A NAVAL OFFICER BEAT ME UP… SO WHAT? – by Okachikwu Dibia

— ” … I beat him up, yes, this old man who does not respect his gray hairs, I beat him up because he did “waka” to me and said that; he will call police for me. You should thank your God that I did not have my gun with me, I would have shot you and wasted you…”

The above statement was made on Tuesday, 18th February 2014 at about 9.46 am by a naval officer named TM Adama in his office located at Abacha barracks near AYA junction in Asokoro, Abuja.

The story was that in the early morning of that day along the Nyanya-Abuja road, Adama suddenly drove his car to my front and I nearly hit his car. In response I asked: “oga why would you just suddenly enter my front like that”. In unwarranted furry and anger, he stopped his car and asked me to park. I asked him why he was blocking me from moving and at the same time causing more traffic hold-up. He ordered me to come down and that I am under arrest and before I could utter a word, he slapped me three times in quick succession and a good blow on my head. He went for my car key but I refused him and in the scuffle, my eye glass fell off and my key holder got broken. I refused to alight from my car and I asked him, what my offense was that he is arresting me. I told him that as a civilian, it is better he takes me to the police instead of his office, because I do not know what he wants to do with me there. He got angrier alleging that I said police should come and arrest him. Immediately, he started calling his office to come and pick “this foolish old man” who refused to be arrested. So his boys came with two vehicles: an open one with about five naval officers carrying guns and another smaller car with about three officers and one tall officer with walking-talking phone. They all descended on me and ordered me to go to the back seat of my car while they drive. Two of them sat at the front and two at the back with me in their middle. They drove me to the naval office and detained me for about an hour.

When Adama later came, he boasted that he just wanted to show me that he has the authority to arrest and detain me. And that he would have loved to detain me here till mid-day if not for my cousin, a custom officer whom I called and he came. Adama warned me that next time I should never challenge an officer because if he (Adama) were with his gun, at that point of madness when he started beating me, he would have just shot and wasted me and nothing will happen. One officer consoled me by telling me a story of how an officer who had booked a flight was delayed by his wife and he missed his flight. Not long, the plane the officer was to fly in got crashed. I should see how God used the delay by his wife to save his life and the husband was now thanking the wife. He said I should know that it could be that God used this officer to save me from what would have happened to me later. He appealed to me to forget the matter. I never answered him because in Ikwerre where I come from we do not respond to advice. Yet, I still asked Adama what exactly did I do to him to be so humiliated and shamed even in my own country? No reasonable answer; rather he said he was angry that I did “waka” to him and even mentioned police to him. That was all and I left.

In Nigeria, to do “waka” to someone is an insult to the person; but I told him and all the officers that came to where I was being detained that I never did such to him knowing that nothing warranted it. Moreover he is a naval officer and that at my age I should know not to do that to him. And truly I never did “waka” to him. Never!

Why am I bringing this story to the public? Since this thing happened to me, I had thought about it several times in conjunction with the inability of the Nigerian military to successfully deal with militancy and terrorism in Nigeria. Why have we failed in our security efforts to restore peace in Borno and Adamawa States in Northeast Nigeria? During the militancy war in the Niger Delta, the militants won the joint operation of the army, police, navy and airforce and got amnesty. With what happened to me as narrated above, I can now decipher why our military have failed in protecting Nigerians from the cold hands of militancy and terrorism.

One of the failure factors is the lack of basic understanding of the relationship between civilians and the military. In the first place, it was the civilian politicians who set up the military to protect the civilian, the territorial integrity of the state and ensure peace whenever and wherever necessary. So the military as an institution is under the people, it cannot be above the people. This had been the case since about 2700 BC when the military was established during the war between Summer and Elam ( see www.en.wikipedia.org).

Also, the military has always been a cost centre funded by the resources of the state. Thus, it does not earn revenue to the state and except on extreme and obvious provocation, the military never raises its hands on the civilian it should protect. These basic understandings enable the military to accept and tolerate the civilian even in the face of civil provocation. But mine was different because I did not offend him. But the speed at which he rushed to beat me was disgusting. To me as a civilian, I was disappointed. I think more enlightenment should be carried out to continuously inform the military that it is their primary duty to protect civilians, and not to beat them.

The second failure factor is the high level of impatience and intolerance which Adama exhibited as he dealt with me. Yes military dispatch may require that things be done as fast as possible; but surely with high level of diligence and care. For Adama to appropriate “momentary madness” as a right and within which he can shot and waste me is not okay especially when dealing with an ordinary and unarmed civilian like me. Probably it is this intemperate nature of the military that makes them want to kill people they consider offenders in first contact. I think the military should be thoroughly taught on how not to harm civilians except it becomes obvious. The military should aim at arresting and handing over suspected criminals or offenders to the police instead of punishing/killing them. The rationale behind arrest and hand over is to enable more humane interrogations for information that could build up helpful intelligence in getting to the root cause of the crime or offense. When, out of anger, you kill the suspects in the first contact, how do you get more information to resolve the problem? The basic power of the military is information about the enemy. A too intemperate and hot-minded military cannot achieve this. Meanwhile, militants and terrorists take their time to continuously study their enemy, get useful information, plan strike strategies and safe landing. Hence, they know our military better than our military know them.

Every military needs steady information networking to dig up more information for precisely dealing with the enemy. This in turn requires high intellectual capacity. It is not about military degrees alone; it is more about the training of the mind to become patient, rigorous and thorough. Mr Adama failed to be classified as a patient, rational, rigorous and thorough officer and therefore does not have the intellectual capacity of an officer. Because of the high level intimidation meted out on me, I could not ask other questions that would have exposed the fallacies I observed in him.

With these failure factors found in the Nigerian military, how do we expect them to act proactively and forestall future actions by the militant or terrorist? This explains why our military is always behind time: visiting and acting after the terrorists or militants had killed the people and destroyed their houses and properties. Our military should be able to know the next plan of actions by the militants or terrorists and nip them in the bud. Nigerian military cannot continue to act after the harm had been done; otherwise Nigerians will begin to lose confidence and question the capacity of our military in resolving the security challenges facing Nigeria.

This writer is less concerned about been beaten up; rather more about using what happened to him to see the character flaws needed by the Nigerian military to resolve the militancy and terrorist activities tearing Nigeria apart. Killing them at first contact may surely not be the solution. There is urgent need to change tactics: Nigerian military needs to be painstaking, diligent, arrest (not kill) and interrogate for information, study the information, plan with it, network the information and be proactive to discover and quell future actions. Military actions should not depend on physical contact alone. Their success does not depend on the sophistication of their weapon; no, it is more on their ability to strategize with the amount of information about the Nigeria military and take proactive actions. So also the Nigerian military should not depend wholly on killing the terrorist/militant or on its sophisticated armory, but it should review and enhance its character and approach to its information management and strategy.

How well does the Nigerian military know them? How well do they know the Nigerian military? You may discover that they know the Nigerian military more than the latter know them. That is the strategic gap that needs the above factors to close so that Nigeria can begin to make meaningful progress in giving peace to our people of Borno and Adamawa States.

Okachikwu Dibia
Abuja

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