[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n Tuesday, February 7, 2017, at the popular city of Onitsha, two soldiers, Corporal Bature Samuel and Corporal Abdulazeez Usman, like demons on a mission, went berserk and grievously brutalized a physically-challenged man, Mr. Chijioke Uraku, for wearing a military camouflage.
Although the military authorities have pleaded with Nigerians and the international community to treat the incident as an isolated one, facts on ground show that contrary to being an isolated case, Nigerian soldiers have always found it a pastime to descend heavily on innocent Nigerians whom they see as mere subjects to be abused and brutalised sometimes without any provocation being ‘bloody civilians’.
From Onitsha to Zaria, Lagos to Edo, Adamawa to Nasarawa, Abuja to Aba, Ogun to Port Harcourt etc, Nigerians suffer gross abuse from the men in green whose colour of uniform is supposed to depict life but have recently, mostly and unfortunately, become symbol of brutality, terror and death.
The venom with which Cpls Samuel and Usman descended upon the helpless and hapless citizen Chijioke, not minding that he is physically-challenged, proves that the bestial acts of brutality has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian military.
Battering him, the two soldiers flagrantly threw Chijioke off his wheelchair and threw same away from the theatre of incident with unimaginable wildness while they flogged him the way even the devil should not be flogged. The video of the incident which went viral showed Chijioke pleading with the soldiers for mercy but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Passers-by watched on in helpless indignation as the soldiers dragged him on the ragged ground from one point to the other in the process. One could hear them lamenting the misfortune of Citizen Chijioke but could only resign themselves to watching the terrifying debacle.
The residents of Onitsha themselves have had their own fair share of military brutality. Most of the unlawful killings of IPOB members by soldiers happened in Onitsha. Their psyche must have been so affected that their will to help a helpless citizen being badly dehumanized by rampaging soldiers seems to have ebbed away. The military high-handedness and use of excessive force which have resulted in avoidable deaths of armless civilians in that region are well documented.
It is the same with citizens in other places.
In Abuja, on January 17, 2017, a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Alex Ochienu, was also beaten into a state of coma by some soldiers attached to the Development Control of the city who rushed into the building site where Ochienu was supervising projects and ordered everyone on site to frog-jump. The hapless Ochienu had explained to the soldiers that he would not be able to carry out such a strenuous punishment since he was fasting. His explanation, as it always is with our soldiers, infuriated them the more and they descended on him for daring to explain himself and he was reportedly hit with rifle butts, kicked in the stomach and whipped severally until he passed out.
Although Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State had rescued a downtrodden truck pusher who was a victim of brutal assault from two NAF cadets who had already forced their object of brutality into the booth of their car in December of 2015, six months later, and as if to prove that their tyranny knows no class or status, the governor himself was soon to be a victim of military brutality himself as his mother’s police guards were assaulted by soldiers allegedly from Operation MESA simply because one of the police guards had asked a man in mufti who later turned out to be a military officer not to park near the gate of the governor’s mother’s house. This infuriated the man and he left only to return with a truckload of military personnel who brutalised the governor’s mother’s police guards.
Before then, in February 2016, a lawyer, Adeyemi Akintoye, was hospitalised after being brutalised by two soldiers from the Ordinance Barracks for “walking slowly”. The incident which occurred near Tejuosho market in Yaba area of Lagos also saw the lawyer allegedly dispossessed of his N350,000 which he just collected from one of his clients.
Trouble was said to have started when the soldiers who were walking behind Akintoye ordered him to walk faster but Akintoye retorted that he was not obstructing their movement and that the road was wide enough for everyone to walk at their different paces. At this point, our soldiers who have since arrogated the status of God who must not be questioned to themselves descended heavily on him until he was hospitalized.
It was the same road blockade saga that got our Shiite Muslim brethren in trouble in December of 2015 in Zaria when soldiers, like a people suffering from cocaine overdose, descended heavily on them and allegedly killed close to a thousand defenceless civilians in just one fell swoop. And rather than atone for their murderous act by being penitent, the military high command has gone on defending that indefensible massacre of fellow citizens and even rubbed salt to the injury caused our collective sensibilities by holding the leader of the Muslim group and his wife in detention and in continued flagrance defiance of multiple court orders to have them released!
So when the military high command tries to sell us the “isolated case” story from the Onitsha incident, they are only further exposing their well know hypocrisy garnished with falsehood and official tyranny.
There are so many cases of abuse and torture perpetrated by our military personnel but only very few of them get to the public domain. Many citizens suffer unduly and unjustly in the hands of these octopuses of tears, sorrow and blood parading themselves as soldiers.
From Joy Agboghide who was allegedly dehumanized in March 2016 by some soldiers in Benin City, Edo State for “obstructing traffic”, to nollywood actress and movie producer, Jewel Infinity, who was beaten severely with a rod by a soldier in Port Harcourt on January 31, 2017, for “gossiping”, to the man who was battered by a group of military cadets led by a female soldier simply because he complimented the female soldier and referred to her as beautiful, to Umar Abdulaziz who was reportedly tortured to death by a group of three soldiers in Ganaye Local Government Area of Adamawa State in December 2016 for allegedly stealing a mobile phone belonging to a girlfriend of one of the soldiers, the story of citizens’ brutalization by our soldiers for sundry “offences” seem endless.
While one must admit that there are lots of very fine officers and men who are very highly intelligent and humane among our military forces, the majority of the bad ones including very senior officers who order, supervise and condone the continued killings and brutalization of fellow citizens like the Shiites, IPOB members and other citizens under one guise or the other are the ones further dragging the very bad image of the military in the mud, and the earlier the military looks inward and does some critical and honest soul searching exercise, the better for them.
It is not too late to begin a radical reorientation of the mindset and psyche of the ‘boys’ which seem to have been battered by the unholy incursion of the armed forces into our politics in the past. Unless this is done, our soldiers might continue to go mad! Time for the military to save itself from itself!
Jude Ndukwe is a political analyst who lives and works in Abuja, Nigeria. He is a member of The Trent’s Elite Columnists. His column is published every Friday. He tweets from @stjudendukwe.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.