Right from when I was a child, I had this fear for men in uniform. I didn't like the police. I didn't like the army. I didn't like the ones called the MOD in the church. I think the one reason why I had that level of dislike for them was that they reminded me of brutality and everything relating to it. I only liked the Naval Officers and I still do. Their white uniforms probably made them seem a bit friendlier. Besides in my innocent mind, the armed forces only went to wars and killed people. They had no other roles to play apart from that. As if that was not enough, during the military era, there were a lot of soldiers on the streets. I witnessed them try to discipline even adults with all sorts of punishments. I hated watching grown up men made to do the 'frog jump'. I remember on this particular day, my siblings and I were being driven to school. I can't remember the reason why they stopped our driver at this particular checkpoint. He alighted from the car, spoke briefly with them and the next thing, I heard him cry out in pain as the soldier slapped him. We became apprehensive. Next thing they asked him to put something in his mouth and chew. He tried pleading with them and they slapped him some more. . We later realized it was money. He tried to bribe them for some reason and they slapped him and asked him to chew the money for attempting to bribe them. He obviously did wrong, but that experience heightened my fear for the men in uniform. On another development, it was on a Sunday and we went for a family outing at the Apapa Amusement Park in Lagos. This young man was wearing a tee shirt that was camouflage with the same green colour as that of the Nigerian Army. He was strolling with about three other young men and the next thing we saw was the young man being accosted by some soldiers and after some questioning, they beat him to a pulp and stripped him of the camouflage. I cried throughout that ordeal because it wasn't a common sight to see mob action in those days as is obtained now. It was also so sad to see an unsuspecting lad so badly beaten with people looking on helplessly while the lad begged for mercy. Flashing back now, I remember that it was the period when I watched the movie, 'Idi Amin of Uganda'. It was a most brutal movie that heightened my dislike for the armed forces. Funny, but that was just the mindset of a little child. That mindset, however became very fixed in my subconscious and conscious being that even if you woke me up in the middle of the night and asked me what I felt about the armed men in uniform, I would say, 'hate'!!!
Anyway, that was over thirty years ago. Today, I have become much older, more knowledgeable and more informed. I have had reasons to see a lot of good in the men in uniform, specifically the Army. I have also had the privilege to enjoy good relations with them and might comfortably say that my mindset about them has been changed to a certain extent. Let me bring to bear, the case of the physically challenged young man who was recently assaulted by some soldiers along the New Market Road at Onitsha. The cripple, Mr Chijioke Uraku was seen putting on the camouflage and even though he was strapped to his wheel chair, he was beaten black and blue after he couldn't offer a good reason why he was adorned with the Army regalia. It was a case that generated a lot of controversy in the social media and all over the town, state and country. A lot of people naturally condemned the Army for their brutality and wickedness. Yes, you guessed right. I was certainly among the people who spoke against them for not being compassionate towards a physically challenged man.
I would however say that it is just as well, because that event led to some other events that made me change my mind set about the Armed Forces, specifically, the Army. As you all know, after that incident, the Army investigated the matter and after their findings, a world press conference was held and the soldiers who assaulted the cripple were not only apprehended, but subjected to face disciplinary actions. The victim was rewarded as a compensation of the infringement of his right as a citizen of this country. Nigerians were happy for justice done to the young dude and the punishment meted to the overzealous officers.
