Seyi OduyelaTuesday, August 26, 2003
[email protected]
Hyattsville, MD, USA



While some argue that the Nigerian Army is designed to favour a section of the country, some argue that there is no such design. But the lopsidedness of most of the important military formations in the north leaves many questions unanswered. Seyi Oduyela writes.

Nigerian Defense Academy gate, Kaduna
he Nigerian Army appears to be the main military stronghold for the defence and security of the country. The other arms of the forces, -Navy and Air Force, can be described as back-up forces. The Nigerian Army is the major member and main arm of the country's security and military operations. This explains why it usually has the lion share of appointments in the military. Also in terms of number it has the highest number of personnel than the other services. One of the reasons for this is also that it is the first and the oldest service in Nigeria.

At inception it was called the West African Frontiers Forces, Royal Nigerian Military until it later became the Nigerian Army. Military sources disclosed that while the evolution in nomenclature was going on, the core essence of what became the Nigerian Army actually evolved from the Northern Local Army. As the other services are described as support services to the Army, the Army itself has main service and support service.

The Armoured corps, Artillery corps and the Infantry corps are regarded as the main arms of the Nigerian Army. The other arms are referred to as auxiliary arms or support services, these are: Finance corps, Directorate of Public Relations, Intelligence corps, Education corps, Medical corps, Supply and Transport corps, Engineering corps, Military Police, Ordinance, Signal, Legal, Chaplain and Imam.

All the arms are present in every Division. In event of war, a complete Division comprising all these services must be present before it can be mobilized. The combat soldiers are withdrawn from the three main arms, that is Armoured, Artillery and Infantry. Findings show that the three main arms of the Army are heavily populated by servicemen from certain sections of the country, compared to their compatriots from other parts of Nigeria and also relative to their presence in the 'support' services of the Army. There is a school of thought who believe that it is not a deliberate design that some sections of the country are more represented in some of the arms of the Army "it is a question of choice," they argue.

Findings show that the Middle Belt and the core North are heavily represented in the Armoured, Artillery and Infantry corps. The Engineering, Education, Medical, Public Relations, Intelligence, Supply and Transport, Signal arms have more Southerners than other sections of the country. What can explain geopolitical preferences in the career choice of soldiers? Why would a Fulani or Hausa entering the Army almost automatically opt for the Artillery or Infantry corps, while an Ibo or Yoruba recruited at the same time, will almost certainly pick any corps from Education, Intelligence, and Transport to Public Relations?

A military psychologist attempted an explanation: the northerners by pre-vocation are cattle rearers and warriors. They prefer to go for the more severe arms of the services because of their background. They feel far more at ease being "on guard" than would a typical southerner. Again, an average northerner does not bother much about formal education.

To them in the north it is either you rare cattle or you hunt. So being in the army as combatants is like doing what they know best. It is in a sense, actually a continuation of their normal lives, the only difference perhaps, being that compelled to follow the routines, wear uniforms and all that. The southerners on their part prefer lesser arms of the Army that would afford them the opportunity to further their education.

Our investigation show that those from the Northwest particularly those from Zuru origin, feel at home in the military. Lt.Gen Ishaya Rizi Bamaiyi former Chief of Army Staff, Major-Gen. Musa Bamaiyi (rtd), older brother to Ishaya Bamaiyi are some of the prominent sons of Zuru who rose to the pinnacle of their career in the military. The Tiv, Ketub, Jukuns contribute more to the military than any other tribe in the country. Lt.Gen.SVL Malu (rtd), former Chief of Army Staff, Brig.Gen Atom Kpera (rtd), Col. Jando (formerly of the Artillery Brigade Alamala, Abeokuta who was arrested and convicted in connection with the December 20 1997 coup) Brig.Gen Nathaniel Madza are prominent sons of Tiv in the Army. While Generals Malu and Kpera are retired, Gen. N.Madza is still in service. He a very senior officer in the Artillery corps. In spite of the fact that he is a qualified lawyer, he chose to be identified with the Artillery corps. According to sources he is usually being drafted from the Artillery Corps to serve in some of the Special Military Tribunals set up to try coup suspects. In fact Madza was the Judge Advocate of the Special Military Tribunal that tried President Olusegun Obasanjo during the 1995 Phantom coup trial.

