In the past six years, no people have been so cruelly, and almost unanimously, ridiculed like members of the Nigerian armed forces. They’ve become the butt of our jokes, and scapegoat of every security lapse; and our anger, though understandable, is often misplaced, and directed at the wrong party.
Ever since I learnt, or trained my mind to see, the difference between the Defence Headquarters and the Nigerian troops, I developed a certain compassion for the latter; the former, however, is only there for management of the defence organizations’ public relations, and the “small guys” in the terrorist infested fields don’t even know what those millionaire bureaucrats and rubber-stamp combatants say of their failings and victories, and how they’re being employed for political advantages by both the ruling and the opposition parties.
We’re presently entangled in a rectangle of tragedy: the paranoia of the armed forces, unaccountability of the executive, the conspiracies promoted by the opposition party and, the offshoot of the three, suspicions of the paranoid military and the unaccountable executive and, to an extent, even the opposition figures by private citizens.
Even a flippant observer must’ve already noticed how this rectangle brewed an atmosphere of distrust, which has intensified in this election period, especially with the renewed energy to fight insurgency as declared by the government itself. The unofficial excuse for the escalation of terrorism in the northeast, as cited by the foreign media, aside from the inherent corruption in our government, are the abuse of human rights by our counterterrorism forces and the infiltration of our military intelligence by agents of the insurgents, which resulted in termination of arms deals between Nigeria and the United States. This, also, is cited as the reason our government patronises international black markets for its arms.
While the President’s widely reported statements that “Boko Haram has infiltrated my government”, which, about two years later, he tried unsuccessfully to deny, validated the theory of our compromised security arrangements, his shadowy deals in the black markets, like the arrest of a Nigerian-owned private jet in South Africa with about $10 million meant for arms purchase, added more stories to our books of conspiracy. This was also because the plane belonged to a pastor and loyal friend of the President, known for bigoted and polarising remarks on the state of our union.
Whichever excuse the government and its loyal Defence Headquarters officially provided as reason for the recent victories recorded in its counterterrorism, ours is to celebrate the outcomes, and even if we must attack, the Nigerian troops should be seen as different from the Defence Headquarters.
Tragic, though, how some of us rush to report and celebrate the “triumphs” of Chadian and Cameroonian forces but ridicule any attributed to Nigerian Troops. We must be up to cheer the Nigerian troops, whose efforts and realities are often misrepresented by badly-scripted propagandas from the Defence Headquarters, for these recent outcomes of their intensified counterterrorism. We must stand in solidarity with, and in prayers for, those martyrs like Private Kadiri, Corporal John and Captain Olusola giving up their all and lives to keep this nation whole and safe, away from the coverage of televisions.
Perhaps a little perception of theirs, not even solidarity, is all they want from us. At least for losing friends and brothers, without the media to convey their miseries to us. Or you think a soldier would just stand like a statue and let an insurgent shoot him? Let’s redirect our disappointment in our counterterrorism to the appropriate profiteers whose decision is the reason the welfare of the Nigerian troops is a cause for laments.
Thankfully some of us don’t need a photograph, only communication with the actual victims of terrorism up north, to confirm that some towns have truly been recaptured, with the insurgents crushed and fleeing, in northeast Nigeria.
If our President had been half as conscious as that khaki-decked Commander-in-Chief I saw, in photographs, combing northeast Nigeria, there wouldn’t have been these many conspiracy theories and this much distrust. Sadly, President Jonathan preferred to keep the nation speculating, that he’s complicit in the escalation of this terror that consumes us. My own inference is, Mr. President deliberately refused to be a unifying figure, as he’s seen jumping from one church to another, even making obvious policy statements there, in expectation of a repeat of 2011- a period of polarized electorate. Now that he’s seen it bold and underlined, that Nigerians are better informed this time, his rush to be a responsible President only elicits pity. May God save us from us!