Now, the essence of this article is to enlighten the reading public about certain things that are very important that we avail ourselves with. We need to understand the little things that would help a great deal in avoiding certain situations like the case of the cripple. First of all, the role of Nigeria's Armed forces are entrenched in the Nigerian constitution. It is important to know that the major element of those roles include defending her territorial integrity and other core interests. What this means is that they are here for our own well being and we really have no need to fear them as long as we are doing the right things. In the case of the cripple for instance, he had no reason whatsoever to wear that camouflage. The camouflage is a uniform designed as a form of identity for the Nigerian Army. What this simply means is that a civilian has no reasons whatsoever to wear them. It is actually the height of ignorance and as we know, ignorance is not an excuse. For the records, it is very unlawful for any person who is not serving in any of the armed forces in Nigeria to wear the uniform of the armed forces or any dress having the appearance or bearing any of the regimental or other distinctive marks of such uniforms. The two exceptions to this rule are, first, if it is worn with the permission and consent of the president and governor of a state and secondly, if it is worn in the course of a stage play or any bona fide public entertainment as long as it does not bring the uniform or the institution it represents into contempt. I agree that there are tee shirts, handkerchiefs and even boxers designed like the Army camouflage and sold in the markets. Please, kindly stay away from those articles even though they are in the market stalls. You would only be buying trouble if you buy them. Let the army officers buy them. As long as you stay away from harm's way, you have no business being molested by Army Officers.
By this article, I am calling on everyone reading this and indeed, the general public to see our security agencies as institutions set up to aid in the protection of our lives property and territorial integrity. If you know the rules, keep them. When you abide by rules and regulations, you have no reasons to get into trouble with them. In our country, for instance, if there is any force that has lost their dignity and respect in the eyes of the people they serve, it's the Police Force. They have stayed too long on the roads that their uniforms mean nothing to the average Nigerian and this includes even the child on the streets. It is only in Nigeria that a police officer boldly collects paltry sums of money from motorists in the full glare of passengers. What a shame. So, sometimes, when people deride them, I do not apportion blames. It is only in Nigeria that suspects would confess that they got their guns from Police Officers. It is only in Nigeria that a policeman would fight a civilian or his fellow officer with his complete uniform. It is also in Nigeria that people no longer have the confidence of reporting suspected criminals to the police because their safety or protection of their identities won't be assured, which leaves them at the mercy of the suspects when they are eventually released. In any case, I would still call on the general public to do what is right always. The security agencies are there to protect us and won't be able to work without our cooperation. They work with information and you and I know that with a collective arrangement, they would always work better and serve us better. If we lose them, we would be without any protection, just like what happened in Somalia when her citizens lost confidence in the Army. Nigerians are fond of holding back information from security agencies until problems degenerate into dire situations. For whatever reasons, this should change because without these information, these agencies would find it difficult to do the needful.
I had the privilege of meeting a fine officer in this state in the Army and through my deliberations with him and some of his officers, I learnt so much about soldiers. I actually came to realize that most of them were actually very compassionate people and so much fun to be with. I guess the way the case of the disabled cripple was handled, indeed speaks volumes of the fact that they have a human face. During my discussion with them, one of them described a typical soldier as a mad man. When I asked him why, he said that if any sane person heard gunshots, the first thing he would do would be to run for dear life, but when soldiers heard gunshots, they would run towards the sound of the gun shot to know who shot it and why. According to him, that was madness because, no sane person would run towards the direction of a gunshot for fear of being killed. But for the protection of the people, they put their lives at risk.
Please, let us be good Nigerians, always. There is recession. Let's not make our problems worse. For those who are instigating war all in the nameof fighting for Biafra, I wasn't born during the war, but I have heard stories, seen movies, and read books concerning the amount of blood that was shed. It was terrible. We all talk of secession, but would seceding from Nigeria solve the problems in breaking away?
Today, the North East is 30years backward because of the destruction of infrastructure. The quality of society has been set backwards because, children don't go to school or farm and you and I know what means for their economy. It would take another ten years to rebuild those structures again and that is the result of the unrest up north. Other states that do not have crisis would of course be moving on with their lives.
So, my message has been simple. Avoid acts that would lead to unrest in your immediate environment. Report any strange movements you observe. Keep away from the uniforms meant for particular armed forces to avoid being molested. Be your brother's keeper. Be polite to civil authorities to avoid being rough handled. As for me, I'm already friends with the military. Nigeria is a strong sovereign state. Let's make it peaceful and habitable.