Opinion

How we roll in Nigeria

By Owei Lakemfa

Daurans. That is, people from President Muhammadu Buhari’s home town of Daura in Katsina State, are a lucky people. Their son, on December 17, while marking his 79th birthday in Erdogan’s Turkey, announced that when he finishes with the Nigerian presidency in 2023, he would retire to the town and take charge of his farm and cattle ranch. Yes, while his government backs open grazing, he points in the direction of ranching. Isn’t it better to do what I do rather than do what I say?

If Buhari fulfils his pledge of returning to Daura, the tight security in the town which makes it an oasis of security in a state where bandits are on rampage, is likely to be maintained by the Nigerian state.

Indeed, even with reduced attacks, including the abduction of school children, the statistics of banditry attacks in Katsina State remains frightening with bandits seizing towns and imposing their own government, including taxes. The Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Mustapha Inuwa, revealed on Thursday November 18, 2021 that between July and October 2021, no fewer than 213 persons were killed by bandits in the state, while 676 others were kidnapped.

But despite the despair, dislocation and hunger in the land, Nigerians should be hopeful because the President promised that “between now and that time, I will do the best that is possible to advance the interest of the nation and its people…”.

However, one of his predecessors both as military dictator and civilian President, Olusegun Obasanjo asserts that Buhari has done his best and could do no more: “Buhari has done his best. My prayer is that God will spare his life to see his term through, but what do we have after Buhari? What should we do to make post-Buhari era better than what we have now?”

But some angry, or is it hungry youths- part of the hordes Buhari had referred to as idle youths- attacked Obasanjo for his position. They argued that Buhari had tremendously improved the security situation in the country. These youths are like the proverbial farmer Obasanjo talked about in the 1980s who has 100 tubers of yam to harvest, but says they are 200. He argues that the farmer would harvest 100 tubers and 100 lies.

Both Buhari and Obasanjo are retired army Generals. Now, the Nigeria Army, before Obasanjo and Buhari joined, and after they retired, has not had a good public image. Nigerians often associate soldiers with impunity and brutality. Unlike the Police which is never tired telling a sceptical populace: ‘The Police Is Your Friend’, the military makes no such pretentions. Soldiers in contempt, used to, or still refer to Nigerian citizens as ‘Bloody Civilians’.

In one of the most infamous cases in contemporary times, a video surfaced in 2016 showing a Federal Government employee, Mr Amari Sunday, being battered by soldiers, including female cadets. In it, a female cadet was repeatedly slapping Sunday for allegedly saying she was beautiful.

In the video, as she battered the helpless and hapless man, she asked rhetorically: “Am I beautiful? How beautiful am I? Bastard! Idiot! Describe me, am I not like Beyonce? He said I’m beautiful, am I Angelina Jolie?” When blood started oozing from Sunday’s mouth, he was ordered to remove his shirt and wipe it off with the female soldier screaming: “Clean that blood, idiot! Your blood is nothing, is that clear? Bastard! He has blood to bring out”.

It turned out that the incident happened in Abuja on December 31, 2014 and that the victim did not go out of his way to compliment the soldier’s beauty. Rather, he was forced to do so by the soldiers and then battered for the ‘effrontery’. Mr Sunday had been part of a reception for some soldiers and policemen on special duty. A male officer had beckoned on him and thought Sunday was slow in responding, so two female officers started slapping him for perceived insubordination.

Mr Sunday on Channels Television, narrated his own side of the incident: “She said she asked me a question and I couldn’t answer. And the question was: Why did I fail to meet the other guy (officer) that called me within five seconds? And I said the distance was far and before I could run to him, the five seconds had gone…She now said I talked too much and slapped me again. I said sorry, she said she was talking to me and I was looking at the ground, that couldn’t I look at her?

“As I was looking at her, she slapped me again, I bent down and she said she was talking to me and I couldn’t look at her face. And then I started looking at her, she slapped me and she asked why I was looking at an army officer, that I should tell her whether she was beautiful or ugly. And she started looking at me.

“She said I should talk, so when I refused to talk, she slapped me again and I said ‘you are beautiful’. Then they said I admired an army officer in uniform; they said I had committed an offence. How could I admire an army officer in uniform? The other guy came around and started beating me from back like you saw it in the video.”

Five years ago, the Defence Headquarters confirmed the incident and promised to carry out further investigations. Some of us are still waiting for the result.

In September 2021, another video went viral. With the setting as the 13 Brigade, Calabar, it showed a female officer, Lieutenant Chika Viola Anele dehumanising a female member of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, Ezeiruka Ifeyinwa Fidelia. She also thoroughly bathed the corps member in substances that appear to include mud. When the video went viral, the NYSC had to spirit the victim out of the state. In its reaction, the army said: “Undoubtedly, the officer’s actions has caused the NA monumental embarrassment and is highly regrettable”.

Then a golden opportunity which had all the ingredients of a major public relations coup, presented itself to the army last week. In a trending video, a male corps member was shown proposing to a female soldier at the NYSC Yikpata Orientation Camp in Kwara State. He knelt down to make his proposal amid wild cheers and applause from other corps members.

The female soldier accepted the ring and both sealed the romantic display with a kiss. This showed Nigerian soldiers, like their American counterparts, have a soft side. However, the media for days has reported that the event displeased the Nigerian Army which has detained the female soldier. The army has not found time to confirm or deny the arrest. Does this shock you?

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