Nigerian Army spokesperson, Major General Chris Olukolade in Abuja gave a pacy account of what happened at the anti-insurgency command headquarters in Maiduguri where some soldiers of the newly created 7th Division of the Nigerian Army opened fire on the vehicle of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) the brigade. But this would sure satisfy only those who saw the incident the way he saw it or rather the way he wanted them to see it.
As reported, some soldiers angered by the death of 12 of their colleagues in a Boko Haram ambush, Wednesday May 14th, 2014 opened fire on the vehicle of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) the newly created Maiduguri-based 7th Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Ahmadu Mohammed and when he escaped, they proceeded to vandalise his official residence in Maiduguri.
The mutineers were reportedly protesting the killing of 12 soldiers, including two officers, who were ambushed and killed by Boko Haram bandits. The fallen soldiers allegedly requested to spend the night at a village after an assignment because the route was too dangerous at night. However, it was alleged that the GOC, who has now been removed for bad judgment, insisted they return that night, and they ran into an ambush on their way back because of the insistence of their superior officer.
This violent incident no doubt is an ominous development which at best is an uncomfortable pointer that all might not be well afterall in our counter-insurgency operations.
Whether anybody likes this or not, the alleged attempted murder of the GOC 7th Division raised several questions some related to the operational welfare of the soldiers on duty and most related to the politics of the nation’s counter-insurgency efforts.
First, no matter how anybody looks at it, protest and revolt in the military are known by the “M” word- Mutiny and this is a capital offence no matter the justification for it. There is no colouring the expression that the conduct/action of the soldiers was outright mutiny in the military culture and there is no explanation or justification to feign otherwise. The military thrives on strict discipline and a do-or-die conformity to the order-is -order code of service because that’s the only way a commander can ensure his troops at the battle front are in unity of purpose pushing in espirit d’corp. That is that for the military to handle.
Now, it is very apparent that the rank-and-file members of our armed forces are silently unhappy and angry about many things. The Mutiny at Maimalari Barracks: Should Soldiers be exposed to unnecessary and foolish risks because they signed to die if necessary to defend the country?Agreed that cowardice should have no place in military dictionary or life, but some risks are not worth taking as there is a great difference between bravery and outright foolishness.
If the allegation that Nigerian soldiers were being exposed to “unnecessary risks” in our counter-insurgency operation in the northeast particularly Borno state, then there are so many questions for the military high command to answer because success in the nation’s counter-insurgency operations will be elusive if soldiers are taking unnecessary risks due to shortages and absence of a coherent and properly resourced strategy.
The reported mutinous behaviour of the soldiers of the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army conveys deeper meaning than protesting the killing of their colleagues by the terrorists. One of the allegations we often hear is that our soldiers “are ill-motivated and ill-equipped” to robustly confront the Boko Haram bandits. These allegations were recently lent credence by an anonymous soldier who told the Voice of America (VOA) that they are being sent into battle against terrorists poorly equipped and ill- motivated. No organization should be ashamed to admit that it has problems. Pretending you have no problems doesn't help anybody because once in a while incidents like the Maiduguri mutiny will continue to crop up.
Dismissing critical issues like these is not too good for achieving effective response in the country's war against terrorism. Why is this happening now when we have the entire world on ground helping us to address the insurgency scourge? It was expected that when a brigade loses officers and men, the commanding officers should be more pained. But now our soldiers at the hotspots are insinuating that their GOC has deliberately been compromising the operational safety of their colleagues which most times put the soldiers at the mercy of the insurgents. If this be, then the entire issue becomes more serious than we are even taking it because it then becomes a case of sabotage against the national interests.
The Maiduguri incident was not the first time furious soldiers mutinied. It happened on July 5, 2008 during the late President Umaru Musa Yar'adua administration when Nigerian soldiers on a UN mission to Liberia openly rioted over allegations that they were being shortchanged in the payment of their entitlements. In particular, they alleged that they were being paid in naira instead of the dollars the United Nations was paying them. Instead of dealing with their grudges, the mutinous soldiers were court-martialed and jailed. At a court martial presided over by Brigadier General Ishaya Bauka, sitting at Owena Barracks Akure, Ondo State, the 57 mutinous soldiers were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment for breaching existing military laws. However, in December, 2010, they were eventually pardoned and recalled to duty by the former Chief of Army Staff, General Ihejirika.
The military authorities should sincerely welcome constructive criticisms and address these critical issues pertaining to the bottled up resentments of ill-motivated junior soldiers, especially at this time when Nigeria is at war with terrorists. And to assure Nigerians of his commitment to the safety of all citizens, President Jonathan and the National Assembly must lead a thorough investigation into these and sundry allegations by junior officers at different hotspots so that these men who are standing for all of us can be proud to flout their espirit d’ corp regalia.
IFEANYI IZEZE is an Abuja-based Consultant and can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters