SOLDIERS are special beings. The things they do are not for lilly-livered people. The stuff they signed up for are deep and deadly. The danger they are exposed to just to keep us safe are difficult sometimes to explain. As a mother, I don’t even know how their mothers cope. For instance, how’s a mother supposed to feel when she waves her son goodbye on his way to war or wherever he’s posted knowing she may not see him again and that the hug they’d just shared may be the last?
Soldiers, they are special. We all know. We will never forget their love, bravery and their service for the nation. However, some of us are worried that soldiers, deep in their hearts, believe they are superior to the rest of us and we suspect that they have always been like that. We know them and they know us. Since the days of military rule when bloody civilians got kicked in the groin for attempting to ‘piss in public’. They have always put us in our place. Just imagine the kind of shouted instruction that wiould make a grown man already discharging his urine peacefully against a wall suddenly hold his water and start shaking. Yeah, that was the kind of fear they put in us then. But these days, things have changed. What soldiers command now is respect, not fear. We the ‘bloody civilians’ now appreciate the soldiers for their tenacious sacrifices, their patriotic defense of the fatherland but the stark truth is things have changed.
How many of us want our children to become soldiers? Go on, tell me what you see when you look at your precious son; a doctor in white coat, a lawyer in silk wig or don’t-you-dare-me Judge’s robe. Do you see him army uniform? Even when you see your son as a soldier, isn’t what you see not an elegantly starched, stylishly ironed uniform worn by a stern-faced General with his epaulettes shining and blinking in the sun? Im sure you do not see a soldier dodging bullets and bombs and crawling in dust and dirt under dangerous wires. But a General has not always been a General. He was once a young officer.
Bottom line? I doff my hat (don’t ask me the stuff it’s made of) to Nigerian soldiers. Is there then a reason why a soldier has to be rude on his way to a General’s rank? Where are the ones who flout orders and break laws with impunity raised and trained? There is a way to behave in the jungle and it is far different from how life is lived in the town, in normal peaceful environment. Those soldiers who behave like the rest of us are minions to be whipped with koboko or military -issued belts, where are those ones from? They are not many but they are plenty (what’s the difference?) and they give everybody a bad name, from their parents to the Nigerian Armed Forces.
Thank God for Lt. General Taoreed Lagbaja, the Chief of Army Staff and my kinsman from Osun. Don’t you dare laugh. Is your kinsman the Chief of Army Staff? Did your kinsman, when he was Chief of Army Staff, rebuke an erring soldier or did he just issue a terse statement that ‘the matter is being investigated and the culprit will be brought to book’. You know how I hate the ‘brought to book’ statements?
But this COAS has had the erring soldier arrested. He’s already in the book and you can trust a thoroughbred soldier, raised in Osun that this culprit will be made to learn the right lessons.
However, I’m still worried by the rude soldier-syndrome in our midst, very worried. They are an annoying bunch. From riding a bike against traffic without helmets to beating up drivers and generally bullying anybody who is not in military uniform. The authority or department in charge of their training and life outside the war front needs to speak up. What drives the rude soldier? What makes him think he’s a big boy even when he has no visible epaulette? What fuels his superiority complex? Does he have a death wish always and when he can’t find bullets and bombs to dodge, does he just go hunting for trouble?
What makes a soldier, of any rank, least of all one with no visible chord or star thinks it’s fine and safe to talk back at a sitting Governor, a Lagos Governor, on Lagos road? I still can’t get over it. I must have rewound that video five times on my television the night it was reported . Who’s this guy? Who does he think he is? I kept on asking myself as I got ready for bed. Ah, ah, he’s actually standing there unafraid in front of a Governor, in a democratic system and talking back? Will half of a soldier or ten (10) of him, look a military Governor in the face, to say anything or complain even about a bleeding bullet wound? Who do these guys think they are?
Do they think they are above the law and the Nigerian constitution is beneath them? The one riding one-way didn’t think he was doing a bad thing, an illegal thing.
Another one said soldiers are not under the control of any Governor and so they take orders only from their commanders.
Then, the Coalition of Concerned Veterans, peopled by those who are supposed to be elders, announced that Governor Sanwo-Olu must take himself to Abuja to apologize to the Chief of Defense Staff for daring to berate and arrest a soldier in the full view of “bloody civilians”.
Aren’t veterans supposed to know elders who should know better, even if they are soldiers. What’s going on here?, as my former boss, Ted Iwere, would ask whenever we did something we shouldn’t have done. I’m perplexed here. Is it that the veterans were playing to the gallery or they just didn’t know that riding against traffic is unlawful, dangerous and an attempt to commit murder and or suicide.
Did that soldier or all soldiers know that even they need permission to die, especially in road accidents that may also endanger others lives? Being a soldier in a democracy is different from being a soldier under military administrators. The new order requires different social skills and talking back to a democratically elected governor when you are caught breaking the law shows lapses in one’s training.
• Egbemode sent this piece through firstname.lastname@example.org