Recently, the unthinkable happened when terrorists, euphemistically labelled bandits, stormed the citadel of the nation’s security architecture, the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA). They left in their trail a sea of blood.
After the operation that was said to have lasted a couple of hours, two officers were confirmed dead and one Major abducted. He is feared dead too. Reports on the raid claimed that the soldiers on garrison duty were caught napping. They were actually said to have ‘mysteriously slept on duty’. An abomination in the Military any Military set up.
For most Nigerians, that was the limit of acceptability of the madness going on. Street urchins or bandits as they are called, invaded such a high calibre military institution and got away with it. What went wrong? Is it that the military can no longer protect themselves? Or that the nation is losing the war on terror? In the early days of Boko Haram, the Police headquarters suffered the same embarrassing desecration. The perpetrators also got away with it. We are told that soldiers are combing the vicinity of the Academy for possible clues as to who did it, how and why.
Military experts, serving and retired, are aghast at this unbelievable development. The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor, in his reaction, alluded to a possible insider collusion. His retired colleagues see what happened as proof that the Military have been so stretched thin that they are beginning to lose the basics of their existence as an institution charged with the onerous responsibility of safeguarding the nation against internal dissention and external aggression.
Whichever is the case, collusion or depreciation in professional values, ordinary Nigerians, the men and women in the street, who look up the military for protection, are not amused. The consensus is that something fundamental has gone wrong. And this is not the time to massage the issue of insecurity in the land.
President Muhammadu Buhari was reported to have said that the incident in Kaduna was the beginning of the end of terrorism in the land. We hope so. But this newspaper is concerned that what happened in that Academy took place at all. For one reason, NDA is not a school for Nigerians alone. Other countries, some from outside Africa, come there to horn their professional skills. What impression are they going home with about Nigeria as a nation and her capability to manage her own affairs.
We are actually persuaded to agree with the CDS that the domestic rat told its friend outside that there is a dry fish in the cupboard. There is no other way to explain the sleeping scenario at the exact time the bandits struck. Without an insider pressing the button, with the fortification around the Academy, there is no way anyone, let alone some bandits would have gained entrance and succeeded in carrying out such dastardly operation.
Some Security experts are of the opinion that the war on terror has lasted this long because some one is benefitting from it. They also insist that it has become an industry in which politicians, contractors and the military high command itself are intricately connected in a business relationship that is obviously hurting the nation. The attack on NDA seems to have confirmed what was, before now, sheer speculation. It also raises issues regarding the recruitment process within the Military. There is, in our considered opinion, a dangerous relaxation of the rules of enlistment into the establishment.
Time was when due diligence was carried out on aspiring soldiers. It was so meticulous that only the fit and proper are given the opportunity to don the khaki, a symbol of the pride and dignity, for which the military is revered. Those to be recruited are drilled strenuously on nationalism and what it takes to be a soldier. Not enough of that is applicable today as what one needs to be enlisted is a note from a politician, an Emir, Oba, Igwe and such highly placed personalities. What the character of the candidate is often does not matter. Its significance in the assessment processes and procedures harmfully downplayed.
Even worse is the mute fact that religious affiliation and ethnic considerations have become dominant factors that ultimately influence one’s chances of finding a place on the admission list. It is, therefore, no surprise that the attack on NDA happened.
However, something positive may likely come out of this annoying brush on the nation’s ego. As the President noted, it is likely to be a wake-up call that will lead to the reassessment of the nation’s priorities especially with regard to who should be a soldier in the first place.
In the opinion of this newspaper, the raid on NDA ought to provide an opportunity for the re-engineering of the nation’s security architecture. It is also time to take a hard look on the activities of these so-called bandits, their sponsors and promoters. When a child is sent on an attack mission by his father, he does not knock on the door. He kicks it in. Could this be why these rascals we call bandits are so daring?