Investigation revealed that from the Depot, A soldier is given the option to choose where he wants to serve. Most soldiers from the south opt for the lesser service because they want freedom and do not want to be on guard all days carrying riffle, but most northerners who are used to hunting and vigorous works feel at home serving in the severe arms.

Nigerian troops
Another reason is that because the Army started from the north, some of them who are not interested in going to school preferred to go the Army as combatants. There are only few of the northerners in the support services.

The Armoured corps got its name from the fighting machine known as tank that made its debut in the last century and greatly changed the concept of battlefield mobility in land warfare. Its great impact is offensive mobility of armies that could deploy them.

The Artillery corps has a history that dates back into 1898. It has grown from a single battery to its present size. The Artillery basically provides fire support to the Infantry and Armoured using conventional and nuclear ammunition. In all the phases of war, this support must be continuous. The artillery also co-ordinates the fire support assets in a theatre of war. To any Army the Artillery is a great battle-winning factor.

Let us accept that the issue of being in either the core service or the support service is a matter of choice by individual, is the issue of location of the military formation too a choice by southerner that all the core formations should be sited in the north?

None of the three main arms of the Army has its school or center in the south. For example, the training school of the Artillery corps is in Kontogora, Niger State. The Infantry Centre and School is in Jaji, Kaduna State. This was established in the late 1950s as the Nigerian equivalent to the one at Teshie, Gold Coast (now Ghana). Though it has a southerner, Col. RA Shodeinde as its first indigenous Commandant, the core north dominates it. The Armoured school is located in Bauchi, Bauchi State.

The Nigerian Military school is in Zaria, just as the Nigerian Defence Academy is also in Zaria. The Command and Staff College, training centre for mid-riff military officers is in Jaji. The National War College was moved from Lagos to Abuja, north central part of the country. The Depot Nigerian Army, where civilians who wish to join the Army are transformed into soldiers is based in the north. The Defence Industries Corporation is located in Kaduna. While the Army think-tank the Training and Doctrine Command HQ TRADOC is also located in Minna, Niger state.

One would be wondering why 90% of these military formations are located in Kaduna. Students of history know that Kaduna is the headquarter of Arewa, that is the North, that is where the Arewa building is located which serve more or less as their Parliament building. Many meetings, congresses, conventions, seminars have been held with northern sons in attendance. The vice president of Nigeria Atiku Abubarkar was never absent in most of these gatherings. How many of such gatherings has our own Olusegun Obasanjo attended in the West? The south has the Army Signal School in Lagos, the Army Intelligence School in Lagos. The Nigerian Army School of Finance and Administration is also in Lagos. Looking at the logo of the Nigerian Army, the motto there has an Arabic inscription. Is Arabic our official language?

So far with the structure on ground, in spite of the mass retirement of officers whose lifestyle is believe to be capable of corrupting professionalism in 1999, the fact still remain that though there are seem to more senior officers from the south in the Army the north still call the shot in the core areas.

While southerners in the Army are seen as elite the northerner prefer to do the dirty job of riffle carrying and facing the fire which in most cases result in giving them access to power over the other sections of the country. What happened at the Ikeja Cantonment in January 27 2002 cannot happen in Bauchi, Jos or Kaduna, such accidents are bound to happen in the south. We must not forget that what led to the Orkar coup of April 1990 was, according to Major S Mukoro (now a University professor in the US), as a result of the north under Babangida and Abacha as the Chief of Army Staff moving all military hardwares in the south to the north. Mukoro was in Ikeja cantonment then he knew that that place was emptied by Abacha as the Chief of Army staff, the same thing was done to the 2nd Mechanised Division in Ibadan.

To reflect the name Nigerian Army I think every part of the country should be given a sense of belonging. We have decentralised the law school to favour the north is there a crime in decentralising the Nigeria Military School? What is wrong if one is located in Enugu, the former capital of the East and one in Ibadan former capital of the old Western Region as it is in Zaria the military capital of the north. It is a known fact that Zaria is the military base of the Arewa and that is why most of the military formations are located in Kaduna State.