Has the Nigerian Military lost its power?

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No matter how resolute Nigeria’s decision to attain full democracy, there has been one constant cycle in Nigerian life: military interference in politics. The Nigerian military remained a feared force in the cycles of power and maintained a long lasting ‘Frenemy’ with Nigerian politicians. However, its failures to curb growing internal security crisis has left a lot of Nigerians with the thought that perhaps the Nigeria military is losing its power.

The Nigerian military once comprised of not only men connected to the highest echelons of society but amazingly also those with a completely obscure history. Together these men received training from elite institutions within the country such as the Nigerian Military Training College, Command Staff College Jaji, Nigerian Defense College Kaduna, and foreign military institutions which include the Mons Officer Cadet School Aldershot, Pakistan Military Academy, the Royal Armoured Centre United Kingdom, Fort Knox, and Warminster.

With these background, these officers were able to build a solid defense network in the defense of the country, and beyond that; stage military coups, quell others, overthrow governments and bring to halt internal and external crisis. A force strong enough it was able to deliver countries like Liberia from rebels and helped foster peace in a number of West African countries through a coalition with the AU and the UN.

Today, under the watchful eyes of these military institutions, over 30 explosions have rocked the nation, not less than 1,500 citizens have died from violent attacks and as i write this article, 234 girls have been abducted without a trace by a group known as Boko Haram. A group which has become the deadliest threat to the nation’s security, since its birth over a hundred years ago. A group, which in over the last five years have bombed strategic places in the capital city of Abuja such as the October 1st bombing, a church at Madalla, the headquarters of the Nigerian police force, the United Nations headquarters, This Day newspapers and more recently two bombings in Nyanya a town close to the capital city and as well Aso Rock, the seat of the president.

This of course isn’t counting over 59 male students slaughtered in Adamawa or the over 234 girls kidnapped in Chibok, a town in the state of Maiduguri, a northern state in Nigeria. Clearly the army has got no success track record in recent time.

Not enough evidence may be available to answer the questions as to how the Nigerian military arrived at this juncture with assurance, but the balance of probability is that several key factors can be apportioned the larger responsibility alongside others which played a role in the multiplicity of problems now evident in the Nigerian military set-up. The key problems which perhaps contribute the most to the inability of the force to retain the right quality of human capital suitable for the challenges ahead of it, summed up, can be found in the Nigerian military’s current system of recruitment, retrenchment and training.

In the last 15years a lot of evidence suggests that army recruitment for commissioned officers in Nigeria have been largely carried out with political and ethnic affiliations. More than that what is now most required to be admitted into a military institution is simply a recommendation from an influential figure, military or otherwise. By this course, the element of human difference has often been neglected and the ranks filled with what the old stock of army personnel would more or less refer to as Milk Boys, members of the aristocratic class who join the army only as a matter of family name.

As such the military began to get within their ranks, people who were simply not military stock. Young people, simply looking out for a means of livelihood, and families with intent to maintain a military lineage albeit having the necessary political leverage to do so. A negative development affecting the military’s systems of postings, promotions and recommendations creating a chasm of discontent among soldiers who were once course mates.

Another problem contributing to the fractured military strength growth has been appointments at the higher echelons. A crude yet firmly existing military convention is that once an officer is appointed to be Chief of Army Staff, all officers senior to or holding equal rank to him are frequently retired or are given jobs outside the army chain of command. These re-postings are usually effected to remove senior officers from the operational command of those appointed.

Not only does this reduce the quality of expertise and experience currently required in the wake of increasing internal crisis, another effect is that these post being empty are often filled up by the same stock of those not in the army by merit but by recommendation. The Milk boys effect taking toll once again.

Of all these problems stated, the most obvious challenge has been that of equipment and re-training. There have been rumours of commissioned officers of the Nigerian military never getting to fire a riffle after their training days are over. Depleting physical combat training and the hidden ‘godfather’ syndrome has allowed some of these officers who may not be physically fit personnel to maintain their ranks.

Beyond this is the evident slack in matters of intelligence gathering, an absence of modern weaponry, growing ethnic discontent and an old stock of politically connected high ranking officers unwilling to retire and thus restricting growth and development for the lower cadre.

One thing to remember is that though powerful personalities may be behind Nigeria’s military structure, people who are still active and influential, even if they have removed their uniforms and transferred themselves into civilian rulers. However, these men are no longer the people who make daily decisions on the ways to engage internal and external conflicts.

The growing insecurity problems suggest that perhaps it is high time the Nigerian military carries out a necessary upgrade. It is now without question that the Nigerian government needs to partner with countries with stronger military policies like Israel, China and the United States to benefit from advanced weaponry, training, intelligence and re-organization programs to ensure a more secure future for Nigeria. The Nigerian military is clearly un-prepared for the complexities of modern warfare.

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