Military Socialization In Nigeria, Same Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow – Onus Obinyan

Socialisation as we know it is usually regarded as a means of integrating the individual into the society in which he lives. I know that this type of definition makes the individual an instrument for ensuring order in society. But socialisation also means that individuals can and do decide how society can achieve equilibrium. The individual decides whether you call him and non-conformist or not. Self actualisation is also a part of human nature.

The story of the relationship between the individual and society is complex and Social Scientists have not yet found a logical solution to it.

Socialisation is both an event and a process. As an event, it means there are breaks, changes and rituals marking a transition from one form of socialisation to another. As a process, it implies an ongoing knowledge acquisition.

We must here examine what people call military socialisation. Before a person becomes militarily socialised, such a person has undergone that general process of socialisation in society. The military institution is established out of fear. It functions normally to ensure the protection of the territorial integrity of society. It fights external foes and aids in the maintainance of the internal integrity of the society that establishes it. The military is a double edged sword. If used wrongly, it becomes an ugly monster. I do not know where the military has been used without violence in world history.

We can imagine the nature of socialisation in the military. All members of the armed forces of a nation are trained to kill so that they can protect their fatherland. That is what we all know, and we also know how the military has attempted to usurp the power of the people they are supposed to protect.

This is particularly important in Nigeria’s history since the 1960s. Nigeria gained her Independence, but with her youthful exuberance she threw away virtues of oneness, self-control, integrity and good governance. Of course we know that a civil war occurred between 1967 and 1970. If we grant the first military take over of government as an action in a disillusioned populace, the others were motivated, as they were, by greed, the barrel of the gun and instigated by those in high places who knew what they could gain from the soldiers. We will not discuss the cold war era here, but it must be noted that some foreign countries use other countries armies to distabilise potentially great countries, and Nigeria is one of such potentially great countries. Without any doubt, when the military takes over the administration of a country, a phenomenon takes place imperceptibly. The more the hurrah, the more imperceptible the effect on the psychology of society; educated, skilled, semi-skilled, university administrators, buyers and sellers, labourers and other forms of macro and micro relationships.

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If the military institution is to perform its role, then those who decide to become military men must be trained differently if they are to be efficient and effective so that they can protect the integrity of their fatherland. But if they have to be what they are, they have to be organised in such a way that their tasks are executed without hindrance. They run, jump obstacles, undergo psychological tests, and above all, they lose their freedom. The command structure is very rigid, ‘NO DEVIANT ALLOWED’. So they must obey orders and carry out their duties with precision.

So the military institution is not the normal rather flexible bureaucracy. It is simply rigid and if you see an officer above you in rank, you just have to salute him accordingly. In the military, you get told what to do. In fact, you do not think. You are really a Zombie according to the late legend and musical genius, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. A mission is a mission, simply because you have been sent by some higher officer who himself may order another officer to send you on that mission because he is higher than you in rank. You are timed. You only time yourself to save yourself. If you fail to toe the line, you are punished immediately. Everybody must do his duty to ensure success. Team work is it.

When you apply this system of administration to non-military men and women, it becomes an abberation. It is damaging to members of society. It creates opposition. This state apparatus can only govern by intimidation.

Let it be known that Nigeria has been under military regimes of all complexions since 1966. The mirage of military regimes is the thought that it can strengthen the nation. Stupidity, foolishness, mismanagement of fund, dictatorial policies and actions are characteristic. If we accept these premises, then we can trace the process where an institutional force turns into a national disaster, destroying anything on its path. And above all, it is destructive and antithetical to democratic culture. This is why most of the world is so much against military regimes. Particularly in a unipolar world where the military-industrial complex has realised the foolishness in trying to conquer all because the military is inherently a killer institution which is rigid, it has no flexibility and it can then not be democratic in its activities.

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Military regimes are like Lions who can only rule by force. Laws become suspended, decrees and commands take over. Those who should interprete and apply these decrees, for fear of losing their jobs simply do what their new masters say. Any opposition is met with cold violence. Human rights are simply trampled on. No more is freedom of expression and association accepted nor respected. The Journalist who writes or reports what is regarded as confidential finds himself in jail if he is allowed to live. Those who work in government media and offices are forced to preach what the Lions believe in, but against their conscience. Social, political, economic activists are hounded, living in fear wherever they find shelter. If they do not devise ways of escape, they are quickly eliminated or sent to places where their voices cannot be heard. All of these are effects of laws, which though may be operable in the barracks, just do not belong to civil society.

The forces and instruments at the disposal of military regimes are so powerful and varied that they believe they can do anything and get away with it. The treasuries are emptied into private pockets, contracts are awarded without any thought of their execution. The masses suffer, cowed as they are by the military might. Those who abhor these vices are either killed openly or simply assassinated. If they are lucky, they run away from their country, into forced exile. Meanwhile the masses watch how the self-imposed leaders carry on. The leaders and officers in the more civilian institutions also watch. But what is gradually happening is the imperceptible assimilation of military mode of administration and sycophancy through which many learn how to share looted monies with the military officers. Fear grips an otherwise vocal and principled Union leader (if they are allowed to exist at all). The psychology of all begins to tally with that of the military men. Suspicion is rife. Trust disappears from relationships and conscience becomes non-existent. The self-imposed leaders become tormentors of those who should be saved.

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In every sector of the political economy, leaders begin to behave like Military men. The good becomes the bad and curiously the bad becomes the good. Those who oppose any leader are dismissed without any thought of the consequences. Funnily, everybody in his/her terrain becomes a tyrant as the cycle of military socialisation becomes a vicious one of unending suffering for the masses.

Jobs are not created for the youth, rather their parents are retrenched or arbitrarily dismissed. Justice is far from those maltreated. Educated leaders turn themselves into despots as even the universities are turned on their heads. The norms of science teach that it is only in a democratic environment that knowledge is best pursued. Once the military men began to meddle in the affairs of the university, destruction of institutions was the inevitable consequence.

Military men are not trained as Scholars. Their involvement in government can only make democracy impossible. Society becomes stagnant as nothing positive is done to improve on all the basic infrastructure and basic needs of the suffering civil populace.

Military regimes have damaged the Nigerian psyche and it will take time and serious effort to rediscover that strong Nigerian psychology, by Nigerians themselves. We can only hope that the current civil society for which many fought, gave their lives and went to jail for has nothing to do with this type of socialisation. We also hope that the hopes and aspirations of the different nationalities in Nigeria are understood and addressed. But the military should be made content to stay in their barracks and do what they know how to do best. We must understand that any democratic government must seek to reach the ideal form, because the nearer it is to the ideal, the better for all.

And those who wield power must always remember that they have been elected to serve their nation with fairness, justice, improved welfare for all, transparency and accountability.

Development means fair distribution of national income, equality, job creation, so that all can earn income and live decently.

If military socialisation is not reversed and the problems listed above are not addressed soon, let us not make any mistake about the fact that our nation is sitting on a time-bomb that should not be allowed to explode.

© Onus Obinyan

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