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OPINION: Python Dance, Army and Suspicions

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The controversies trailing the deployment of armed soldiers to the hitherto peaceful South East of Nigeria has brought to the fore several fundamental issues that ought to be sufficiently addressed regarding the foundation of the military institution in Nigeria.

The immediate question that this widely rejected deployment has brought up is the quality of the present day political leadership at the center with specific reference to the president.

Most people are asking whether President Muhammad Buhari truly means well for the overall wellbeing of the country by directing the army to interfere in the enjoyment of democratic freedom by the citizens inhabiting the geopolitical entity known as the South East of Nigeria.  Mind you, the President, inspite of his military powers, he cannot declare a state of war between the Federation and another Country except with the approval of the National Assembly under section 5(4) . The sole power to deploy members of the Armed forces of Nigeria is only allowable without the approval of the National Assembly when the national security is under imminent threat or danger,( Constitutional powers and duties of the President by Tunji Abayomi,Esq). No such extenuating circumstances exists in the South East to warrant this ongoing military operation. Besides, the Army said they are deploying men and operatives of the Army to contain criminality. This falls under the police jurisdiction and not for the Army. IPOB members are unarmed and totally nin-violent.

The activities of the Nigeria army in the so-called operations python dance 11 therefore has created tensions all around the South East of Nigeria and there are evidential proofs of grave violations by the military of the human rights of the civilians. There are widespread use of torture against civilians. Torture is absolutely prohibited under all known laws to humanity.

Speaking about the question of how truly nationalistic is the president in drafting soldiers to occupy civilian space in the five South Eastern States also dovetails into a critical observation made by a one time Education Minister Mrs. Oby Ezekwesiki who admonished President Buhari to stop creating the perception that he is a tribal leader.

The above philosophical view by Ezekwesili who also served as the Vice President (Africa) of the World Bank in Washington Dc, logically brings us to the legendary observations made by Confucius (551-479BCE).

It is instructive to note that Kong Fuzi (“Master King”), who later became known in the West by the Latinized name of Confucius, lived during the turning point in china’s political history.

The writer of the ” the politics book” observed that Confucius lived  at the end of China’s spring and autumn period- around 300 years of prosperity and stability.

Confucius’s moral stand point was firmly rooted in Chinese convention, and had at its heart the traditional virtues of loyalty, duty and respect.

These virtues were personified in the Junzi: the “Gentleman” or “Superior Man”, whose virtue would act as an example to others.

According to him, human nature is not perfect, but it is capable of being changed by the example of sincere virtue.

Similarly, society can be transformed by the example of fair and benevolent Government.

If you are following my trend of thoughts in this piece, you will agree with me that these three salient ethical virtues of loyalty. Duty and respect are critical for any political leadership in a very complex society like Nigeria to survive.

Again, genuine leadership should belong to the wise. Plato said only Philosopher kings should rule meaning that only genuinely credible statesmen/Women endowed with virtues that must occupy political offices.

I say the above that Nigeria needs a genuine patriot and not a regional warlord because, the political and geographical space today called Nigeria is an amalgamation of diverse nationalities.

This therefore, means that the President must show loyalty to Nigerian nation and not his tribe or religion. The President as a national leader must be dutiful to uplift the nation and not his tribal or religious conclave and he must be respectful of the laws and statutes governing the nation and not rely on his whims and caprices.

Relying on these three virtues of Confucius in embarking on a reflection regarding the controversial deployment of soldiers to the South East, we are therefore left with the urgency of the now to proffer lasting and sustainable panacea to the ever expanding frontiers of mutual suspicions that exists between millions of South Easterners and the military.

I believe strongly that the foundation of these doubts and mutual suspicious became heightened with the skewed and one sided appointments made by President Buhari in the military which alienated the South East.

These top notch picks made in the military excludes the Igbo speaking section of the nation State therefore creating the logical argument that the current internal military operation is therefore an illegal military occupation by enemy forces.

The words and actions of some of the operatives of the Nigeria Army taking part in the operation python dance 2 have created the impressions that the Islamic North which dominates the command and control structures of the military are using the operations to subjugate and collectively punish the Igbo speaking people for not voting for Buhari.

In the book “American constitutional law”, the eminent professor of constitutional law at the Harvard University, Laurence Tribe affirmed that the president occupies a place that cannot readily be assimilated to that of the other branches.

The President is elected by the entire country, represents the entire national to the world, carries all alone the executive powers which, subjected only to the constitution may be exercised by him either directly or through his Vice or Cabinet ministers.

Against these backdrops, it was therefore shocking that upon his assumption of office, President Buhari said his government will favour the north which gave the largest votes to him than the South East.

