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The truth they say, hurts very badly especially when someone who is in the wrong is confronted. But that is not an excuse for victimising those who dare to speak the truth to those in power. By setting up Lance Corporal Martins Idakpini for an indefinite court-martial after his viral video, the Nigerian Army and the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai got it totally wrong.
Lance Corporal Martins Idakpini of the 8 Division, Sokoto, of the Nigerian Army, seemed prepared for the worst when he made a video on the 22nd of June that went viral. But that does not mean he should suffer for speaking truth to those in power. His lawyer, Mr. Tope Akinyode, who is the National President, Revolutionary Lawyers’ Forum said, in a statement:
”We have just filed an action at the Federal High Court against the Nigerian Army, Chief of Army Staff and the Attorney General of the Federation of Nigeria over the unlawful arrest and detention of Lance Corporal Martins and his wife, Mrs. Victoria Idakpini.”
“On June 23, 2020, the Nigerian Army arrested Lance Corporal Martins for being critical of the army chief of staff over the handling of security crises and lack of adequate amenities to battle terrorism.”
“We are of the considered view that the continued detention of Lance Corporal Martins violates his fundamental human rights much as it violates the extant provisions of the Armed Forces Act.”
“Unfortunately, the Nigerian Army displayed a higher degree of despotism on June 25 when it illegally arrested and has continued to detain the wife of Lance Corporal Martins, Mrs. Victoria Idakpini, leaving her three children – twins of two-years-old and another who just clocked three – to the care of no one.”
Idakpini’s wife, Victoria, was freed after spending nine days in detention, but the lawyer said the lawsuit against the army would continue despite her release.
What did Idakpini say in the 12-minute viral video that got him into trouble? ‘I’m highly disappointed in your command,’ he said, addressing Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai. He called the army boss ‘a coward, a traitor and a betrayer,’ adding that the loyalty of the rank and file to the army leadership must be earned.
‘You have failed,’ he said, addressing Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin. ‘You should be ashamed of yourselves,’ he said, addressing the National Security Adviser, Mohammed Babagana Monguno, and the Minister of Defence, Bashir Salihi Magashi, both retired army generals.
‘I’m a concerned Nigerian,’ Idakpini explained. ‘We cannot continue to keep quiet when people are dying, many of our colleagues are dying.’ He added that ‘innocent soldiers’ were locked up in the guardroom indefinitely for complaining about inadequate weapons to fight insecurity.
‘We need to restructure this army in order to achieve peace in the country,’ he declared. He also criticised the Muhammadu Buhari presidency and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). ‘I’m ready to face court martial,’ he said fearlessly.
The development attracted the attention of the House of Representatives where the Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, moved a motion on July 2 titled, ‘A Call on the Nigerian Army to Release Lance Corporal Martins Idakpini from Arrest on the Basis of His Expressed Opinion.’
Elumelu observed that ‘Section 122 of the Armed Forces Act forbids the military from perpetually detaining any officer.’ The House directed the Committees on Defence and Army to investigate the matter, and asked that ‘ldakpini should be brought before the relevant House committees and the leadership, to brief them on the happening in the northern part of the country.’
It is noteworthy that about a month before Idakpini’s jolting video, another video had jolted the military leadership.
Demoralised soldiers who expressed their feelings in a viral video showed that there is something wrong with the Nigerian Army’s counter-insurgency strategy. The soldiers had been ambushed by Boko Haram terrorists.
According to the military headquarters, two soldiers were killed and three others were injured in the surprise attack that happened ‘eight kilometres ahead of Buni-Gari in Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe State on May 18, 2020.’ A recovery truck and a water tanker that ran into Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were destroyed.
The viral video showed the reaction of the ambushed soldiers. A report said: ‘In disjointed Pidgin English that has been correctly translated… for the benefit of readers not conversant with such language, the angry soldiers said,
“It shall not be well with the army (authorities), the army has sold all of us. Look at the way the army (authorities) are suffering us, it shall not be well with them.”
“Boko Haram ambushed us, what type of nonsense is this? The army (authorities) has suffered us. They sent jets to us after Boko Haram had finished us.”
“Buratai, it shall not be well with you for life. Buratai, you shall not know peace anymore.”
The reference to Lt Gen Buratai reflected the degree of their demoralisation. But the army authorities who reacted to the incident much later remarked that:
“Due to mental snap/distress occasioned by the fog of war, two of the soldiers who escaped the IED and terrorists’ ambush recorded the incident with uncomplimentary remarks about the Nigerian Army and her leadership, which was released on the social media.”
When Lt Gen Buratai publicised his relocation to the Northeast theatre of war in April, he gave the impression that his move to physically and actively lead the war against Boko Haram would make a big difference. But his presence in the theatre of operations has not given the Nigerian troops an advantage over Boko Haram.
Punishing Lance Corporal Martins Idakpini would not make up for the gross irresponsibility and timidity of the Nigerian Army. Boko Haram insurgents, an extremist Islamic group that Tukur Buratai under Buhari’s directives had promised to decimate within three months when he first took the presidential oath in May 2015 are still having a field day to this day.
Under Buratai’s leadership, there have been numerous resignations from the Nigerian Army, statistics show that the number of resignations under his tenure is the highest of any Chief of Army Staff since the proclamation of Democracy in Nigeria. This shows that the soldiers are not happy with the way their welfare is handled by the Nigerian military, show how demoralised many of the soldiers have become, and it further shows the Nigerian Army is embattled and needs saving from itself.
These soldiers whose welfare are being neglected are not oblivious of the humongous salaries and allowances of legislators who are experts at bickering instead of legislating and also see how the men in the top brass of the Nigerian military don’t suffer what they suffer. They have also seen how some of their fallen colleagues were treated with disdain, the most indignant being the victims of Metele attacks on November 18, 2018. Apart from the military hierarchy disputing the total number of men killed in a bid to save the public image of the military, the burial was rather shameful. They were buried as if they have died for nothing.
When you put your life on the line for your country and you’re rewarded with unpaid salaries while you read of how politicians enrich themselves at the expense of the country, know that poor military intelligence puts your life and purpose at risk and also watch your fallen colleagues sent to the world beyond with utmost disdain, you cannot but be uncommitted to a cause such as national security and voluntarily withdrawing your service to save yourself.
Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai has ruined the reputation of the Nigerian security and using Lance Corporal Martins as a scapegoat won’t redeem the already tattered image of the Nigerian Army. This is the bitter truth.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK