other day, when, without equipment, but with bare-hands, during one of the recent national fires directed by some miscreants, at NAFDAC installations.
Nigerian citizens must re-assess our fellow citizens in uniform, in a more fair and balanced manners, this is particularly so, as we bear in mind, our unique local circumstances, and the fact that, there are virtues and vices everywhere in the world, just as there are good, bad and brutal soldiers everywhere; Nigerians and Nigeria’s government and especially the military top brass and leadership, must, do a better job of caring for our enlisted citizens, during their lives in service, and even in death, whether at war, or during peacekeeping for safety and security at home in Nigeria or peacekeeping abroad, or death during a period of absolute peace in the world. Our service personnel must be given befitting burials with coffins or caskets or mats, draped with our national colors and flag, and the full honors, this will, in essence, be a demonstration of our love for our country and those who serve Nigeria’s purpose or national interests.
Nigeria must accord Nigerians who die in national-service duty all honorable appellations, honor, respect, dignity with all the nationalism and patriotism that we can muster because Nigerians who serve gallantly, excellently, honorably, and selflessly, deserve the most honors possible, and there are multitudes of rewards imbued in doing these, among which are the very probable fact, that we will inspire and motivate other Nigerians to follow the good examples of those honored, we will be motivating Nigerians alive and generations yet unborn, and the family of the dear departed, to feel proud, and take pride in the contributions in selfless service, by those who served Nigeria eminently in exemplary manners, even when they are no longer with us, as when they have paid the ultimate price or made supreme sacrifice with their lives, as a consequence of national duty and national service.
Nigerians must revert to days gone-by when we held our citizens in uniform in great reverence and high esteem, which is what majority of Nigerians citizens in uniform deserve! Nigerians must rally in support of our ‘ex-service-men’ ex-service-personnel? Or Veterans, when their pensions are unpaid, when our society neglects their welfare, Nigeria should never abandon or neglect our Veterans and those who served our country well.
May God bless those who have provided and others, who continue to provide, exemplary and honorable service to our country, Nigeria.
Paul I. Adujie is a Nigerian lawyer and an information technology professional