Through out history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph.—Haile Selassie
The Latest Victim
This piece is dedicated to the memory of Collins Osagie and those before him, victims of military and police brutality on defenceless civilians. According to the Punch you paid the supreme price for having the audacity to mediate in a disagreement between a soldier and a trader.
While reading this bad news, my mind raced back to my childhood days growing up in the barracks. I have witnessed not a few agonizing torture of civilians. A particular one stands out because my Dad had to intervene to prevent it from turning ugly.
It was a cold Sunday morning with the rain pouring throughout the night and ceasing at the break of dawn. As we stepped out for church behold, our next door neighbours, two of them in full military fatigue, were torturing a civilian. They first emptied the containers of water my Mom had collected from the rain on the poor victim, put him in the gutter, stamped and kicked him with their boots and whipped him with their belts that had metals. It was a terrible sight for my siblings and I.
My Dad ordered them to stop and demanded to know his offence. They said he was their friend that stole their properties when they were in Kaduna. They had looked for him for two years until they got an Intel that he was in town.. They mobilized and picked him up before the cock crow. As their superior, my Dad said the torture was enough they should let him go. So imagine, if soldiers could treat a friend in such a manner, then your bet is as good as mine: we are all “bloody civilians!”
The Purpose of the Military
The role of the armed forces, that’s, the Army, Navy, and Airforce, as contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, Section 217-220 does not include the abuse of the rights of the citizens. Such abuse isn’t exclusive to the military but all uniformed security institutions in the country. This impunity must be stemmed completely.
The Need for the Reorientation of the Rank and File
The abuse of power is a clear misconception of its purpose. In the military hierarchy, we have the officer corps and the other ranks, the former are more professional and refined than the latter. It’s the rank and file we see on the street everyday and are susceptible to abuse by civilians, this is so because the officer corps is prohibited from using public transportation. The civil populace have highly esteemed the military compared to the Nigeria Police Force. The atrocities of the police against the citizens have made them public enemy number one. However, it’s worrisome that the Nigerian military, judged to be the most disciplined and professional institution in the country should allow its good reputation to be dragged in the mud by its rank and file. This group of soldiers need the refinement that is exclusive for the officers.
As the nation grapples with insurgency and security in the entire north of the country with resources stretched to its limits in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the appeal by the military authority for the citizens to help it with Intel will only fall on deaf ears if a more serious approach is not taken to end the abuse of our fundamental human rights and build a cordial relationship with us. I do not insinuate that the military authority is doing nothing about this. I am aware of the existence of the Civil Military Relations Department of the Nigerian Army, more need to be done for the entire armed forces.
“He who’s slow to anger is better than a warrior, and he who controls his temper is greater than one who’s captures a city. —Proverbs 16:32
The superior training a soldier gets should make him conform to the quote above.