So today, I went to a friend’s place. Well, my friend actually stays in a military camp. So, at some point he went to get something and I happened to just stray around till I saw a bench under a tree, which I utilised to my benefit considering the huge sunshine around this time of the year in the tropical regions. I laid on the bench savouring the air that came from resting under a tree; when I was woken from my little siesta by a man probably in his thirties or forties. He wished to sit on the bench, which I obliged to. As we sat I don’t know how we were able to strike a conversation. But then, the recruitment form for Nigerian Defence Academy is open around now; and a friend of mine is contemplating to abandon his pursuit of B.Sc for the military. But then again, he also advises himself against it as he sees it as slavery. That was when the military man’s interest was piqued. He was a soldier at the edge who was thinking of quitting the Nigerian Army. He was also a father; I was startled as a boy came to ask, “Daddy, is this boy your friend?”. I laughed as the soldier corrected his son, that I’m a man.
The Soldier said he regrets joining the Army; that he had joined because of the honour and prestige that comes with it…..but was full of regrets as he reminisces the period as a civilian before taking the option of joining the military. For sake of brevity; I’d be dropping what I might consider as highlights. The Soldier was pained, very pained as he said the Nigerian Army had little or no future for its soldiers; unless you indulge in corruption or illegal activities. From stating that the salary was meagre, and from the meagre salary you have to buy boots and uniforms at 10,000naira(the least amount for a pair) and 17,000naira (for a uniform with life span of two to three months) respectively. He rhetorically asked me, “Why should we buy materials we use in serving our own country?”.
In his words, “The Nigerian Army is for the Wawayazu (a term which meant hopeless one in his dialect). See, its for someone whose hope is lost; someone who has no hope.
I then asked him, “Is it just the Nigerian Military or its everywhere?”.
He replied, “Some of our soldiers that had the opportunities of becoming a marine (I felt he meant the United States Marine); Guy, their contract is for ten years. For instance, John Cena is an ex-marine after the years of his contract ran out; he joined wrestling. You see the kind of life he lives right? If you’re an American Soldier or even that of Pakistan, you cannot be bribed because the soldiers are being well paid”.
He went on to say that patriotism is what fuels the soldiers in other countries; and the soldiers are also being well catered for. In the pidgin English spoken in Nigeria he continued to explain how happy he’d have been if his kits were free; but now he’s saddled with the thought of getting new kits despite the harsh economic situation of the country. At this points his kids came around; Wow! I had no idea.
I then asked him, “if you’re being moved from this state to another, would you move with your family?”. To which he replied, ” The Nigerian Army doesn’t care how you move them”.
I then asked him, “last year around this time; there was a rumour that soldiers were sent to Sambisa with only two rounds, was that true?”. He replied, ” what is true, I’ll tell you but what is lie, I’ll also tell you. When the Army sends you to Sambisa, you are kitted to the teeth”, he further added that they know it’s a very volatile mission so they equip you to the latter,but if you’re in a safe place; they won’t even know if you exist. He went further to say all the top officials you see are going to hell fire; which made me believe he might be a Christian.
He went onto say that the Army is the problem and cause of Nigeria’s downfall as a nation and not even the politicians or civilians. He said people don’t know, that the politicians learn from the military and some of the politicians are retired service men, the President inclusive. He said the future of the country rests on the hands of the army. He then asked me if I think the Maiduguri fight isn’t deliberate. In his words, “do you think the Nigerian Army can’t stop that fight? But the members of the senate are hugely benefitting from it”. I was marvelled as he said that corruption is also the reason why the Book Haram fight lingers till date. He spoke of one of his friend who resigned once he was posted to Maiduguri (a stronghold of Book Haram in Nigeria) and now he’s doing fine in Malaysia. He went onto say no Nigerian soldier can live well, feed his kids and even own a house on his legal salary.
I asked him what then intrigues the civilians that are seeking to join the army? He said, ‘its because they’re not aware of the failings in it”. He warned that there’s no reason for anyone to join the army as you’d fare better off as a civilian even as a skilled worker, all you require is discipline. He told me how much a taxi driver earns a month is not same as a warrant officer in the Nigerian Army. He lamented that the Nigerian Army are not planning your future.
When I asked him what if you’re placed at the position to plan the future of other soldiers; He said once you’re there, you’d be like the rest. That once you’re there even God cancels you from himself. Wow! He went onto say that no soldier can tell him that he actually built a house or bought a car from the salary he earns as a soldier unless it’s something illegal. He stated that the entire service of a soldier can’t guarantee him wealth. He said he wants people to think positively about what they can do and not really join the military because of a person or a certain reason that’s not so resolute. That most times in struggling to imitate some other person, we lose ourselves.
He spoke that many times the civilians think the soldiers are enjoying but they don’t know the fear and cry of the Nigerian soldiers. He went onto show pictures of some of his colleagues that had passed on. I saw the sorrow in his voice as he scrolled through. He couldn’t stop himself from scrolling, at some point I discreetly watched his face as he scrolled through. I saw how his fave changed as he opened the picture of some soldiers he knew personally. It was at this point I told him I had to leave. I thanked him for the insight.
He then advised that people should steer clear of cultism, drugs, anger, that even when challenged, just shy away even if you can actually beat that person to death. If you’re arrested illegally, wait for justice. In his words, “Its only the living that will be able to show strength”. And so, I decided to share this little exposé (if you like) I had from this soldier to y’all.
Enjoy! The comment section is open for your thoughts; maybe I might get his reply on your thoughts and questions.