Those Who Honorable Bear Arms/

Not too long ago, the balloon of the pomposity of the members of the Nigerian Military appeared punctured and a once world respected military's 'bladder-of-pride' was pierced. The incident was when the brazenness of a ragtag army - Boko Haram, then at its peak, overran our armed forces formation. On the very day the infamous YouTube images of Nigerian soldiers, abandoning their military wares, went viral, I was in the midst of some serving and retired military officers. The image was disturbing seeing our troops run helter-skelter into the mountains that border with the Cameroon. 

It was in Abuja, at the Mess of the War College, as a guest of a retired General. For those that know Abuja, there lies adjacent to the War College separated by a road, the Campaign Headquarters of General Muhammadu Buhari - could be a coincidence or providence, or whatever. Merriment was in the open; a handful of serving and retired military personnel and their guests sat in groups discussing the inglorious embarrassment. I noticed the pain on grown men, looking downcast and moistened eyes. Some of them looked onto the ground as if to be swallowed; their pride apparently were dented.

Somehow, in the midst of that sullen moment, a young serving officer in naval uniform, drew our attention to the poster across the road. It was the larger-than-life portrait of Muhammadu Buhari, hanging on the APC campaign headquarters in Abuja. The gap-toothed General with his penetrating eyes bore down, with a wry smile, on those of us that looked in the direction. The white uniformed officer pointed at the portrait and proclaimed, "Here lies our redemption" - this was before the 2015 Election. At the time, the significance of what the young officer said was insignificant. 

Later, I found out that most of the retired military personnel, present, were PDP card carrying members, and typically should not have been favorably disposed to the retired general on the poster across the road. But something must have snapped in their conscience at that moment. Their allegiance to their then commander-in- chief, President Jonathan, could have started diminishing on that day. These were men, who honorably bear arms for the protection of their dear country, just like the figure on that poster had done. The spectacle impacted on me and the words of a great General of the United States Army, General MacArthur, resonated in my mind. MacArthur's own was an occasion of transition, as the General was nearing his term as the Chief of Army Staff in 1935. 

Though MacArthur's message then was to warn politicians at the time against pacifism that had prevailed while Germany and Japan were arming. This write-up is the gist of the General's address to the MacArthur Rainbow Group and the similarity to our situation, to me, was astonishing. I paraphrased: "Research reveals that only about 268 years have been free from wars, that is about 1 in 13, in the last 3,480 years. No wonder Plato, the wisest of all men, once recorded that only the dead have seen the end of war! Every reasonable person knows that war is cruel and destructive, and until the day the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount govern the human conduct, there will always be war or infraction. So far the world without war remains a dream...".

Societies are complex. Each member of the community, for some reason, is a creature of self-interest; conversely also, our Maker, in His wisdom, made it impossible for each member of a community to survive, on his own, outside of the community. So we are all intrinsically bound together in this societal bowl that contains mostly selfish individuals, which also confines all of us, by nature, to remain somewhat within the community. For these constraints, something has to give as we go about our businesses caring less about the plight of other members of the community.

The Nigerian military, like in any other military, is maintained solely for the preservation of peace - or for the restoration of peace after statesmen or politicians have lost it. The individual serving in the military is a soldier. The soldier, according to General of the Army, General MacArthur, is described as "The noblest development of mankind...no one desires peace as much as the soldier, for he must pay the greatest penalty in war. The military code which the soldier perpetuates has been with us even before the age of knighthood and chivalry. The military system embraces the highest moral laws and has stood the test of time, more than any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. The military code requirements are for things that are right, and its restraints are from things that are wrong. If observed, the military is presumed to uplift everyone who comes under its influence".

The soldier, unlike the rest of us, is required to perform the highest act of any religious teaching - SACRIFICE. Whether in battle, in the face of danger, or death, the soldier is expected to disclose those divine attributes which his Maker gave when He created man in his image. However, on the very day, as depicted in the viral internet image of the retreating Nigerian soldiers, those attributes seemed to be missing; perhaps, the reason why their compatriots all over Nigeria felt downcast. Outside of the military - our self abnegation had expected physical courage and brute instincts to take the place of the divine annunciation and spiritual uplift to sustain those retreating soldiers. 

Historians will forgive us because the rest of the society operates on what the military regards as loose code; different from those of the soldier. A soldier is always called upon to offer and to give his life for his country; however, the incident of war may be - adequately equipped or not. In spite of that humiliation, however, the memorials of character wrought by those soldiers can never be dimmed. That incident notwithstanding, our soldiers do not need statues or monuments; as MacArthur said, they have stamped themselves in blazing flames upon all of our souls; they have carved their statues in our hearts; they have built their monuments in the memory of their compatriots. 

It is with these expectations that the greatest celebration of the victory of Muhammadu Buhari at the polls was in the barracks more than everywhere else across the land. He, like them, had borne arms with honor, and it is in him, their hopes lay. Like the former president, who was also a former commander-in-chief, Olusegun Obasanjo quickly advised the president-elect shortly after the victory at the polls, Buhari should waste no time to restore the morale in the barracks. It could only be Providence that influenced the former commander-in-chief to hold back the deployment of all of the coercive forces within his grasp, in the face of defeat at the polls. He on his part, for that singular act, etched his name in gold for all time. 

For the rest of us, we expected Muhammadu Buhari's military sword to continue to sleep in the scabbard because we chose him to lead us only outside of his military uniform. His virtues that were tempered by the military codes, however, will be welcome. Many Nigerians wish Mr. Muhammadu Buhari good health and a successful tenure as the president of this truly God's Own country. The Nigeria military may have won the war against Boko Haram, but from the recent upsurge in violence, we are yet to win the peace. Now the burden is on the statesmen, politicians and the rest of us.

May God bless Nigeria!

Samuel Akinyele Caulcrick.