The destruction of the noble institution of the Nigerian Army was its involvement in politics. Given the considerable investment in resources and manpower, and its combat experience outside the shores of the country, the Nigerian military should have been by far the best and most envied in Africa had the Army never ventured into politics in recent decades.
Many Nigerians are not aware that the Nigerian military was the engine room of the British Army outside the European theatres of war, and even before most African countries could dream of building an army, the Nigerian Army had meritorious service through out the world.
In Burma, North Africa, in fact it was the Nigerian military that protected the territorial integrity of Kenya when it was invaded by the Italians. It was the Nigerian military that restored Emperor Haille Selaise back in power when it was partly invaded by, again the Italians.
If Nigeria as at then was an independent country, Nigeria had the wherewithal to become a colonial power via military subjugation.
But the puzzling aspect of this was that from 1863 to 1945, no single Nigerian was good enough to be considered an officer in an army where %99 of the fighting men were Nigerians. At the time of Independence, the officers corp that was to shoulder the responsibility of commanding the Nigerian Army was deliberately deprived of tutelage under the British Army offices corp. When the Nigerian eventually took over control of the military on the 22nd of February 1965, but eleven months after the whole army collapsed.
Attempts were made to patch it up after the civil war ended in 1970, various reforms were instituted to this effect, but the unfortunate overthrow of Gowon killed the prospect of reformation and brought another dimension to the military : the era of forceful retirement for services no longer required. The psychological effect of this on those officers remaining in service was devastating.
Officers started having second thought on allegiance to the military, Nepotism and corruption gradually took root. But despite all this the Nigerian Army as at then was by all account among the most formidable in Africa.
Corruption and nepotism in the Nigerian military reached its apoge during the regime’s of General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha. General Babangida virtually destroyed the Nigerian Air Force. This is hardly surprising since the majority of coup plotters have been Air Force officers. General Sani Abacha, to his credit halted the downward spiral of the Army and initiated major reforms to ‘re arm the military.
The decimation of the Nigerian armed forces reached critical mass with the return of democracy in 1999. Despite being in a near state of war with Cameroon and the ensuing Niger Delta crises, Nigeria’s civilian leadership deemed it rational to virtually destroy the fighting capability of the Nigerian military.
The current security challenges facing Nigeria today can be linked to the decision taken by Nigeria’s leadership to destroy the fighting capability of the Nigerian military, especially the Army and Air Force, because they were convinced the only way to starve off future military coups was to destroy the capabilities of the Nigerian Army and Air Force.
To say this is borderline insane will be understating the obvious. Since the return of Democracy to Nigeria in 1999, no infantry officer has been the chief of defence staff of the Nigerian Army.
Hard to believe right? We talking about eighteen straight years.The chiefs of staffs have either come from combat support services like the Intelligence Corp etc. You don’t make a Signals Officer the GOC of an Army. The job of the signals officer is to keep the communication line open, not command. Infantry officers should lead The fight, it’s what they are trained to do.
The result of these ill thought out policies driven by greed is evident today. Never in the history of this great country has it experienced nearly 17 years of non stop security challenges that threatens to destroy the very fabric of the Nigerian Federation. Proponents of this madness argue the Nigerian Army today eschews the virtue of professionalism…give me a BREAK !!
Yes many of the military elite have PHD’s and Masters Degree……we are just kicking the goal post. That is not the military. They are not in the trenches with the real core of any military, it’s fighting men and women. Two things underpin the capability of any successful army ; the training of the fighting men and the weapons available to them to carry out what they’ve been trained to do. Having an all PHD or Degree Service Chiefs does not compensate for this core factors.
It might be a hard pill to swallow but its time we Nigerians ask ourselves, is the Nigerian Army training to meet the challenges of the future? While our brave soldiers are fighting Boko Haram in the North East, only a fraction o of the Nigerian Army is involved in that operation, what is the vast majority of the Army personnel in Lagos and all over the country doing? Are they even training? Are they conducting regular exercises? Will any officer even take the risk of gathering thousands of soldiers for training exercises without been accused of trying to plot a coup to overthrow the government?
