By: Frank Ijege
I was a strong critic of our army. I mocked and laughed at the soldiers because of their inability to contain the scourge of Boko Haram that has ravaged and continues to ravage our country. An instance was the ‘tactical manoeuvring’ to Cameroon by some of them when the heat became too much for them to bear. However, on a closer look I discovered that I was unnecessarily being unfair to these gallant fighters who have abandoned comfort to ensure there is peace in our troubled country.
Many of these soldiers and all those involved in the fight against Boko Haram seem to have been sentenced to death in the hands of these insurgents. Otherwise, how would one explain giving soldiers obsolete and antiquated weapons to use in checkmating and fighting a brutal set of people from the pit of hell, who have access to more sophisticated and advanced armoury? Just like one cannot use an idea of yesterday to solve today’s problem, we cannot use the weapons we used to prosecute the civil war to curb the insurgency of today.
To make matters worse, refusing to die in the hands of these insurgents is construed as disobedience, thus earning one death in the hands of the authorities. This we have seen through the court-martials of several soldiers who for one reason or the other were bold enough to demand better equipment in order to fight, or were courageous to engage in tactical manoeuvre. This undermines our determination to win the war. Is deciding to join the army agreeing to die like chicken?
These soldiers have families who depend on them. Judging from the experiences of their colleagues, especially how their families have been neglected, abandoned and even thrown out of the barracks, none of them would want to die when they are not sure of what awaits their families after their (in)glorious death in active service.
In other countries of the world, fallen soldiers are celebrated and given a state burial. But here, we look at them with scorn and disdain as if being a soldier means your life is worthless. No wonder we have a shortage of military personnel. Cameroon, which is faced with the Boko Haram menace, is recruiting twenty thousand soldiers to fight it, while we are here sacking, imprisoning and sentencing the few we have to death. It tells the kind of commitment we have towards fighting the war against insurgency.
To succeed in this war against insurgency and terrorism, we must increase the morale of our gallant soldiers. This we can do by providing them with sophisticated equipment, one that can match the insurgents and pardoning all those who we have harshly sentenced, either to death or terms of imprisonment, and all those we have summarily dismissed from service. We must also assure them that their families would be adequately catered for, in the event they pay the supreme sacrifice and that their efforts will not go unappreciated. Soldiers and all those who have willingly offered to risk their lives to ensure that the rest of us are safe and secure, should be praised, encouraged and celebrated. Arresting them (like we did to the local hunters), subjecting them to courts martial is not the best way to encourage them. In fact, it makes a mockery of our commitment towards the fight against insurgency. May God grant us a solution to this problem.
SOURCE: DAILY TRUST