Viral videos and bitter truth

Truth hurts, but that is not an excuse for victimising those who dare to speak truth to power. Lance Corporal Martins Idakpini of the 8 Division, Sokoto, of the Nigerian Army, seemed prepared for the worst when he made a June 22 video that went viral. But that does not mean he should suffer for speaking truth to 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.
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“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 glossed over the development, tweeting that “due to mental snap/distress occasioned by 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.”

“Although this kind of outburst is expected in war, the soldiers involved have been identified and would undergo observation and counseling,” the tweets said, adding that the military “will remain unwavering in its quest to end the terrorism and will do everything possible to ensure there is no repeat of this kind of traumatic incident/outburst.”

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. The counter-insurgency effort remains an effort, after more than a decade.

Not only the soldiers whose outbursts attracted public attention need to be examined; the military authorities also need to be examined.

These two viral videos involving soldiers speaking truth to power further show why President Buhari, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, should change the service chiefs so as to reinvigorate the fight against insecurity. This is the bitter truth.

(The Nation online)