…the victim of this barbarism must step forward to demand his rights that have been ruthlessly violated. In the clip, the man had claimed that he is a staff of the military institution (possibly the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna) where he was assaulted; wherever he is, whoever is, he must not be afraid to come forward and demand restitution. He has nothing more to lose, and nobody deserves to be so dehumanised as he has been.
At a time when the Nigerian military is struggling with relentless accusations of human rights violations both from local and international human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, a group of the military’s officer cadet in training somewhere in Nigeria might have dealt the military high command’s defensive position a mortal blow. In the middle of this week, a video clip appeared first from an online news medium Sahara Reporters, and later went viral on several social media platforms. The video clip which Sahara Reporters captioned as “Nigerian Army Cadets Torture Man For Complimenting A Female Officer”, showed a group of four military Cadets assaulting a civilian for allegedly paying compliments to a female cadet by voicing out that the lady is beautiful. The behaviour of the cadets in the clip was so horrendous, and worse than that of a pack of hungry hyenas feasting on a meal. The language was crude and self-indicting, as the behaviour was barbaric. At a point the woman could be heard complaining that, “This bastard (an offensive word she repeated many times) is not responding”. Later she paused and commanded her hapless victim to clean the blood she had drawn from his body. She subsequently asked him to strip and then like the rotten corpse of a dog, dragged him to a a nearby shrub and continued with her savagery. All along, her two and sometimes three colleagues, who are male were giving her a helping hand by smacking and punching the helpless civilian, and urging her on verbally. It was, indeed, one of the ugliest conducts one could ever see from members of an institution that is supposed to be the epitome of discipline. It would be difficult to fully provide a graphic description of the scene that the video clip depicted; the act of mindless brutality, the relish with which it was conducted can only be seen to be fully appreciated.
The immediate consequences of the behaviour of those renegade bunch of cadets who are receiving training and catering courtesy of national resources in which the person they were assaulting is a stakeholder, is to put a major dent on the defence of the military against the accusations that it’s officers and men are serial human rights abusers.
To fully appreciate why the behaviour of those cadets is of huge national significance, it is important to focus on the potential role that those cadets will go on to play in the affairs of the nation after their commissioning. Because they are young men and women fresh out of secondary school, the cadets, as against the direct short service entrants, are usually regarded as thoroughbred military professionals; their formative years, as they enter adulthood, are shaped by the culture and norms of the military as an institution. Their attitude and even personality are supposedly the personification of the best that the military institution represents. They are prepared at the cadet training school to see themselves as officers and gentlemen, devoted to professional ethics and loyal to the Nigerian state, ready to lay down their lives in the defence of their motherland. Because of the rigorous training that the cadets go through, many would-be officers have been known to abscond and seek careers elsewhere; so by the time they come out, they are supposed to be the finest that the recruitment process can provide. Unlike other categories of officers, those who passed through cadet training are the ones that often rise to become the leaders of their respective corps without restriction and on the condition that they pass their regular examinations. In fact according to a reliable source close to military circle, with the exception of late Nigerian Head of State Gen. Aguyi Ironsi, no Nigerian military officer since independence ever rose to the position of a service chief without passing through cadet training.
So, to have such group of trainees in such a critical institution, who may find themselves in a position to make life-or-death decisions on behalf of the country; to have such potential military leaders, exhibit this level of savagery and heinous disregard for human dignity, and with such relish and lack of fear of retribution, is to say the least, appalling. It is a frightening pointer to what they could do as they move up the military hierarchy and eventually assume command positions. This, neither the Nigerian military, nor the Nigerian political leadership can ignore or condone. It is an infraction that the ministry of defence, the military high command and the civil society must pursue to a very reassuring conclusion. Plus this incident actually came out at the precise moment that Nigeria’s President and Commander- in-Chief, Muhammadu Buhari, was addressing a special session of the European Parliament in France and assuring the international community of his government’s resolve to respect human rights! His cadets, obviously, have different plans.
Of course, there are caveats to consider in the consideration of this matter. First, the behaviour of those four ugly cadets does not necessarily reflect the general conduct of the military, both at the cadet and commissioned levels. Second, the present crop of military chiefs have shown commendable level of self-discipline, professionalism and good character, so it would be unfair to judge the entire military on the behaviour of those cadets in the clip. But the flip side of that is that this clip in question is not the first time that the military have been known to display such excesses. But coming at time it has, the present revelation provide the military a great opportunity to show that what the public has witnessed in the clip is an isolated behaviour and not a general rule within the military establishment.
In interrogating the incident, several questions must he settled. Among them the veracity and reliability of the video clip itself; what is its source? Is it genuine? Was it shot in Nigeria? Were the offenders Nigerian cadets? And then the question must be asked as to the circumstances that led to the assault: the claim is that the man was assaulted for “complimenting a female cadet”. Was it an innocent compliment or a lewd one? All of these must be determined by a competent investigative institution and where culpability is established, maximum punishment applied. Meanwhile, whatever might have been the case, one very solid fact remains clear and unambiguous: the video clip couldn’t have been made up or manufactured to tarnish the image of the military. There is every reason to believe that the clip is genuine. In the clip, the female cadet could be heard challenging the traumatised victim amidst vicious slaps, kicks and blows to the head and other parts of the body, sneering at her victim: “Look at me, am I beautiful, am I like Beyoncé?”, thereby confirming that the source of her anger and that of her colleagues was a mere innocuous statement that she is beautiful.
On his part, the victim of this barbarism must step forward to demand his rights that have been ruthlessly violated. In the clip, the man had claimed that he is a staff of the military institution (possibly the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna) where he was assaulted; wherever he is, whoever is, he must not be afraid to come forward and demand restitution. He has nothing more to lose, and nobody deserves to be so dehumanised as he has been.
And on her part, the woman in the clip had actually provide the answer to her own question when she asked her victim to look at her and say if she was beautiful. By her actions, a woman like that, is anything but beautiful.
Garba Deen Muhammad is Editor-at-large The Daily Sun and President, Nigerian Guild of Editors.