By Abdulmumin Giwa…
Of recent as I was setting out for a spiritual trip visit Aba Abdullah Hussain bin Ali (AS) several people were approaching me with messages of prayers seeking the intercession of the Imam of Martyrs. Some young boys were asking me to pray for them to become medical doctors when they grow up.
A boy who is hardly four years old was asked what he wanted to become when he grows up and he laughingly said “I want to become a soldier so that I can kill everybody“ and everybody laughed and he later said he wants to become a medical doctor too like his brother to save people’s life.
This is the general mentality of most Nigerians about the Nigerian army. They see them as some terror laden killers that can kill at will. They o the other hand see themselves as some sort of gods especially when they are dressed in uniform.
Following the bad human rights image of the army in the eyes of the world especially human rights organizations that have profiled a lot of bad records of the Army who have at various times killed innocent unarmed civilians unprovoked, the issue was already affecting the Nigerian government.
Some Senators in the US have challenged the sales of arms to the Nigerian government sighting the Zaria killings as an example of the Army using such arms to kill unarmed civilians.
This was becoming too much for the Nigerian regime led by President Muhammadu Buhari one of whose major agenda is the claimed fight against terrorism.
To prove its sincerity of purpose concerning its ability to keep the Army within the confines of its constitutionally accepted rules of engagement, the presidency set up an investigative panel to look into abuses and violation of rules of engagement perpetrated by the Army.
Naturally, it is expected that a few of those who the Army have molested in one way or the other who come before the panel to lay their complaints including the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.
Actually the impression people are having of the Army is that they are above the law and nothing can be done to them no matter how they err.
This negative impression is born out of how the army came to the present level since the inception of the country. Starting from colonialism to independence, from independence to military rule and later when the military dropped their ‘Kaki’ and wore ‘Agbada’ to continue to remain in power
One is tempted to ask what positive contributions the army has given to the country outside the coup after coup, under-development and suppression of the public. They successfully slowed down the growth of the nation into a democratic giant in Africa. They ruled people by dictatorship and kept constitution and human rights aside. This has grossly affected the impression of the army on Nigerians.
Ordinarily Nigerians are supposed to see the army as a gallant body that protects the territorial integrity of the nation who they work hard to maintain through the taxes they pay to the government. But because of the impression they have imposed on the people they are seen as some wicked dictators that can kill them at will.
This is because the same colonial mentality with which the army was built and the same mentality with which it had survived since independence, no one would dare go the way of the army even if he has to give up his rights and dignity. This is simply because both the army and the public believe that those in uniform are above the law.
The ugliest part of it is that the army is more of the property of the Commander-in-Chief and he has the right to order them to kill anybody he doesn’t like at any time he wishes. A simple reference is that of the recent clampdown on the IMN in which women, children, infants were killed, some burned or alive and hundreds simply buried in mass graves and that is all as they see. Why? Because it is the army and its Commander-in-Chief that want them dead.
Everyone is aware of the mass murder of innocent civilians and no one dares says why because it was done by the Army.
They could molest anyone on the streets, beat him/her and even strip him/her naked simply because he/she is what the army calls ‘bloody civilian’. In fact even the police that Nigerians are still yet to believe that they are friends of the public are not safe from the army brutality.
Now these are some of the things the presidential panel is leaving out of its investigations and is concentrating more on complaints laid by people and groups. The army was set on a particular platform under a particular system that accepts the monster looking nature of the Army. For a long as that system under which the army is founded, which is also nurtured by colonial mentality, continues to exist, the negative impression about the army will continue to exist. This is because it is the system that accepts the army in its monster like nature. We need a different system that has a different impression about the army.
The ugly Nigerian system has a wrong impression of the army. The system, with its wrong and inhuman concepts provides for the people to be suppressed and molested into fearing the Army and seeing them as some sorts of zombies. Whereas the right thing to do should be that the people love, revere and respect the army for being the gallant men that are sacrificing to protect their territorial integrity.
In other words, the concept of the army the panel is investigating is based on what the system makes it to be like. Hence whatever the army does is a resultant of what that concept has made of it. That is to say the system provides for it to become the hunting dogs of those in power and kill their opponents for them under any pretext at all.
For instance, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky is a victim of Nigerian Army brutality. They shot him several times, shot his wife several times all at close ranges. Killed three of their sons (innocent minors), burned his elder sister and nephew alive, burned down his residence, abused his mother’s tomb and demolished his Islamic Center without any provocation whatsoever.
For the simple fact that the monstrous acts of crimes against humanity were all in the interest of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, it is now Sheikh Zakzaky the victim of the army atrocity that is being denied the right to be heard in public by the panel. The simple reason for this is to protect the interest of the suppressive army while the fundamental human right of the revered Sheikh is officially denied.
It is clear that the objective of the president is to kill Sheikh Zakzaky, disperse his followers, and ban the Movement all to satisfy some interests, in this case religion and politics. In some cases it could be tribal or sectional and so on and so on.
Hence, traditionally, nothing would follow the outcome of the panel because that is what the system provides for.
Even the Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI) indicted the army for disregarding its rules of engagement in its final report but nothing followed afterwards and they were not even mentioned in the whitepaper prepared by the state governor Nasir El-Rufai.
The aim and objective of setting up the presidential panel could be a move to cleanse the army of all its atrocities and ugly human rights records, by producing a report that will pint it into an Angel and probably even deny the army atrocities as false accusations just to achieve some political goals.
I don’t have any reason to hate the army should in case anybody thinks I do but I have every reason to hate the wrongdoings of the army and its negative concepts and public impression. Nigerians must rise against the misdoings and put the army where it constitutionally belongs.