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« Of Nku Ukwa, Chibuzor Onwuchekwa, and World Igbo Congress’ card-carrying Members | Main | Mourning, Culture, and the Individual »

July 17, 2006

Two Sides of a Coin: A Private Soldier Lectures Nigerian Commander-in-Chief, Olusegun Obasanjo, on Nigerian Military History

by Oyeyemi Olodo, Esq. (London, England) --- Oyeyemi Olodo, Protest at Nigerian High Commission, London Nigerian Army Day celebration was as colourful as America Army recent celebration of its 231st Birthday in existence which reflected on U.S soldiers’ contribution to making the world a safer place to live. However, far away from the continent of Africa, another event was unfolding, which was of a different kind.

A one man protest outside the Nigeria High Commission seeking a change in the date the Army Day is held. The Integrity Magazine brings you an exclusive interview with a retired soldier of the Nigerian Army that wants the Federal Government of Nigeria to recognise the role of servicemen who answered, a Call to Duty, over 143 years ago and yet remain unrecognised and unvalued.

As Nigerian Government works on making the nation relevant and fit for purpose in the 21st Century, it is becoming apparent that the ignorance of the past need to be acknowledged and history rewritten to give credit "..to whom it is due". Nigerian Army has played a significant role in the development of Nigerian entity and if any institution should be appraised for keeping the nation together, then the military remain undoubtedly a major player in the new Nigeria that we are looking forward to.
There are many good things about Nigerian military that makes them at least far better than the kleptocratic politicians (though some few military officials were bad) and the untamed police personnel (trigger-happy policemen), though this is not the time and place to elucidate on that, the bottom-line remains and many political commentators have argued that the military should never be allowed to rule but civilian administration need some of the best-practice embedded in the military to operate effectively in Nigeria.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE NIGERIAN ARMY

What could be regarded as the nucleus of the NA started in 1863 when the Imperial Governor of Lagos, Lt Glover of the Royal Navy gathered 18 Northern Nigerians to mount punitive expeditions to protect British trade routes around Lagos. This small force metamorphosed into the Hausa Constabulary and later formed part of the West African Frontier Force (WAFF). The visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Nigerian in a 1956 led to the renaming of the Northern and Southern Regiments to the Queen’s Own Nigerian Regiment (QONR). When later in that same year, Britain granted military autonomy to her dependencies, the QONR was re-designated the Nigerian Military Force (NMF), and at independence in 1960, the name changed to the Royal Nigerian Army. The present designation, Nigerian Army (NA), came into use when Nigeria assumed a Republic status in 1963.

From this brief history culled from the internet from the Nigerian Army website www.nigerianarmy.net , one thing stands out, the Day and Month of 1863 remained unknown to the Nigerian Army history writers. But for patriotism a retired soldier, and a university graduate of History has taken the pains to voluntarily research this gap at the National Archives, Kew, Richmond, London, and communicated the actual date to Army authority. Rather than appreciate his singular effort, he was labelled a rebel and had his monthly pension confiscated since 2002.

If Nigerian Army refuse to acknowledge that the proper date for the celebration of Nigerian Army Day should be 24th January, 1863, then all these brave men that answered the call to duty in both the first and Second World War, died in vain. In the U.K, the nation celebrate the role of their military and acknowledge their contribution but in Nigerian, we pay them back by not releasing their pension and allowing them to be true professionals that they are really tailored to be.

It is time to stop messing with history and give the children of these slain Nigerian heroes the recognition they deserve. Olusegun Oyewole, a soldier turned Minister of the gospel and editor-in-chief of the Nigerian Defence Times, explained why he was protesting outside Nigerian Embassy in London on the 6th of July 1967, the date the Nigerian Civil War began, which the military adopted as “Nigerian Army Day” instead of 1863 when the Nigerian Army was born. Army Day should connote Army Birthday, which should be 24th January, 1863, Olusegun argued:

TIM: Tell us briefly about yourself?

Olusegun: My name is Olusegun Olaniyi Oyewole, a retired soldier of the Nigerian Army with a B.A (Hons) History, PG Diploma in Journalism and presently a Law student at University of Teesside.

TIM: Have you ever participated in any military operation like peace-keeping force etc in the past?

Olusegun: Yes! I was in Liberia in 1990 with the ECOMOG troops from 21 Battalion, Minna attached under 1 Mechanised Brigade HQ.

TIM: Why are you protesting outside the Nigerian High Commission in London on the 6th July, don't you have anything better to do?

Olusegun: This is more important to me. I have been advocating a change in the Army Day Celebration since I wrote my B.A History dissertation in 1994. I published this in articles and memoranda to the Minister of Defence and the Army Chief. But they refused to acknowledge this error simply because I am an ordinary soldier who supposed not to think, much of holding opinion.

TIM: You mentioned that you are retired military personnel, are you still receiving your benefits for your service to your country?

Olusegun: That is another story. Immediately the Army received my memorandum my pension was stopped that I have query to answer at home.

TIM: Had you tried to convey this information to Nigerian government?

Olusegun: Yes. I have and my effort has been interpreted as an affront to the intelligence of the officers.


TIM: What will you like to see Nigerian Army look like in 10 years?

Olusegun: I want to see an Army well professionalized, well catered for and highly mobile, mechanised with modern weapons with sufficient training and international exposure trained in the best military institutions abroad and participating with the best armies in the world in global peace keeping: anti-terrorism campaign. And above all able to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria and win the confidence of Nigerians.

TIM: Would Nigerian Army have been equipped to perform at conflicts such as Iraq etc if drafted?

Olusegun: The politicisation of the military makes it less ready for such high tech warfare.

TIM: How will you advise Nigerian Army to tackle the Delta Crisis?

Olusegun: I think dialogue is the best option. The choice of gun diplomacy might not work because even a senior military officer- Director of Defence Operations confessed our Army can be over run by Niger Delta militant because of lack of modern weapons and training.

TIM: What is your message to the military and Nigerian Commander-in-Chief?

Olusegun: Professionalism and reward for individual in-put will make the military a pride for the youth. The pensioners and heroes should be accorded recognition and national honours for them. Post Service Schemes and insurance and housing should be in place after all, we are a rich oil producing nation.

It is a sad sorry that Nigerian Government refuses to recognise our military and I think it is necessary........

The protester, Olusegun Oyewole sent a chilling message to the commander-in-chief, Olusegun Obasanjo. Although namesake with Nigeria president, the private soldier was not shy to give the one-time “General” in the Nigerian Army, history lesson on Nigerian Military.

The military adviser at Nigeria High Commission, London was asked for comment but nothing was received.

Oyeyemi Olodo Esq.,
Director/Publisher
The Integrity Magazine
www.theintegritymagazine.org.uk

Posted by Administrator at July 17, 2006 08:34 AM

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