As the prosecution lawyer rightly said at the trial of the 54 soldiers recently sentenced to death for disobeying a direct superior order, the Nigerian army is not by conscription but is voluntary. Having joined, you commit yourself to obey all constituted authority. And the punishment for disobedience is clear. In war situations, like the country is going through right now with the Boko Haram insurgency, the consequences of mutiny and disobedience is even more serious.
So, the 54 soldiers have no excuse and in principle, should face the full brunt of the law.
But… is there no truth in their assertion that they are poorly equipped to fight Boko Haram terrorists who are better equipped? Is it not true that money meant for the welfare of soldiers and purchase of equipment is stolen by senior army officers and nobody is bringing them to book? Is it not true that dirty and corrupt politicians, with their army cronies are sabotaging the army from within and even providing information to Boko Haram, thereby leading Nigerian soldiers to ambushes and suicide missions?
Mr. Goodluck Jonathan is the commander-in-chief of the Nigerian armed forces and he comes out to me as completely clueless. Recently he had the temerity to complain that his advisers often give him contradictory advice. How stupid a statement can that be? Is that therefore not a reflection of the terribly poor choice he has made of those around him? Does he have the intellectual ability to discern good minds, fire incompetent ones and hire those who can help him govern? He doesn’t? Then he ought not to be there.
Whoever has no sin, let him cast the first stone. Whoever goes ahead to kill those 54 soldiers must be sure he is free of guilt. I well understand that an army without discipline cannot function. So to those who are begging for clemency on behalf of these soldiers, I say, “I hear you”, and I too wish I can beg for clemency. But you see. This is an army. Unless of course the defense counsels can prove that they are innocent, or that there is some procedural or technical defect in the composition or functioning of the military court martial. Otherwise, for the sake of those remaining in the army, for the sake of national security, justice must take its course.
When you plan a coup, you know the consequence of failure.
This is an army, not a secondary school that allows room for truancy. You either shape up or shape out. While you’re in, you either obey or face the consequences.
But… who is stealing the money meant for their work? What is Jonathan going to do about it?
Perhaps Jonathan can pardon these boys, who alas are victims of a corrupt system. If he can fish out the senior officers and politicians whose actions are responsible for the reaction of indiscipline in the army, then he should punish those senior people… and let these boys go.
I can’t say I’m sure where I really stand. I’ve given you my reasons why I don’t think the soldiers should be pardoned.
What do you think?