When I was growing up first in Okrika where my dad, a popular tinsmith, had migrated at about 1941, and later in another village tucked away in what was then Eastern Region, the Nigerian military was a pride to behold. The soldiers' well-starched and strikingly polished shoes spoke loud of their integrity and devotion to the territorial wellbeing of Nigeria and her people. A war came as an interlude, though, and the mood changed. The 'Biafrans' became a conquered people even within the Armed and Police Forces. Soon and very soon, we could say there was once a military. Soon and very soon, all their glory, honour and respect I grew up to see went to the winds. Soon and very soon they became politicians in khaki, growing pot-bellies, speaking jargon of shame and debasement. Our titled soldiers soon turned titled savage, devouring our rights and liberty. With their well-loaded guns, Nigerians came within their game space. Nothing was anymore unethical, unprofessional. It came to anything-goes. It became a sad story.
Coup d’états occurred the number of times athletes changed batons in a single race. Soldiers and their comrades threw away that glorious espirit de corp, preferring instead to embrace “espirit come-and-raid”, and truly, they have raided us flat. Massive corruption, human right abuses, economic malfeasance ate deep into the Armed Forces DNA. They aided everything but good to be perpetuated on Nigerians. They claimed they could still fight our enemies but all that was a farce, like the old-time story told the Mariners. Soon, Boko Haram came and we saw how lazy, how over-fed, how that insidious malady named corruption, had eaten away their soul. Nigeria's Armed Forces were mere carcass, good only for the cemetery.
Arguments faced arguments as Nigerians wondered why trained soldiers would take a flight before 'rag-tag' Boko Boys. Nigerians wondered how Boko Boys got better intelligence, better tools of war and courage more than our soldiers despite the huge cash allocations made to the Ministry of Defence down the years. Soon, several cases of mutiny filled the air. General Officers' Commanding, GOCs, soon faced the fury of demoralised, mutinying troops. Rather than address the reasons for the rebellions, their Chiefs preferred to intimidate victims of the vexed soldiers' . Tribunals tried and sentenced sons of parents, fathers of children, husbands to wives to death. Yet, those reasons for their revolt remained, unattended. Nigeria was losing the war to Boko Boys who, no doubt, emboldened by the disease that had afflicted Nigeria's Armed Forces, made brazen and bold attempts to over-run Maiduguri, capital of Bornu State. We heard they would gladly have achieved that but for Nigerien and Chadian troops who came into Nigeria to take them head-on. Foreign troops now on Nigerian soil to fight our war. It never happened in Nigeria's history until now! Like Prophet Jeremiah, that intrepid messenger of righteousness, exclaimed in the days of Israel's backsliding, “I have been horrible things in Israel”, we have seen horrible things in Nigeria.
Now, the trending atrocity is the latest coup against democracy. It's not lost on this author that the precursor to this act has a finger pointing at June 12, 1993, that historic date when Nigeria’s best-ever and freest presidential election in her 100-year history was conducted. Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, then Chairman of National Electoral Commission, NEC, was the umpire. Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawole Abiola, that flamboyant, colourful millionaire, won that poll in grand style. It was Nigerians versus the military. The man in the centre of the action on the side of the military, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, that tooth-gaped dictator from Niger State who proclaimed himself Military President, shot down Abiola's victory. That man fondly called IBB, though he later dubbed himself “evil genius”, annulled that beautiful exercise. Abiola made futile efforts to reclaim his mandate including his famous Ijeshatedo Declaration at which he declared himself President. That act of MKO drew the ire of the dark-goggled, Kano-born tyrant now though expired, named Sani Abacha who had caused IBB to step "step aside". Abiola was thrown into jail and how long he lived is now in the history books.
That Nigeria's military chiefs, working in conspiratorial condition arm-twisted the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to call-off national elections originally billed for February 14 and 28, respectively, no longer is the news. But that insecurity was a smokescreen to abort those dates is. We saw the hands of Esau, the voice of Jacob.
New dates have been fixed as the Commander-in-Chief demanded. Six weeks to uproot Boko Haram and general insurgency in the North East. Six weeks to accomplish a feat impossible in previous five years. Except they depend on those better disciplined, motivated Nigerien, Chadian and Camerounian soldiers. Except that!
Nigerians are watching and waiting to see how this will end. Nigerians have tolerated the incursion of foreign troops on our land who though, have taken over our battle. But what Nigerians won't tolerate is another shift of their meeting with history. Eager to re-write the history of their nation so far bespectacled by tales and acts of massive treasury looting, octopus-shaped corruption, endless darkness and empty barrels of this-for-that-by-the-year-2015, Nigerians won't be willing to watch while a few corrupt men in khaki, in connivance with their cohorts under an umbrella, fritter a golden opportunity. Nigerians won't be willing to accept another June 12.
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