Subsequently, he followed it up with a rash of top level civilian and military appointments which alienated the South East and favoured the Islamic north as against the constitutional provisions on federal character principle in the formation of government.

These glaring scenarios of exclusion and marginalization of the Igbo became worst when out of the blues some 38 senior military officers were dismissed based on nebulous charges and the greater percentage are from the South East and South South geopolitical zones.

So the ongoing military operations which has so far recorded many avoidable deaths through extralegal killings by soldiers has also compelled a reflection on the institution of the Nigeria military and the place of equity in the building up of the personnel and the location of strategic military institutions.

Looking at the above statement on the location of strategic military institutions in the country, we will then be able to judge whether there is a level playing field and indeed the justification for all sections of the Nigerian society to have a sense of belonging.

This is because if the military institutions are equitably located, there would be no need for the kind of Gestapo style arrivals of heavy weapons and soldiers who moved into the peaceful south East of Nigeria like an invading army of conquest.

If the Nigeria army for instance have their depots for heavy weapons located in the South East as well as decentralized all across Nigeria, it would be almost like an operation carried out by the peoples’ army and not seem like an army of outsiders mobilized to go and kill some perceived political enemies of the president who by his words and actions, have carried out policies that have so far favoured the Muslim north disproportionately.

A researcher by the Name Okechukwu Henry posted a very vital information on the location of military institutions, and going through the list, one thing is clear, that the north west of Nigeria seems to have become the home of all the most important military institutions.

Is this fair? Why locate all the key institution of the army of a complex nation like Nigeria in just a part of the whole?

The following is the list as obtained from the research findings of Okechukwu Henry* Nigeria Defence Academy.   = North* Nigeria Defence College    =North* Army School of Artillery.     = North* Army School of Armour.      = North* Army School of infantry.      =North* Command and staff College  = North* Deport of Nigeria Army.        = North* Air force Training school.     = North* Nigeria Military School.   = North* Defence Industry corporation  = North* Air force Institute of Technology  = North* School of Aviation Technology = North* School of Military Engineering   = North* Army Doctrine and Training command  =North* National Institute of policy and strategic studies = North.

Others are; Army Institute of Technology and Environmental Studies  =  North * Army School of Education = North * Army School of Military Police =North.

Others are; * Nigeria Navy Finance and Logistic School.. Owerrinta,  South East * Army Signal School.   ==== Lagos… SW* Army Intelligence School  == Lagos  ..SW* Army School of Finance and Administration ==Lagos* Navy Intelligence School == SW* Navy physical Training School ==Sw* Naval Engineering College..=  =SS* Navy Hydrographic School  ===SS* Navy Basic Training  School.   =SS.

A brief history of the Nigeria army tells us that there is no sufficient logic for justifying the pre-dominant location of the entire or much of the nation’s military institutions in just one part of the country and this calls for decentralization so as to make the army and the military to belong to all Nigerians.

GENERAL T.E. C. Chiefe had written in his book titled “military in Nigeria under democratic rule”, that “the history of the Nigerian army dates back to 1863 when General Glover of the royal navy selected 18 indigenes from the northern part of the country and organized them into a local force known as the glover Hausa and they performed duties for the Lagos colonial government.

“In 1865 the Glover Hausas became a regular force with name Hausa constabulary and was later called Lagos constabulary in 1901. “

“At Jebba in northern Nigeria, Lord Fredrick Lugard had formed in 1890 the west African frontier force (WAFF) and by 1909 had incorporated all paramilitary units in all British dependencies”.

The establishment of WAFF led to the merger of units into a regiment in each of the dependencies and the merger produced the northern Nigerian regiment and the southern Nigerian regiment.

He further told us that with the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigerian regiment, thus, the northern Nigeria regiment became the 1st and 2nd battalions of Nigerian regiment while southern Nigerian became the 3rd and 4th battalions of the Nigerian regiment.

The visit of Queen Elizabeth 11 of Great Britain to Nigeria in February 1956 changed the name of the Nigerian regiment to queen own Nigerian regiment (QONR).

Also the same year, with the rationalization of the WAFF, it became the Nigeria Military Force (NMF). In 1960 when Nigeria became independent, the NMF became the Royal Nigerian Army (RNA) and subsequently the Nigerian army when became a Republic.

With these ground-breaking history as expertly rendered by Major General Chiefe as he then was, the Army must truly be administered as a NIGERIA ARMY with all her assets spread all over the territory of Nigeria including the SouthEast of Nigeria.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs@ www.emmanuelonwubiko.com, www.huriwa@blogspot.com.

 

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