On June 30th, 2015 then as a Colonel and Acting Director Army Public Relations, in the Nigerian Army, I wrote a piece titled "Celebrating the Nigerian Army at 152" in commemoration of the Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL) for that year. That was five years ago. In 2018, I also penned a piece in celebration of the Nigerian Army to commemorate the NADCEL for that year titled "Celebrating the Nigerian Soldier at 155. It is July again and the Nigerian Army as usual is celebrating its annual day, NADCEL 2020, with an interesting theme, “Nigeria’s Territorial Defence and Sovereignty: Imperatives for Nigerian Army’s Sustained Training and Operations.” The focus on these key issues is highly commendable in view of the prevailing security challenges in the country.

The reasons for those articles were to acknowledge and celebrate the modest achievements and immense role and contributions of the Nigerian Soldier to peace and security of our dear nation and national development. From that time to date, a lot has happened to the Nigerian Army and our beloved country. The Nigerian Army has continued to move to greater heights despite distractions and protracted security challenges with meagre resources. Today, Nigeria and the world are experiencing the unimaginable scale of COVID-19 pandemic. These happenings have impacted on the Nigerian Army, our nation and the world at large.

Now that the Nigerian Army is celebrating its day, it is time for sober reflection, and critical reappraisal from the perspective of someone who served meritoriously, had seen it all and voluntarily retired from the Army, a little over a year now. The past 16 months of civilian life has been quite interesting and has given me ample opportunity to reflect and have additional perspective about the Nigerian Army. As I mingled among fellow civilians, I have gained more insight on the public's feelings and perception about the military and the Nigerian Army in particular. 

Surprisingly, it is a mixture of knocks and praises. Some people have a good understanding and full of commendation. Others are ill-informed and ignorant of what military service and life entails. Hence, do not appreciate or understand the complexities and sacrifices of the military, let alone appreciate its noble contribution to our peace, security and national development. But the most worrisome aspect is the fact that some unpatriotic politicians, detractors and disgruntled elements who envy the successes and achievements of the leadership of the Nigerian Army, for some inexplicable reasons seem to be behind these campaigns of calumny. They are the ones fanning the embers of hatred, disinformation and false narratives about the Nigerian Army.

Within the last five years alone, the Nigerian Army under the able leadership of Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai and grand strategic direction of President Muhammadu Buhari has made giant strides in various spheres of endeavour that cut across strategy, operation, training, administration and logistics. The welfare of troops has dramatically improved. Its order of battle has been greatly modified with new formations and units created to reflect the needs and difficulties of the time. These include the creation of two additional divisions, commands, numerous brigades, units and sub-units. Its dynamism in tactical and operational manoeuvres has brought about the setting up of super camps and motorcycle battalions. The operations are ever dynamic, responding to the changing security situations and terrorists modus operandi. Training schools have been upgraded and adequately funded and equipped. The Army has an Aviation Corps, Women Corps and a University, in addition to an Army War College and the Nigerian Army Resource Centre, a think tank for defence and security issues. New hospitals have been constructed, while most of the existing ones have been upgraded and equipped, same with barracks accommodation. This year's celebration though very modest, has recorded the highest number of commissioned projects and humanitarian activities in various parts of the country in the recent history of the Nigerian Army.

One other reason to further doff our hats for the Army is the way they rose to the occasion on the emergence of the COVID-19 on our shores. Despite being occupied with battlefield operations, the Nigerian Army ensured strict adherence to COVID-19 protocol. It kept the disease off the barracks, and it went the extra mile of complementing government efforts by providing palliatives to needy communities. Therefore, the Nigerian Army has every reason to celebrate itself based on these accomplishments and for the sake of morale.

Nevertheless, despite these modest achievements, some pessimists have not seen the reason for celebration, pointing at the security challenges in the northeast and north-west geopolitical zones particularly. However, if we recall the state of affairs, particularly, in the northeast before 2015, we have every cause to glorify God and thank the military and security agencies and in particular, the Nigerian Army for dealing decisively with the Boko Haram terrorists in the northeast. The terrorists have been drastically degraded and denied freedom of action, the Army has continued to do its best and is determined to succeed in that regard. The current wave of operations in the north-west and recently launched "Exercise SAHEL SANITY" will put to bed the activities of the bandits. The people of north west geopolitical zone and, Katsina and Zamfara States welcome this operation. Therefore, we all need to celebrate, support and encourage the Nigerian Army.

In my quiet moments, I realised that there were so many questions begging for answers as to why, despite these accomplishments, the Nigerian Army has continued to be misunderstood and be the “whipping boy” of some people. Why is it that some mischievous elements are always determined to rub mud on every laudable action of the Nigerian Army? Are they working alone or in active connivance with insiders? What is their grouse or grievances if any? Why is the Army not getting the desired support and cooperation from those statutorily mandated to do so? Unless we find satisfactory answers to these questions and nip them in the bud, the Army will continue to be unappreciated.

However, it is essential to state that many officers and soldiers are living in delusion as to why they joined or were enlisted into the Army, hence the reoccurring reported cases of acts of indiscipline and other misdemeanours. Although the Army has so much to celebrate and be proud of, it is pertinent to point out that there is an urgent need for critical self-appraisal. I want to implore the leadership, officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army to understand that the nation expects so much from them and cannot afford to disappoint us. You must, therefore, continue to do your best, serve diligently with utmost zeal and determination. There is a need to be guided by the long-cherished ethics and traditions of courage, bravery, loyalty and professionalism. You have a responsibility to make the nation more secure and continue to safeguard our democracy. This could only be achieved if you remain focused, resolute and work collectively in the discharge of your Constitutional roles. The military service in Nigeria is voluntary, if you cannot withstand the heat, you should get the hell out of the kitchen. To Lance Corporal Martins of this world and those pushing them, my advice is that they should know that the Nigerian Army is not a man-o-war organisation. It is a noble profession for the most fitting and befitting.

It is important to note that the Nigerian Army remains the most dependable organisation in the whole public structure of Nigeria and has recorded numerous achievements than any other organisation. It has remained a symbol of national unity and cohesion and kept Nigeria one unified entity. It has sustained the current democratic governance in Nigeria and remain one of the formidable symbol of our national power. The Nigerian Army has gone beyond its statutory responsibility to undertake numerous operations and humanitarian activities in aid of civil authority to maintain peace and security in support of democratic governance. This is something to be proud of, cherished and celebrated.

In conclusion, people should know that the Nigerian Army is their Army and whatever affects it has direct consequences to national security and unity. Therefore, the unnecessary distraction and campaign of calumny against the leadership and the Nigerian Army generally,  are not in the best interest of this nation. As Nigerians we should be proud of our Armed Forces in line with what is obtained in other climes.  Nigerians should come together and support the Army to succeed in its constitutional responsibility.

Happy NADCEL 2020 @ 157 Nigerian Army! We are proud of you more than ever before!

Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman (rtd) mni FNIPR fapra, is the immediate past Director of Army Public Relations and is currently a public relations consultant in Abuja. He is also the Consultant Director, Corporate Affairs and Information Services at the Nigerian Army Resource Centre, Abuja. He can be reached on his twitter handle @skusman


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