Around the country, but particularly in the North, Nigeria’s military (wo)men are being shot at that others may live. Battle-weary and thoroughly dehumanized, many have not set sight on their family for years. The hunt snakes for meat and drink slimy water. Many lie under the cold earth, victims of the country they loved. The sacrifices of the men on the land, in the sea and in the air whether under the sweltering hot sun or in the dark clouds of rain can never be forgotten. But beyond the sacrifice lies a rot that can no longer be ignored.
Penultimate week, at least 22 soldiers and seven policemen were dispatched to their untimely graves by terrorists in Niger and Taraba states. The outlaws ambushed and gunned down15 soldiers in the former and seven in the latter, then proceeded to burn down everything in sight. In August last year, terrorists attacked the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, killing two officers and abducting another. Many officers sustained gunshot injuries. The following month, the outlaws attacked the Forward Operating Base in Mutumji, Zamfara State, leaving at least a dozen soldiers dead and three wounded. In January this year, terrorists attacked the Nigerian Army University campus in Buratai town, Borno State, killing two employees of the university. They had overrun the soldiers on guard duty who, after exhausting their bullets, had taken to their heels. In April, at least 10 soldiers were killed by terrorists who ransacked a military base in Birnin-Gwari, Kaduna State. In May, terrorists attacked a military base in Jalingo, Taraba State, with an explosive device.
Only a year ago, Hassan Ahmed, a Major-General, was murdered in Abuja. Ahmed had only just been appointed a director at the army headquarters when he was shot dead in the Abaji area of the nation’s capital by terrorists who also took away his wife, apparently for the purpose of sex slavery. The story of Master Warrant Officer Audu Linus and his beau who were slaughtered by ESN terrorists while on their way to their traditional wedding ceremony in Imo State is well known, as is the story of ex-Defence chief Alex Badeh, who was slaughtered like a fowl during a visit to his farm.
It is hard to determine just how many soldiers have been crushed by outlaws who control vast swathes of territory and whose weapons the government admitted this week far outclassed what it made available to prison guards. Prisons are sites of certain death whenever the terrorists’ demons lead them to rescue their men confined by the Nigerian State after harvesting countless souls for their father Lucifer. Although, as the Bard of Avon recognized, “Tis the soldier’s life to have their balmy slumbers waked with strife,” they must still be brave and uncompromising. Nigerians may join in saying this prayer in Henry V: “O God of battles! steel my soldiers’ hearts. Possess them not with fear.” Unfortunately, though, the current picture is as pictured in Antony and Cleopatra: “The crown o’ the earth doth melt. My lord! O, wither’d is the garland of the war, The soldier’s pole is fall’n: young boys and girls Are level now with men; the odds is gone, And there is nothing left remarkable Beneath the visiting moon.” Our soldiers have been completely robbed of sap: from pilot officer to flying officer, and from flying officer to flight lieutenant and his squadron leader, it is the same tales of woe that weary the second lieutenant, his lieutenant and his captain, whose complaints the major cannot resolve.
We now have soldiers without soul bowing at the feet of terrorists, subalterns behaving like interns. Where lies the gallantry once serenaded across Africa? Even if as the government admitted, terrorists got greater gunfire, must they triumph fighting trained soldiers? What then is the use of the training trials at the defence academy? Our military is sleeping the sleep of death, slumbering its way into the face of fire. Death has killed its medicine men as if they know no roots and herbs. They are like clowns in frantic search of palm wine at day dawn. Without feeling and without purpose, they have become perpetual victims, the quarry to be cut down in a reverse of Oswald Mtshalli’s picture. Lacking intent while on missions and drained of the spirit of reconnaissance, they craft elegies on battered weapons and mutilated comrades in forests in the North-East. Their game is hunted down in the forest, as the Yoruba proclaim, but there are no knives to do justice to the matter.
Generals have become generators, switched on and off by terrorists. #ENDSARS drained the police of venom; weak leadership has robbed the military of bite. The military uniform, whether it is desert camo, ceremonial dress or whatever, is like prisoners’ covering: it is respected by no one. No one gets out of the way of yesterday’s horse rider. Abiku has made the military’s medicine men liars. In America, the decease is wokeness; in this clime it’s the grand old corruption mixed with incompetence. Parade is beyond reproach—indeed the beagle is getting better— but field work is wonky, and combat is a con: men are pushed to certain death by corrupt officers who wax lyrical, denying the rot that even the dead can see. Generals are harvested by grim reapers and soldiers cower like women battling the pangs of labour. The military, ethnically unbalanced and with brains stripped of moisture, has become a total mess. Soldiers are like asopa, victims of scrotal tumour aiming to win a relay race: their sprint is ludicrously limited.
And yes, we have noticed the ethnic dimension, for our soldiers roar like lions in the South, where kidnapping victims speak of collusion by uniformed criminals, but beg like monkeys in the North. I say again: the game is hunted down but knives are not in sight. The General’s epaulettes is today like a palm wine tapper’s rope. It’s a fair question whether a General, where brigands are concerned, can even tap wine these days. Our defenders are rotting before our own eyes and I pray they begin to mend when a new commander-in-chief comes to town in 10 months as the Daura Deceiver heads home.
It is a tragedy that a General rules this war-torn land like a comedian while a comedian, facing certain ruin at the hands of an imperial power in Eastern Europe, rules like a General, masterfully marshalling his troops in the battle of survival. It’s a crying shame.
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