Media reports suggest that the Army has thrown its guns into the ring of the #EndSARS fray.
Their men, according to the reports, have bloodied and wasted some “Bloody civilians!” (#EndSARS# protesters).
The online video clips say it all, and put the lie on the Army’s claim that they would not lift their guns or soil their khaki in this domestic squabble. Hmm! We should have expected it.
The late Afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, had warned us in his bestselling song titled Zombie “Tell them to go straight/ A joro, jara, joro/No break, no job, no sense/A joro, jara, joro/ Tell them to go kill/Attention, quick march…”
This is another worrisome crack in the deepening chasm between the Nigerian Military and the civil populace. Another evidence of the contempt the Nigerian soldier has for civilians. When the Nigerian Military infrastructure undertakes such actions against the peaceful protesters, do they consider the toll it exacts on its public image?
They end up casting themselves as an “alien force” and an “army of occupation” at the call and summons of government. Though its public image is in tatters, they somehow manage to damage this image further by revelling in so-called internal operations and civilian harassment. The timing of the so-called Operation Crocodile Smile (who has ever seen a croc smile to begin with?) was suspect.
When the owl hoots in the night and the child dies in the morning, you can draw a line between the two. But the curious aspect of this Crocodile Smile is that the army has failed to address the issue of the rampaging herdsmen who have painted the nation red with blood.
Or is that not a security threat? Why is the Nigerian Army more interested in stopping citizens from protesting against police brutality, than in defending farmers in Plateau State, Benue State and other states? Soldiers are trained to defend their country’s sovereignty, national security and its citizens – not the police.
The August Coup of 1991 in the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) failed because Commander General Viktor Karpukhin, deputy commander Gen. Alexander Lebed and other senior military officers declined to storm the parliament building known as the White House because it would have led to too much blood shed.
A lot of civilians had formed a human shield around the building. The soldiers maintained that they were not trained to kill their fellow citizens; rather they were trained to kill enemies of their country.
In the Peoples Power of the Philippines in 1986, the army also refused to fire on fellow citizens who rose up against the dictator, President Ferdinand Marcos. Again, the army insisted, when Marcos ordered them to fire on protesters, that they were not trained to kill fellow citizens.
It is an even bet whether in identical scenarios the Nigerian Army would have spared such “bloody civilians”.
They have not spared the protesters! The Nigerian Army may derive some schadenfreude from harassing civilians, but they are the worse for it. In the Miracle of Dunkirk, 338,000 British soldiers were trapped during the Second World War in Dunkirk, France, with heavily-armed murderous German divisions advancing on them.
They were heavily outnumbered and the British government ordered their evacuation. However, evacuation was an impossible task.
King George V1 declared a national day of prayers for them. To evacuate them, Naval ships needed to go through the English Channel to pick them up, but the water was too shallow for the big ships.
Civilians came to the rescue, with over 850 private boats taking the risk to cross the channel and ferry the soldiers to safety. Between May 26 and June 4, 1940, all the British soldiers were ferried back to Britain in what the British Empire christened the “Miracle of Dunkirk.”
The spirit of Dunkirk is the reason, soldiers should be kept out of internal conflicts – except in cases like the Boko Haram terrorism. Another case worthy of military intervention is the rampaging armed murderous herdsmen – not definitely civil protests.
One would have expected the military to be concerned about the disarming the herdsmen, but for reasons best known to them they are more interested in protecting cattle and confronting peaceful protesters. This is an indication of their warped sense of duty and odd sense of moral proportion. In the developed world, soldiers are celebrated. People stop on the road to give soldiers in uniform lifts.
Grateful citizens walk up to soldiers and tell them, “thank you for fighting for us.” Note, “thank you for fighting for us” not “thank you for fighting us.” On a Southwest Airline flight from Philadelphia to Dallas, with veterans on board, I witnessed a heartwarming sight. The pilot welcomed the veterans effusively, and offered free drinks to everyone on the flight as a way of celebrating the ex-soldiers.
The bond between the army and the civil populace is steeped in love and respect. The US Army seldom gets involved in internal security, except in cases where armed insurgents overwhelm the police and the National Guard. Unfortunately, the Nigerian Army has done nothing to bond with the civil populace.
If a contingent of Nigerian soldiers were to be trapped in Equatorial Guinea, one wonders whether any civilian would risk his life to ferry his boat across the Atlantic to rescue them.
It would not be due to a deficit of patriotism on the part of civilians, but rather because there is a disconnect between the army and the “bloody civilians.” Some civilians would ask anyone who suggests that help be sent to them to tell them to “do a python dance cross the Atlantic” or “ask the smiling crocodiles of the Atlantic” to ferry them home.
The Army should remember the immortal words of that American warlord and later President, General Dwight Eishenhower, who was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during the Second World War.
Eishenhower said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
The army is spending the sweat of ordinary Nigerian civilians and the hopes of their children. The civilians (bloody or not) deserve respect as a right, and should not be denied it.
After all the army is funded with the taxpayers’ money and is, therefore, employed by the bloody civilians.