Nigerian Women in Combat Soars : Why Take 10 Steps Backwards

I’ve always felt that a nation as ethically diverse as Nigeria needs a draft, and that having “citizen-soldiers” in the ranks makes Nigeria stronger and more importantly, at some point forces politicans to think about the consequences of corrupt practises like siphoning money meant for arms and the welfare of soldiers, more so if they have family members serving. It will be unthinkable for a Service Chief to siphon $2.6 billion if there was a military draft. The people will never tolerate it.

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A Female combatant with the Nigerian Air Force Regiment.

Last week the first batch of 800 female recruites began infantry training in Jaji Kaduna. More than 2,000 women are slated to join combat units this year alone. Back in 2014 at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency, the question of whether women should be allowed into combat was brought into foe when Boko Haram kidnapped 26 female soldiers in Baga.

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A NAF female Alpha jet pilot

In another incident a female soldier, Oluwatoyin Ogunyele was captured and later beheaded by Boko Haram in Baga, Borno State. She died in servitude to the country she loves. May her soul rest in peace.

The general concensus was that it is foolish to put women in the frontline during a time of war. That question seems mooted as progress was made by the military with women playing a part.la

Profound divisions in Nigerian society are never so obvious as during election years. And in a counterintuitive twist, our tribalism can actually seem like a fundamental facet of our collective national character. We hunker deeper down into our political and cultural identities, demarcating ourselves from one another with “in” and “out” group codifications. Sometimes the categorizing is a moral necessity. Sometimes it’s glib theatrics.

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Female combatant rear guard duty.

 

But the chasm that separates the military from the everyday experiences of civilians is morbid. And it continues to grow. Nigerians have become quick to the trigger when it comes to lambasting the army for percieved failures

And so the burden of fighting what has become the longest war in Nigeria’s history falls on the shoulders of a shrinking cohort of soldier who are forced to endure deployment after deployment, further disconnecting them from the country they’re fighting for. That the sacrifices are borne by such a tiny elite is one of the mechanisms that allows for tolerance to corruption in the military.

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But what does this disconnect have to do with women in combat?

Nothing

And that’s exactly the point. Opening combat roles to women lends a veneer of seriousness and in a way paves way for a more professional military. But as has been the case for generations, there are elements hell bent of taking Nigeria backwards.

That’s why the recent decision by the Nigerian military to end the admission of female cadets into the combatant course of the Nigerian Defence Academy is like taking 19 steps backward.

It was learnt that the recommendation to end the programme was made by the Armed Forces Council. What is even more annoying is that the military took the decision due to complaints from some unnamed northetn Muslim leaders. A serving General’s reason for this decision :

“The northern Muslim leaders want to prevent a situation where one day, a woman will lead the army and give orders to men”

That religious leaders have say in how the Nigerian military is bewildering. That the Nigerian government will take and enforce the recommendation of altra consrcative Muslim religious leaders is borderline insanity.

The morale of the Nigerian military is brittle and underpinned by the numerical and technical superiority over the third rate opponents like local militias from Liberia and S-Leone to Niger Delta militants and Boko Haram, none of which have the resources of a national army. If and when our system, with its absurd and, let’s be honest “extinct air force”is tested against a peer competitor at some point in the future, we are likely to have a catastrophic disaster on our hands. Lo

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