The Nigerian Army stopped regular training and live fire exercises in 2000 because we have as leaders politicians who are clueless to the workings of combat readiness. The moment the Army lost training it lost everything.
We Nigerians saw symptoms of this in the early stages of the Niger Delta insurgency, but we just did not think it possible for an army to lose its combat effectiveness in so short a time frame. Inexperienced, poorly trained and ineptly led soldiers have manifested their lack of professionalism in the early stages of the Boko Haram conflict.
There used to be a time in the Nigerian Army when to become a lieutenant one would have to go through a myriad of infantry courses at several Nigerian military training colleges.Soldiers spent as much as a week in open ranges come rain or shine doing firing classifications. Soldiers from the North came to several ranges in Ikorodu and Ekpe in Lagos.
Not long ago Nigerian artillery men were regarded as amongst the world’s best. When American soldiers were trapped and pinned down in a fire fight in Somalia, they radio a continent of Nigerian army personnel deployed three miles away.
THREE MILES. Nigerian troops on foot got there in less than an hour and created an escape route for the Americans pinned down by creating a buffer zone with a sustained hail of hot lead over an area, pinning the Somalian attackers to the ground and allowing the American troops to escape.
Not long ago the Nigerian Army was so fearsome that having a Defence Treaty with Nigeria gave you ironclad security guarantee. The Chadians, who with a fleet of Toyota pickup trucks brought the Libyan army to its knees, got a first hand experience of what it picking up a fight with the Nigerian Army entails. Today Nigerian troops are being tagged as cowards by Chadian troops, after 400 Nigerian soldiers dropped their weapons and fled !! The concept of Nigerian troops fleeing defies the laws of physics.
The Commander of the Boko Haram expeditionary force that captured Bama and captured tons of Nigerian weapons, was a former Corporal in the Nigerian Army. A COMMON CORPORAL.
The Nigerian Army must rebuild the Infantry Corp to the level it was in the nineties. The various combat battalions should be conducting non stop training exercises, not sitting in the barracks.Training instills discipline and weed out the weak.
Yes the Nigerian Army will for all intent and purposes defeat Boko Haram, It should not rest there. The Nigeria army should emulate the Nigerian Air Force in taking lessons learnt from the insurgency and incorporating it into creativity and tactics.
It is no coincidence that the Air Force priotised ISR capable platforms and unmanned aerial systems on the short-term. The NAF realised Boko Haram cannot be defeated conventionally.
The key to defeating Boko Haram was Intelligence, and lots of it. Against this backdrop the NAF became obsessed with Information and Intelligence gatherings warfare and in the course of Boko Haram Insurgency built up an unmatched ISR and ELINT capability, incorporating attack drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, AWACS capable surveillance aircrafts and reconnaissance planes fitted with sensors, FLIR pods and remote sensing camera’s. The result is evident.
The Nigerian Army should also swallow its pride and reach for broader military relations with Britain, akin to the relationship Cameroon and Chad has with France.The British can help us in this regard. It was the British that established the Armed Forces and Staff Colleges in Nigeria. They established the National War College in Nigeria.
It was the British proxy that established the Nigerian Defence Academy.It used to be the Royal Nigerian Military Training College. The Nigerian Army School of Infantry Company Commander were run and trained by the British.
Us Nigerians either do not realise or choose to ignore the fact that Nigerians are totally British. We are British in orientation, we are British in our thinking, our military doctrine is British, our Army uniforms are British, our educational structure is British, our legal system is British.
There is a lot Nigeria can benefit from having closer military ties with Britannia. The foundation of the Anglo America empire is based on its Special Relationship with the British.
If we had a security treaty or pact with Britain our security needs will in no way be jeopardized like it happened under the terrorist apologist Obama. During the civil war Britain supported Nigeria while France supported the secessionist Biafra.
Nigeria is under the Western sphere of influence yet we have nothing to show for it. Our reliance in the United States for military support and not Britain is the dumbest policy in Nigeria’s history. Britain desires a foothold in West Africa like France, for Britain, strong relations with Africa’s richest and most populous country will at a stroke lift Britain ahead of France when it comes to influence and Nigeria will benefit immensely.