My heart was sorely pained by the reckless and senseless comments by these two gentlemen that my spirit was heavily downcast, to the extent that I lost my appetite and could not take my lunch for that day. This is because it greatly baffles me that the two gentlemen who claimed to be educated and enlightened members of the society could say such things about their fellow Nigerians without an iota of human feelings or compassion. This attitude only confirms to me the fact that the majority of the Nigerian elite would only see injustice in a matter of this kind when it concerns them or any of their relations.
Now, what is the offence of these soldiers, if I may ask? They were alleged to have protested against an unjust treatment meted out to them by their superior officers with regards to the payment of their allowances in respect of their participation in the United Nations Peace- Keeping exercise in Darfur, Sudan. And the money in question is their rightful entitlement which came directly from the United Nations (UN). In other words, the money belongs to the UN and not the Nigerian government; therefore, there was no need for any bureaucratic bottlenecks in the payment of the allowances. After all, the military high command knew how many of the soldiers participated in the peace keeping exercise and how much money was allocated to each of them by the UN.
Based on the facts on ground, these guys were simply shortchanged as usual, by their superior officers, who may not have participated in the peace-keeping exercise in the first place. This, I consider to be an outright cheating and daylight robbery. Of course, it is no longer news that this practice of shortchanging military personnel has been on for a long time in virtually all the military establishments in this country. The same thing applies to the payment of pension to our ex-service men and women over the years.
Regrettably, our arm-chair and pepper soup joint Generals and senior military officers have been feeding fat on the fortunes and sweat of the rank and file (the less privileged and downthrodding soldiers) for a very long time, simply because these soldiers can not face their superiors to ask questions in view of the so-called military discipline of simply obeying the last order, whether good or bad; favourable or not.
But, I dare say that things have got to change, considering the fact that people are getting more enlightened (educated or not). What has been happening over the years is that some people capitalized on the ignorance of others to cheat them. However, people are beginning to know their rights and privileges (whether literate or not). Even those who are not literate have children, brothers or sisters, uncles, cousins, etc, who are educated and reasonably enlightened, who could explain certain things to them.
The case of these soldiers simply confirms the level of decadence, greed, corruption and rottenness in our system in this country. In civilized and organized societies such things don’t happen, and even if they do happen at all, it is very minimal. But in Nigeria we have taken the exception to be the rule!
We cannot manage efficiently our God-given resources neither can we handle judiciously all the financial/material aids granted to us by various international development agencies. This is quite sad and when are we ever going to change?
Look at what is happening in the Niger Delta region. With the huge sums of money gotten from the sale of oil and other abundant mineral resources over the years it would not be out of place for one to say that the entire length and breadth of Nigeria should have been completely developed like Britain and America. Nay, the reverse is the case. Due to the greed and corrupt practices of our leaders and elites, Nigeria is crawling and living like a beggar-nation. What a shame!
Sometimes, I wonder if our political leaders and economic managers (elites) ever sat down to think about the future of this nation. Every country is striving to develop industrially and economically, yet our leaders are concerned with how to grab all the the grabbables (please, pardon my use of english). We cannot seem to fix anything right in this country. Almost 80% to 90% of our manufacturing industries have either closed down or at the verge of folding up; except a few that are still struggling to survive. Majority of our political leaders and elites engage in the importation of goods and services, even the ones that are not really necessary.
They import virtually anything importable, to the extent that they now import foreign diseases into our country! Consequently, our able body men and women now roam the streets for lack of jobs, What happened to our erstwhile textile industry, groundnut pyramids, cocoa farming, coal production as well as agricultural extension services of those good days? Billions of dollars and Naira have been spent in the last few years to revive our comatose railway lines and to fix our power sector to no avail, largely due to corruption and inept actions of our leaders.
Finally, I call on our President, His Excellency, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yaradua (as the Commander-In-Chief of the Nigerian armed forces) to urgently intervene in this matter by ordering the military high command to release the innocent soldiers without further delay, in the interest of fairness, equity and natural justice.
Samuel Ozi Shaibu is an Abuja social commentator